Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, center, walked inside an Air Force plane today to inspect the loading of relief goods and medical supplies on a military C-130 plane at the Villamor Airbase in suburban Manila, for victims of landslides in Leyte Island, eastern Philippines.
Isle Filipino, military and charity leaders coordinate relief efforts as Hawaii residents offer donations
The three men needed a magnifying glass to find it -- a small dot on a well-worn map.
How to help
To donate to relief efforts for the landslide, send checks to the American Red Cross of Hawaii or the Filipino Community Center. Be sure to note on the check that the donation is meant for the Philippine disaster.
The American Red Cross of Hawaii is at 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816. The Fil-Com Center is at 94-428 Mokuola St., Suite 302, Waipahu, HI 96797.
Squinting his eyes, Jun Colmenares delicately tapped his finger on little Guinsaugon as his friends slowly shook their heads, recalling television images of the poor, agrarian village in the Philippines' Leyte province that disappeared yesterday under an avalanche of mud.
"It's just horrible looking at it, with all the destruction and loss of lives," Colmenares said yesterday as he and about 30 other Filipino community leaders gathered at the Philippine consulate in Manoa to plan relief efforts for the village.
The military in Hawaii also worked yesterday to gear up aid efforts for Guinsaugon, pledging personnel, equipment and supplies. The C-17 Globemaster cargo jet, which is Hickam Air Force Base's newest aircraft, could also be called on.
"I can tell you the one thing we're considering right now is strategic lift from Hickam," said Brig. Gen. Dana Atkins, U.S. Pacific Command director of operations.
The group at the consulate was previously scheduled to meet yesterday but threw off their planned agenda to talk about fundraising for the landslide-ravaged village.
They asked community members to send donations to the American Red Cross or the Filipino Community Center. A fundraiser could be held as early as next week.
"All we can do now is to see what we can do to respond," said state Rep. Felipe Abinsay, who will be working with the community center to organize a donation drive. "Money is the most important now."
Abinsay is a member of the Hawaii International Relief Organization, which was formed to raise funds in the aftermath of other disasters in the Philippines.
He said the nonprofit has about $10,000 saved up, all of which will likely be sent to the hard-hit region.
Dozens of concerned Hawaii residents eager to send money to relief efforts called and e-mailed the Philippine consulate yesterday, asking how they could help.
Consul General Ariel Abadilla said he was touched by the outpouring of support.
"It's another disaster but closer to home," he said. "It's another burden on the Philippine people and on the Philippine economy."
Abadilla also said he shocked when he saw photos of the disaster area. He suspects rebuilding efforts will be especially difficult, as the town is remote and bounded by mountains.
Colmenares, who is executive vice president of the Congress of Visayan Organizations, used to live in Leyte province but never visited the village now buried under more than 30 feet of mud. The congress represents Hawaii residents who come from the Visayas area of the Philippines, which includes Leyte province.
He said the congress's president did have family who lived near the town, but he could not reach her yesterday to check whether they had been affected. He had not heard of any other residents who had relatives in the village, which is near the town of St. Bernard.
Atkins said a 12-man military assessment team was to arrive in Leyte yesterday. They were already in the Philippines taking part in Balikatan '06, an annual U.S.-Philippine humanitarian assistance exercise. Two Navy ships with 1,500 Marines are expected to arrive in the area today.
"You wouldn't use the word 'fortunate' in this scenario, but in fact we are fortunate," Atkins said, adding that the soldiers and Marines will be able to give "fairly expeditious disaster relief" to survivors.
He also said relief supplies from Hawaii will likely be flown into the northern part of Leyte, where there is a 9,000-foot runway that can accommodate cargo aircraft.
The landslide was in the southern part of Leyte, and it will likely be difficult getting the supplies there over impassable roads and difficult terrain. But Atkins said the military's lessons learned after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami will likely help in the Guinsaugon relief efforts.
"This is our focus," he said. "We won't stop with this 24-hour, around-the-clock effort until we've done everything we possibly can do in this relief effort."
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Mission sends medical aid to Philippines
The Aloha Medical Mission began collecting medical supplies to send to the Philippines after hearing the "heartbreaking" news of a massive landslide there yesterday, said Dr. Jorge Camara, the organization's vice president and spokesman.
He said Dr. Carl Lum, frequent volunteer for medical missions, began collecting intravenous tubing, catheters, antibiotics, medicines and other items -- "as much medical supplies as we can."
Camara said the Aloha Medical Mission is working with the Philippine consulate and getting in touch with the Red Cross there and arranging to have supplies shipped to the Leyte area in the southern part of the Philippines.
"It is a very remote area that is historically famous, where Gen. (Douglas) MacArthur landed to rescue the Philippines from the Japanese," Camara noted.
He said DHL Worldwide Express offered free shipping for the supplies, and the medical mission will continue to collect and ship them.
The Aloha Medical Mission also hopes to send volunteers to the Philippines "as soon as we have news about the situation there and the type of help they need," Camara said. "We have to wait and see as the tragedy unfolds."
Clinics, doctors or others wishing to donate medical supplies can call the Aloha Medical Mission at 847-3400.