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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Tampa Bay area Filipinos muster typhoon aid

TAMPA — Shop owner Flora Boyle said she couldn’t sit still awaiting word of her sister’s whereabouts on the typhoon ravaged island of Leyte in the Philippines, so she got busy with a relief effort.

Boyle, who owns the Philippines Oriental Store on North 30th Street, is raising money to donate to the American Red Cross and collecting nonperishable items to ship to some of the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos left homeless by the storm.

“We are collecting everything that they can use, as long as it fits into a box,” she said Tuesday.

Boyle is one of many Bay area residents working with area churches, the American Red Cross and other emergency relief agencies to help Filipinos affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Relief efforts are sorely needed in the central Philippines, where devastating winds and a monster storm surge cut a deadly swath across the island nation, causing massive destruction late last week. Thousands of people are thought to be dead, and tens of thousands were left without shelter, food, clean water, medicine and electricity.

West Central Florida residents, particularly those of Filipino descent, are stepping forward to help. Many have relatives and friends in the Southeast Asian nation.

There are an estimated 15,000 people of Filipino descent in the Bay area, authorities say. Most live in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties.

Many left the Philippines, a developing country, to seek better lives elsewhere, leaders of the Philippine Cultural Foundation of Tampa Bay said. Filipinos are drawn to the area by mild weather and job opportunities — especially in the medical field — and to live near relatives and friends already here.

Boyle grew up in Ormoc City, southwest of Tacloban, a coastal city hit hard by the storm. Her sister, Conching Laurina, left the United States for a visit to Leyte two weeks before the storm hit. No one has heard from her since, Boyle said.

The news isn’t all bad. Boyle learned from Facebook that other relatives are safe but lost everything.

This week Boyle began raising money and seeking donations of school supplies, diapers, clothing, building materials and other items to help feed and clothe survivors and help begin to get the nation of islands back on its feet.

The Philippine Cultural Foundation of Tampa Bay also is joining forces with area Filipino-American-owned businesses to launch a fundraising drive for typhoon relief. This week the foundation sent $16,000 to help the effort, said Rudy Bautista, a Philippine Cultural Foundation board member. The money was raised after a deadly earthquake struck the area last month.

The foundation plans a typhoon relief fundraiser on Nov. 23 at the Philippine Cultural Center, at 14301 Nine Eagles Drive, off Race Track Road in northwest Hillsborough County. The event will cap a viewing of the Manny Pacquiao versus Brandon Rios boxing match from Macau, China.

“We are hoping for at least 700 people,” Bautista said of the Pacquiao-Rios fight. “We are charging $20 for admission for each person, but we hope people will be willing to give much more than that.”

At least 10 large boxes were stacked for the relief effort at Mercel’s Bakery, a small Filipino bakery and food market in Pinellas Park. The boxes are filled with items such as rice vermicelli, sauces, pots and pans and slightly worn clothing.

Bakery owner Mercel Kyle took action because many of her customers have relatives living without food or shelter in the heavily damaged region.

The Pinellas Park bakery and the Philippine Cultural Center in Tampa are drop-off sites for nonperishable items and cash that will be sent to the Philippines and distributed through the ABS-CBN Foundation’s disaster relief arm.

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Reporter Kate Bradshaw contributed to this report.

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