warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Typhoon Haiyan: L.A. Filipinos Struggle To Locate Families

Charlie Magovern, Elisabeth Roberts, Astrid Solorzano |
November 12, 2013 | 5:16 p.m. PST


video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

After five sleepless nights following super typhoon Haiyan, Jollene Levid can finally rest easy knowing that her family members in the Philippines are safe.

“I don’t know the extent of the damage but I know they have places to live,” she said. “At the very least, we know that they are alive.”

Levid, national chair of AF3IRM, a Filipino women's activist group, was forced to use a chain of communication that stretched halfway around the world. Every night before bed and then again every morning, Levid would call her mother, who had called Levid’s aunt in Manila, the Philippine capital. Levid’s aunt was responsible for contacting the rest of the family in Iloilo, a rural community in the central islands, which were hit hardest by the storm.

“When I finally found out that they were alive I almost cried,” Levid said. “They’re always on your mind and when you see them on the news it makes it worse.”

And while Levid can take comfort in know that her loved ones survived the history-making typhoon, which Philippine officials say has killed 1,798 people displaced 582,303 others, the wait continues for many more, including Levid’s co-worker Ivy Quicho, who lives in Vancouver. 

While her parents raised her in Los Angeles, the vast majority of Quicho’s family still lives in some of the hardest hit areas in the Philippines. To make matters worse, 90 percent of her family, she said, was already displaced prior to the storm by the earthquake that hit their region just weeks ago.

Her mother’s childhood home was destroyed by the 7.2 magnitude quake Oct. 15, leaving them homeless.

“They were living in tents,” Quicho said. “When the typhoon hit, they were already in unstable housing and on both my mom and my dad's side we still haven't heard from family members.”

Before losing contact, Quicho’s relatives were sharing pictures of the earthquake’s devastation on Facebook showing the grim living conditions that people were living in prior to the storm’s landfall. 

Some people were forced to sleep outside in the rain.

“When you read about it in the paper or look at articles online it says that the military is providing relief,” she said. “But for folks like my family who live in the poorer parts of the province they're last on the priority list."

Even if the military were to provide relief, Quicho said, the bridges and roads are “completely dilapidated,” making it hard for help to reach her family. 

The only thing Quicho can do while she tries to establish contact is look at first-hand accounts of the devastation from friends on Facebook and hope that her relatives are finding their way to safety.

“It was devastating having to track via social media the real story of what’s going on on the ground,” she said.

Regardless of the situation their relatives are in, Quicho and Levid are both advocating that monetary donations to relief organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, is the most effective way to help those in need. 

When coupled with the damage caused by the earthquake, relief efforts for the Philippines are going to cost millions of dollars. In an official press release, UNICEF asked for $34 million, which they say will provide the some 4 million children and their families with supplies for six months. 

Doctors Without Borders has sent 100 staff members to the country and plan to use boats and helicopters to help those that are the hardest to reach. 

“We’re not asking for used clothes. We’re not asking for goods. We’re asking for money to give to people to rebuild their houses and get access to water,” Levid said. 

While the country doesn't usually experience storms as strong as Haiyan, the Philippines are regularly hit by typhoons. Building and rebuilding are part of the culture, according to Levid. On average, the country is hit by 20 typhoons per year. Filipino communities have lived in such a harsh climate for generations because they bond over helping each other to survive.

“That’s all you can do is help your neighbor,“ she said. “When you’re building your home, you’re doing it with the people in your neighborhood, and when you’re rebuilding your home I can only assume you do the same thing.”


This story was produced by Annenberg's three daily media outlets, ARN, ATVN and Neon Tommy, and Strategic Public Relations Studies students conducting up-to-the-minute social media analysis.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.