Vigil for Typhoon Haiyan victims raises awareness

The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Leyte Province, Philippines. photo courtesy of Hallie Brown.
The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Leyte Province, Philippines. photo courtesy of Hallie Brown.

Vivid pictures of toddlers soaked knee-deep in muddy water next to piles of wood — remnants of what was once their home — flash a glimpse of how Typhoon Haiyan left the Philippines.

UAA’s Alaskero Partnership Organizers, or APO, held a vigil in honor of those impacted by Typhoon Haiyan in the Student Union Den last Friday, where community members gathered.

E.J. David, UAA assistant psychology professor and member of APO, presented a slideshow with raw footage of the colossal damage Typhoon Haiyan created.

“More than 20,000 victims encountered in the first time trying to give aid were under the age of five,” said Christine Marasigan, Alaska state legislative aide and member of APO.

Joy Mapaye, assistant professor for the Department of Journalism and Public Communications and member of APO, said initial estimates predicted 10,000 people dead, 60,000 displaced and thousands upon thousands impacted by Typhoon Haiyan. Actual death tolls are closer to 5,000 and are expected to rise.

Though Tacloban has been the main city hit, neighboring rural communities are equally damaged.

Music education major Hallie Brown said her father is in a neighboring island of Tacloban, Leyte. Their family home and mango farm were demolished. Roads are impassible. There are hungry children that will possibly be out of school for up to a year because their schools are rubble.

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“My dad said he saw little to no government aid come in whatsoever. He just saw local Filipinos stepping up and trying to rebuild their rural community,” Brown said.

Brown said there has been great response from Alaskans for their family-run nonprofit organization, Lantaw Ugma Outreach, which provides food, supplies and tutoring for children so they can have some sort of education for now.

For many local Filipinos, regardless of blood ties, three words painted the mood of the vigil: Loss. Family. Home.

“I was born in the Philippines. For me, it’s natural to feel connected with those affected by Typhoon Haiyan. I feel they are my fathers, mothers, lolos (grandfathers), lolas (grandmothers), ates (older sisters), kuyas (older brothers), aunties, and uncles,” said Gabe Garcia, Assistant Professor of Public Health and member of APO. “In times of disasters and challenges, we Filipinos rise up to help our kababayans (fellow Filipinos) in the spirit of bayanihan (communal sense of unity, leadership and initiative).”

Attendees of the vigil sang church hymns, and guests such as Luz Florez, pastor of the Holy Spirit Center, shared scriptures from the Holy Bible.

“We wanted to do something for the UAA community and for the Anchorage community to pay tribute to those who died, those trying to survive and those trying to help,” Mapaye said. “We were extremely grateful and thankful for all those trying to help the people of the Philippines during this very difficult time.”

By the end of the night, three words emerged and painted a brighter picture: Hope. Light. Future.

Members of APO, a group of Filipino-American UAA faculty and staff, said they will accept donations for relief efforts in the Philippines. Cash and checks made out to “Catholic Relief Services” can be dropped off at Kaladi Brothers Coffee at 6921 Brayton Drive, at New Sagaya Midtown located at 3700 Old Seward Highway, and at Shaka Shack Hawaiian Barbecue at the 5th Avenue Mall. Collection jars will be at registers.

Those on campus can also drop off donations to APO members who work on campus: EJ David’s office at the Social Sciences Building Room 303F, Joy Mapaye’s office at PSB-203I, or Gabriel Garcia’s office at Diplomacy Building Room 4.