Sunday, March 1, 2015

Davisites from the Philippines worry about their homeland


Members of the Davis Filipino Group make lumpia for Saturday's fundraising buffet at former Mayor Ruth Asmundson's house. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

From page A1 | November 17, 2013 |

There are many Davis residents with personal connections to the Philippines, and now there are many concerns about the damage inflicted there by Typhoon Haiyan, and the immediate needs and long-term recovery issues that linger in the violent storm’s wake.

The needs are acute, says Amy Real of Woodland, whose brother lives in Estancia, a part of the Philippines that was seriously affected by the typhoon. She was able to contact her brother in the past few days, “and he said relief is coming every other day, but the amount is rationed. And they don’t have houses. They need tarps. They are rebuilding (shelters) from the rubble of their houses.

“My brother said they need tools, building materials, nails. They just pick up pieces (of wreckage) and start building shelters. They will be rebuilding for months and years.”

Real moved to Davis with her husband from the Philippines in 1990 so her husband could do his graduate studies at UC Davis.

While Real was in touch with her family, Rita Seiber is still waiting for word from her sister-in-law’s family. “No word, no communication” so far, Seiber said.

She came to Davis from the Philippines in 1969 as a post-doctoral researcher, taught chemistry and married Jim Seiber, who became chair of the university’s food science and technology department.

Seiber added that Cincin Young, who was born in the Philippines and now lives in Davis, “arrived in the Philippines just before the typhoon, and is kind of stranded there now. She’s trying to do fundraising there; she has a satellite phone of some kind.”

Another local resident with family in the Philippines is Ramon Cusi, principal of North Davis Elementary School, who said he has more than 100 relatives there.

“However, most of them are based in the Manila area and specifically Cubao, which did not suffer the major typhoon,” Cusi said. “I do have one aunt who resides in a province next to the one that was hit hard, but we have not been able to contact her. Once I do (hear from her) I will be very happy.

“In the meantime, it is a waiting game for me,” Cusi added. “My younger daughter, Reagan (age 9), asked me what was happening in the Philippines, and I told her a bit of the reality and assured her that (the storm had not badly hurt anyone in) our family so far, but that we need to pray for those who were less fortunate. She seemed quite concerned but understanding.”

Ruth Asmundson, who moved to Davis from the Philippines in 1968 to do graduate studies at UC Davis, said she’s concerned that the typhoon season in the Philippines seems to be getting longer and longer.

“It used to be May to August. Then it extended into September,” she said. “Now into November. It’s probably part of climate change.”

Asmundson, a former mayor of Davis, has been hosting nightly meetings in her home since the typhoon blasted through her homeland, facilitating local relief efforts.

Also working on relief efforts are students at UCD, says Robyn Rodriguez, who joined the faculty in 2011 as a professor in the department of Asian American studies. “My parents are from the Philippines; I was born and raised in California, mostly in the Bay Area,” she said.

Rodriguez is active in the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns, a grassroots group that brings together various Filipino-American organizations around the country. NAFCON has organized disaster relief efforts in the past, and also has “well-established connections on the ground in the Philippines,” Rodriguez said.

She attended a meeting late last week that included “over 100 students from Filipino organizations on (the UC Davis) campus, students trying to understand the disaster, and how to do relief efforts in a way that would support sustainable rehabilitation.”

Rodriguez said that while the dimensions of the damage from the typhoon are daunting, “what excites me is that it is really generating interest among students, and a better understanding of the Philippines. And they are thinking about relief and aid more critically.”

Kaide Leviste is a UC Davis student majoring in animal science with an emphasis in genetics, planning to graduate in December. She is from a northern region in the Philippines (Batangas), and attended Bay Area schools as a child and teen.

She has attended several meetings in the past week, which have drawn not only students from a Filipino background, but also members of the Japanese American Student Society, who are very much aware of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture about two years ago.

Leviste said upwards of 200 people have joined a Facebook page relating to campus-based typhoon relief efforts, and added that those organizing campus-based efforts are communicating with community groups about “what can be done in the future” as relief efforts continue.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffHudsonDE



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