'They don't have anything': Metro-east gears up to help typhoon victims in Philippines

News-DemocratNovember 12, 2013 

Terri Leisure, of Shiloh, said her father knew his home, made of bamboo and plywood, would not withstand the winds of the typhoon that hit the Philippine Islands on Friday.

Zaldy Basa, his wife and their three children sought cover at a neighbor's home, made of concrete, Leisure said.

Basa's home washed away. His neighbor's home did not.

Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 1,700, but it is estimated that as many as 10,000 people died. More than 9 million people have been affected by the storm in the nation of more than 7,000 islands.

Leisure, who grew up in Manila and moved to the metro-east in 2011, and her husband, David Leisure, are collecting money for her dad. Basa and his wife have a newborn boy, a 3-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl.

"Everything in their home washed away," David Leisure said. "They don't have money, clothes, food, a way to get around. They don't have anything."

David Leisure said Basa's home was in a low-lying area in Bongabong on the island of Mindoro, an area that was affected by 55 mph winds.

The typhoon weakened to a Category 3 by the time it reached Mindoro, David Leisure said.

David Leisure said it is fortunate his father-in-law lives in an area affected by the tail end of the storm, but it also means there is not as much aid available.

The Leisures are members of the St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church. St. Clare will join all the churches in the Catholic Diocese of Belleville send collections from their Nov. 23-24 services to victims of the typhoon.

Diocese collects for victims

All Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Belleville are being asked to take up a special collection Nov. 23-24 for the Philippines, through the international Catholic Relief Services, according to Monsignor John Myler, spokesman for the diocese and the diocesan director for CRS.

"Catholic Relief Services is mobilizing resources to help the most affected areas," Myler said. "The typhoon was powerful and expansive, hitting a number of islands. It did not weaken as it passed through, as a super typhoon. It was a catastrophic typhoon, not only for one island but many."

Through Catholic Relief Services: $8 provides a water kit for a family; $15 provides an emergency shelter kit; $22 provides household living supplies; and $28 provides hygiene kits.

Family sends supplies

Helen Greynolds, of O'Fallon, will send supplies to her nieces, nephews and other relatives in the Bacolod City in the province of Negros Occidental, her birthplace.

"My family really got spared from that devastating typhoon," she said. "They weren't really as affected as badly by the storm."

On Tuesday, she shopped at Rural King for raincoats to mail her family. She also planned to send canned goods, vitamins and medicine. "Things they really need," she said.

She will mail two boxes on Saturday but doesn't expect her family to receive the items until after Christmas.

Greynolds went to church on Veterans Day to pray. "It's just really, really sad," she said.

"Of course, here we are again: Americans helping."

'We are so lucky'

The four sisters of the Rev. Peter Balili escaped the eye of the storm.

Balili, the administrator for St. Mary's Catholic Church in Sesser and St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Christopher, is from the Philippines but he has been in the Catholic Diocese of Belleville for almost three years.

"I am so glad that my family are safe," he said. "Our roof was damaged but they were able to fix it ... We are so lucky."

His sisters live in Bohol, an island about 300 miles south of the epicenter of the storm, he said.

"We were safe, my family is OK," Balili said.

The biggest problem where his family lives is the 120-mph winds that knocked down power lines, so there is no electricity and no water, which comes from pumps.

"It rains and we get water from the rain and we boil the rain and whenever there is power, then the water comes again," he said.

Ten thousand people could be dead, according to estimates, and many more are in need of aid.

But politics are getting in the way, Balali explained.

Politicians say they have to account for the donations before they can distribute them. "Because of no power, no Internet, the accounting is very slow," he said.

The need is great and people are desperate. Balali said he heard of looting and fighting "because the people cannot be controlled," he said. "That's really very sad."

Another danger for his family is the constant rain. "It's pouring. You cannot move ... when it rains, it's like a curtain. It really pours. It's difficult to travel because the road is really slippery. They're afraid of landslides and sinkholes."

'All I can do is worry'

Sara Wade grew up in Belleville and O'Fallon and now resides in St. Charles, Mo. She said her mother, Norma Chinido still lives in O'Fallon. Their relatives live in eastern Samar, in the May Pangean Borongan village.

"My mom is from the Philippines and all her family, her brothers and sisters and all of their children, her mother," Wade said.

They have not been able to reach their family, since there will be no electricity or telephone lines for at least two weeks. Wade she was told through a cousin in Manila that her family is OK.

"I told them to be safe," she said. "It's extremely dangerous. They're desperate for food and water. Of course, there's looters and everything.

"I'm worried that people in our area will become violent," she continued. "I'm not exactly sure how bad the damage is around my family's area because of the lack of communication."

"The way that it's affecting me is that it kind of feels surreal," she said. "I kind of feel helpless. I come into work and no one else around here is from the Phillipines. Some people haven't even heard about the storm. It's hard not being able to do more, be there. The unknown is kind of nerve-wracking."

Wade visited the Philippines when she was just 6, but she said that she has vivid memories of life there.

"My uncle lives in a hut: no windows, no doors, dirt on the floor. A ladder leads to the upstairs small loft and that's where he and his wife and their two kids sleep," she described. "Knowing they don't have much protection from something like a super typhoon ... All I can do is worry."

Scott prepared to help

The Air Mobility Command, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, as of Tuesday has not been asked to provide support rescue and recovery operations in the wake of the typhoon. Media reports indicate the Navy and Marines in the Pacific theater are providing assistance, or are positioning to do so, according to an AMC news release.

At AMC, "we're looking ahead, planning for types of cargo/equipment/personnel that may we may be asked to move and stand ready to support if called upon," according to the release.

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460. Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. News-Democrat reporter Mike Fitzgerald contributed to this article.

How to help

Red Cross


Greater St. Louis Region Headquarters

St. Louis Area Chapter

10195 Corporate Square Drive

St. Louis, MO 63132


Catholic Relief Services


Catholic Relief Services

P.O. Box 17090

Baltimore, MD 21297-0303


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