You can help
What: “Taste of Hope” wine-tasting and silent auction to help typhoon-ravaged villages in the Philippines rebuild
When: 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8
Where: International House, 10 College Park
Tickets: $55 per person, available at Konditorei Austrian Pastry Café, De Luna Jewelers and Watermelon Music, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, Ruth Asmundson at 530-753-7884 or Rich Naval at 530-400-5939
With California withering in a drought and the East Coast shivering from the latest polar vortex blast, there are people across the ocean still reeling from the whims of Mother Nature.
Typhoon Haiyan was an exceptionally powerful tropical Category 5 cyclone that devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, on Nov. 8. It was the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed, and the deadliest typhoon to hit the Philippines.
More than 5,000 people died, and exponentially more were affected or displaced. Thousands upon thousands lost their homes, their possessions and their livelihoods, as well as loved ones. The financial cost has been estimated at as much as $15 billion.
The effects of Typhoon Haiyan stretched all the way across the ocean, affecting people right here in Yolo County.
Davis chiropractor Rich Naval lost two nieces in the typhoon, and says four family members still haven’t been found.
Missing family members is an ongoing heartbreak, Naval explains. Because there are so many bodies, the government has started burning unidentified corpses out of health concerns, even though many are still looking among the corpses for loved ones.
The scenario is horrific enough for anyone to imagine, but for Naval, who was born in the Philippines and raised there until age 9, it hits particularly hard. He remembers his homeland, and relatives, with great affection, as do members of the local Filipino Americans of Yolo County, a social group that formed several years ago through which people could celebrate their common Filipino culture.
Some grew up in the Philippines and were familiar with the town of Taclaban, which was hit hardest by the typhoon. Many lost loved ones. Naval says that of the 16 families in the group, 10 had relatives who were affected or killed.
“Some lost their children, or a husband or wife,” Naval says quietly.
Woodland resident Marisa Agnew, a chemistry professor at Sacramento City College and a member of the Filipino Americans of Yolo County group, was heartbroken by the stories she found online of the suffering that is still taking place.
“I saw a mother who lost her six children. She is still looking for the other three bodies that can’t be found,” Agnew says. “I’m a mother — what’s the reason for you to live if the rest of your family is gone?”
She recounts stories of people clinging to posts or trees, clinging to family members who implored them to let go so they might save themselves. She tells of a child who said the last time she saw her father was when a piece of metal roofing flew through the air in the brutal wind and cut through his neck. Agnew says that story brought back memories.
“I personally experienced that in Manila, when we had a strong typhoon,” she says, explaining that sheet metal is a common roofing material there and, in hurricane-force winds, the sheets go airborne. “I have a vivid picture of that metal flying, and crashing through the windows of our house.”
On Estancia Island, she says an oil spill has contaminated the water for both drinking and fishing, wiping out the livelihood of most of the residents. She points out that these hard-hit rural areas and fishing villages often don’t make it into the headlines, and its people suffer and struggle unseen.
Another Filipino Americans group member, Davis resident Carla Datanagan, says she was one of the lucky ones — her relatives are all safe. Even so, she was compelled to do something anyway, out of love for the country where she grew up.
“It’s a national tragedy,” she says. “But it’s such a big calamity that it didn’t matter if I had family there. It just really hit you in the pit of your stomach.
“I know the area that was hit, an area where there’s a group of society that already didn’t have much — fishermen and simple people. The homes they had were simple. When that area was devastated, it was unimaginable, and those who didn’t have a lot were in an even more unimaginable situation.”
Hard to imagine, yes. Datanagan says she’s heard estimates of as long as a year just to clear out the rubble. Currently, she says the country doesn’t have enough of life’s basics, like shelter and clean water.
“It’s a long road ahead,” she says.
As Naval, Agnew, Datanagan and other members of the Filipino Americans of Yolo County began sharing their losses and feelings after the typhoon, Naval says they came to a decision: “Let’s do a fundraiser.”
They quickly pulled together a Filipino luncheon in about a week, which raised $49,000, but it still wasn’t enough. Although months have passed, Naval says the Taclaban area hasn’t recovered.
The group held a concert fundraiser on Jan. 25, and is now planning a “Taste of Hope” event from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at International House, 10 College Park. The wine-tasting and silent auction will feature Napa Valley’s Bravante Vineyards, which was recently awarded highest honors by Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits magazines.
Silent auction items include a private wine-tasting and picnic at Bravante Vineyards, an Indian dinner, horseback riding lessons and golfing at Wildhorse. Authentic hors d’oeuvres, including Filipino specialties, will be served.
Tickets are $55 per person, available at Konditorei Austrian Pastry Café, De Luna Jewelers and Watermelon Music, or by contacting email@example.com, Ruth Asmundson at 530-753-7884 or Rich Naval at 530-400-5939.
Naval says 100 percent of the money raised will be used to buy supplies to help people in the Taclaban area rebuild.
“A thousand dollars can rebuild a home there,” he says, explaining that most are simple shelters in fishing villages. They just need hammers, nails and basic materials to rebuild.
He notes that the group formed an official nonprofit organization for the fundraising effort, the City of Davis Friends of Los Baños, and that Rotary International is playing a key role in getting the materials into the hands of the affected people.
Naval says the Davis Rotary Club sends the money to a Rotary Club in the Philippines, where it purchases supplies from neighboring countries and brings them to Taclaban by boat. Several Davis residents also have gone to Taclaban to help rebuild, and to ensure that the supplies are getting to those in need.
With funds raised so far, Agnew says 10 families have had their homes rebuilt and are trying to re-establish their livelihoods.
“We’re trying to get them completely back on their feet — not just give them food,” she says. “Rebuilding is really the way to go. We cannot just help one time and then ignore them.”