UCI Filipino Community Comes Together in Face of Floods Overseas
The typhoons that hit the Philippines in the past few weeks have not only destroyed homes and taken lives, but hindered the Filipino community right here at UCI.
The two major typhoons that hit, Ketsana (known in the Philippines as Ondoy) and Parma, paved difficult if not deadly paths for the overseas families of the Filipino community at UCI.
“I have a lot of family in the Philippines, most of my relatives are still there,” said Justine May Calma, Co-Chairperson of Kababayan, a Filipino organization on campus “Luckily, no one in my family has died. The entire first floor of my uncle’s house in Manila was flooded … He almost drowned when the first level flooded, but he’s okay now.”
Calma is just one of many that have been affected by the disaster in the Philippines. She attributed Stephanie Ramos, President of Filipino-Americans in Social Studies (PASS), for launching the Ondoy Relief Effort which strives to aid victims of the typhoons by collecting donations from the community.
The Ondoy Relief Effort is taking donations of essential materials that are severely needed for disaster victims including clothing, packaged food, medicine, and toiletries. According to Ramos, donated clothing is plentiful, but more food is needed along with volunteers to help ship out donations.
“When I heard about what had happened, there was appreciation. It hit really close to home,” Ramos said, explaining how the relief effort came about. “I was born and raised here but I still have a lot of family that lives in the Philippines. I knew right away that I wanted to do something with our school.”
Ramos consulted Matthew Villegas, Chairperson of Alyansa, the umbrella organization under which the alliance of the four major Filipino groups on campus belong to, including Kababayan and PASS.
Though this natural disaster is deeply unfortunate, Ramos said, “It brought us [Alyansa] all together.” The four groups are all collecting donations to send overseas in hopes to help a family in need.”
According to Ramos, over 400,000 people in the Philippines are homeless due to the devastating floods. The New York Times estimates over 300 deaths caused by Ketsana and Parma along with incoming diseases, especially from mosquitoes.
UCI students are definitely helping locally, with foreign aid from multiple countries including Italy, Brazil, and Korea also underway. Even so, the United Nations estimates $74 billion is still needed in foreign aid, according to The New York Times.
Calma gave insight to the typhoon problem in the Philippines.
“Natural disasters are pretty common in the Philippines. They have a typhoon season every year, but these are especially bad,” Calma said.
Also, she shed light on the controversial President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has been accused of spending disaster relief funds on her own vacations.
For now, UCI students are doing what they can here on campus. Villegas explained that most donations are received through the membership, but ongoing efforts are reaching out to other organizations such as Circle K which donated as well.
Amidst the international attention on the plight of the Philippines, Calma promoted October as Filipino American History month.
“Right now, we are highlighting not just what it is to be a Filipino in America, but also the difference in the Philippines and the struggles that are going on over there and all the things that are happening,” Calma said.