Post-Sandy, huddled FilAms warmed by hospitality, ‘bayanihan’

NEW YORK AFTER THE STORM: Manuel Francisco, editorial cartoonist for the Singapore Straits Times and The Manila Times, submitted this cartoon to The FilAm. His cartoons are syndicated internationally by Cagle Cartoons.

A Filipino home in Jersey City offered itself as a charging station for the mobile devices of Filipinos without power, according to the Philippine Consulate.

Consul General Mario De Leon Jr. said Filipinos have been helping each other cope with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, which caused damage to the homes and properties of countless Filipinos in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He made the statement during a visit to the flooded areas of Jersey City.

De Leon spoke to Filipinos as they lined up for food supplies and other necessities at the Philippine Farm in Jersey City, one of a few establishments that is powered by a generator. He said hundreds of Filipinos remain without electricity following the havoc wreaked by Sandy in New Jersey and other areas in the eastern seaboard.

Over in Queens, grassroots organizations banded together to form Operation Kaligtasan (Safety), or O.K., a quick response team that sent advisories and warnings to the Filipino community at the height of the hurricane’s fury.

“Given the frequency of extreme weather that has been occurring lately, it is wise that Filipinos and all people in this region are prepared for calamities that we are susceptible to, like hurricanes, flooding, and major blizzards,” said Gary Labao, a Brooklyn resident and one of the convenors of O.K.

In times of calamity, O.K. also hopes to immediately contact local Filipino American community leaders and organizations to assess their communities’ and constituents’ well-being and safety, identify heavily affected areas and document damages incurred by homes and businesses, respond to basic needs as necessary, and generate a comprehensive report of the condition of the Filipino community in relation to the calamity.

“We are calling out to the community in the NY/NJ area to contact O.K. via telephone at 347-709-9391, or e-mailing, to report any and all incidents related to the hurricane.

“Especially if you are undocumented, we want you to know that we can help you in getting assistance and you will not be in trouble,” Labao added. “Rebuilding our lives will be a gradual process,” said Jackelyn Mariano, a Queens resident and also one of the organizers. “We need to find out if our folks are O.K.”

Hurricane Sandy landed in the Northeast region on October 29, causing unprecedented damage to homes, communities and infrastructure. Low-lying areas and underground public transportation and tunnels faced major flooding caused by high tides and storm surges. About 6.5 million homes and businesses were without electricity. At press time, 59 deaths were reported, 27 in New York City alone.

“When we are distressed, Filipinos naturally stick together in a spirit of ‘bayanihan’ (helping our fellow people). I hope O.K. can serve as a space of solace, relief, and community action, so that we can help each other every time extreme weather comes knocking on our doors,” Mariano said.

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