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Filipinos in U.S. worry about family

6:15 AM, Nov 11, 2013   |    comments
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Worried American Filipinos are waiting for news of family and friends back home and grieving for their home country as the extent of Typhoon Haiyan's destruction becomes clear.

Glenda Hawkins, 52, has been unable to get in touch with any of her 11 siblings who live in Tacloban, the capital of the Philippine province of Leyte, which was one of the hardest hit by the storm. Hawkins, of Richmond, Va., has been in the U.S. for 23 years but keeps in touch with family in the Philippines.

"I'm just scared," she says. "I'm hoping they're alive."

Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Friday with extreme winds and high water, and officials believe as many as 10,000 people may have died.

Herbert Cledera of Danbury, Conn., is collecting donations of canned goods, clothes and toiletries at the Philippine store he owns with his wife Karen. His family is from the Bicol region southeast of Manila, where the typhoon brought no more than heavy rain. He says the U.S.-based Filipino community is grieving.

"The typhoon is horrific," says Cledera, who is a former president of the Filipino American Association of Western Connecticut. "Everybody's reaction in here, Filipinos in general, they're very sad about what has happened to their families. They've lost lives, properties. Everybody's just devastated."

Juan Tuason, of McLean, Va., learned his family has survived.

"When I saw the news, I thought back to what I saw there," says Tuason, 43, recalling a 2009 visit to Cebu. "The types of houses people live in, a lot of them are made of coconut trees and scrap board from construction sites. And I'm just thinking there's no way. I wouldn't be surprised if (the typhoon) just leveled everything I remember seeing."

Filipino Americans say the impact of the typhoon is especially horrific coming just weeks after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit the islands of Cebu and Bohol.

"They're really reeling," says Teresa Tuason, Juan's mother.

"It's just sad because they just suffered from the earthquake and now this," says Rebecca Bautista of Southberry, Conn.

Bautista, 50, grew up in Ormoc, about an hour away from Tacloban. She came to the U.S. when she was 17, in 1980, but her aunt's family still lives in Ormoc. Bautista spoke to them shortly before the typhoon touched down, and other relatives have heard from them since.

"I tried to tell them to go to a shelter but apparently they didn't," Bautista says. "They are "just lucky that they survived."

"Everyone's fine," she says. "The house is damaged. Like everyone else there's no roof. They just wait for aid."

"I'm just upset every time I see news about it," Bautista says. "Everyone's suffering.''

Hadley Malcolm, USA TODAY

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