California cop seeks aid for folks’ town
CALIFORNIA, USA – Hours before the world’s most powerful cyclone hit the Philippines November 8, Officer Isagani Mercado phoned his parents in Jaro, Leyte, to check how they were doing.
“I asked if they were prepared and they said they were OK, they had bought a flashlight,” the 13-year Colma Police Dept. veteran told Philippine News. “My call came at 3 am and I woke them up. (READ: OFWs HK feeling helpless, dismayed after Haiyan)
Indeed, his parents and millions of residents of eastern Visayas got a rude awakening that day.
Filipino American retirees Antonio and Zenaida Mercado knew that a storm was on its way, but like many born and raised in the country visited by at least 20 typhoons each year, they believed they were ready for yet another.
Hours turned to days as their police officer son tried to reach them later while headlines flooded all media with death and devastation typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wrought.
No power, no aid
“I finally heard from my dad on Nov 17, when he called from Ormoc, about an hour away from their home,” said the relieved Mercado, 42. “He had to travel that far to fill his prescriptions. He said there was no electricity, no phone lines, and people were starting to panic. He thinks it could be months, maybe years before electricity is restored.” (READ: Petilla: I'll resign if no power by Christmas)
Nine days after the killer storm, no aid had reached Jaro, said Mercado, who had not heard from his father since that overseas conversation. But another call gave him encouragement.
“My mayor Joanne del Rosario reached out to our police association and asked if we would like to take up a collection and lead relief efforts in our town for affected areas,” said Mercado. “We set up a donation area on the afternoon of Nov 21 at Target in Coloma. LBC offered to ship the boxes for free.” (READ: Pinoys abroad organize aid for typhoon victims)
While grateful for the response he has received from local friends and strangers, Mercado expressed disappointment with the flow of distribution of aid in the areas affected by the storm.
Hoping for recovery
“The hard part is the sourcing,” he told PNews. “Everything is going to Tacloban. What about the other 39 townships that were also badly hit but not getting attention?"
At work, Mercado masks his worries. Soon as he clocks out, however, he stews his helplessness unassuaged by “countless hours searching the internet and watching the news,” ending up more “frustrated not being able to completely understand, since it was all in Tagalog.”
Despite the challenges, Mercado said he was hopeful that this will pass and residents will begin recovery.
“I hope the local airport will open soon,” he said. “Worse comes to worst, my parents will have to fly to Manila and stay with relatives.”
Now US citizens, Antonio, 70, and Zenaida, 73, returned to the Philippines after the recession in the late 1980s.
'Life would be easier there'
They had come to the US in 1972 with their two sons. Sonny was 10 months old.
Antonio worked as a tax accountants with Ford Motors and Zenaida was a homemaker. They raised their sons in Pittsburg, a town east of San Francisco, Calif. When the economy soured, Antonio was laid off and “had trouble returning to the workforce,” said his son. Their plight made retirement in the Philippines appealing.
“Life would be easier there,” their sons agreed.
Inspired by his many relatives in law enforcement in Samar and Leyte, Sonny later earned a degree in criminal justice in San Jose State University.
“Since 1991 I’ve been visiting my parents every February, when the climate is coolest, and September, in time for our town fiesta,” he said. He was in Manila in September 2009, when typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) killed hundreds in Metro Manila and surrounding areas but whose destruction pales to this latest disaster.
“That storm did not have the wind and tsunami-like surge in coastal towns hit by Yolanda,” he noted. – Rappler.com
This is a shortened version of an article republished with permission from Philippine News. Read the full story on www.philippinenews.com
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