Funds will aid Filipino slide victims

Death toll in the village expected to exceed 1,000

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2006

Even people who offered Filipino meals to those leaving Mass Sunday at St. Paul's Catholic Church were surprised with how quickly it disappeared.

"It went quick," Bennie Cruz, president of Juneau's Filipino American Association, said. Like others, though, he said he wasn't surprised with the generosity of people donating to assist relief efforts for a landslide that buried a farming village about 450 miles southeast of Manila. Many gave money without taking a boxed meal in exchange.

About 1,800 people lived in Guinsaugon on Leyte Island when the mountainside gave way Feb. 17 after two weeks of heavy rain. Late last week, 122 people were confirmed dead, but the death toll was expected to top 1,000.

Cruz said he would know later in the week how much money the association raised to donate to the American Red Cross.

Before leaving Sunday with one of the boxes of chicken adobo and rice the Filipino association prepared to hand out in gratitude for the donations, Nenita Soriano said that when she heard about the landslide on the radio, she wanted to fly there to help. She used to live on Leyte, about 30 miles from village.

"I felt so bad for the children," she said. "They were in school and supposed to be studying."

More than 240 students and teachers are believed to have been inside an elementary school in the path of the landslide, according to the Associated Press.

Soriano said she has been to the village but has no family there. She has an uncle who still lives on the island, but the rest of her family is now scatted across the United States.

Ampy Cruz, Bennie's wife, said the association hasn't been able to find anyone in Juneau with loved ones lost in the landslide.

State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux says that when she returned home last weekend to Kodiak - a town with a Filipino community that makes up about 25 percent of the population - she could find only one or two people with connections to the community in the disasters. But, like others contributing to Sunday's fundraiser, she said that didn't matter. And the support for the relief effort wasn't surprising, she added.

"If you know anything about the Filipino community, you know how important family is," LeDoux said. "Family is everything, even if you don't have any direct ties (to the village buried in the landslide)."

"We did it for our country," Ampy Cruz said, describing the work in preparing the meals. Some people were giving $20 or $50, she added. For those with a sweet tooth, the association had a bake sale of sorts, selling Filipino deserts.

"(Ampy Cruz') flan is to die for," said Father Tony Dummer, the church pastor. He said he announced last week and Saturday that the group would be raising money for the landslide relief efforts and reminded them again Sunday.

He said he does feel it at that collection plate when he plugs post-Mass fundraisers. "I get less, but it's not about the money we lose," he said. The spirit and the cause people are helping are more important. "People are having fun. They're enjoying each other."

Soriano said the landslide hit a beautiful place that had been developed nicely by former President Ferdinand Marcos. "Those people are not well-to-do," she added, noting many of the people in the area didn't have much to begin with before the landslide.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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