Typhoon Haiyan

Philippine domestic helpers in Hong Kong battle to contact loved ones

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 3:12am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 9:37am

Marivic Eulogio is extremely worried. She has been feverishly dialling home for five days, but to no avail.

"I haven't been able to contact them since Friday," Eulogio said yesterday. Her family lives in Palompon, where Super Typhoon Haiyan laid waste to 98 per cent of the town's infrastructure and buildings.

Eulogio and her sister - who is also in Hong Kong - have been calling home non-stop but without result.

"My family is all there - my parents, brother and sister. I don't know what happened to them," she says, before breaking into tears.

Palompon is roughly three hours away from the hard-hit provincial capital of Tacloban on the island of Leyte, where an estimated 10,000 people are dead.

The town's roads and communications network are all down.

My family is all there [in Leyte]. I don’t know what happened to them

"I cannot send money, cannot get any news from them," says Eulogio. "I have an aunt in Tacloban. We don't even know if she is alive."

Eulogio is one of many worried Filipinos working in Hong Kong who reached out to family after the typhoon - and met with varying results.

Since the storm struck the centre of the country on Friday with terrifying force, the Filipino community in Hong Kong has organised various clothes and food donations, hoping to ship them to local NGOs - their only hope of reaching needy people back home. Many shops catering for Filipinos in Worldwide Plaza in Central have set up boxes for donations.

"We've already sent off two boxes full of supplies," said Abraham Aguilar from cargo service AFreight. The goods, including plastic-wrapped foodstuffs and clothes, will be delivered to rescue centres of three selected and trusted organisations, he said.

Eman Villanueva, spokesman of the Operation Migrants' Rescue Compatriots, which represents 70 Filipino groups in Hong Kong, said the groups had raised HK$70,000 so far to help typhoon victims.

"We have also received phone calls from people who said they want to donate items such as canned food," he said.

The groups are preparing letters to be distributed to employers of foreign domestic helpers on Sunday, asking them to make donations to the Philippines.

Villanueva was concerned that there could be epidemics as bodies were still reportedly lining the streets of affected areas.

"I am worried that the government is only sending troops there to stop the looting. But the problem is that there is looting because people are not getting food. The government should be sending food there," he said.

Domestic helper Marica Co Nunez managed to talk to her family in Ormoc - a two-hour bus ride from Tacloban - for a few minutes after making dozens of calls in the past few days.

Her family said there was still no electricity in the city. Supermarkets were still closed so it was difficult for people to get food.

The upper storeys of the hospital in Ormoc were destroyed, she said, with only the ground floor left. She did not know if the injured were getting treatment.