Filipinos in Ireland face anxious wait for news of loved ones at home
Irish Government pledges €1 million in aid to assist in recovery effort
Children play under the statues of saints inside a Catholic church which has been converted into an evacuation centre after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in the Philippines. Photograph: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco
Her husband, Getty, travelled from their Lucan home in west Dublin a fortnight ago to check on their two small businesses which would have been directly in the path of the typhoon. She hasn’t heard from him in three days.
“The last communication we had from him was when he was in Cebu [a city that lay in the path of the typhoon],” said Jean, who works in a Dublin nursing home.
“We have lots of friends in the affected area as well. He knew the typhoon was coming and had bought food and water to prepare. We are just praying and hoping that he is okay.”
Those were sentiments shared by many who gathered at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel on Bachelor’s Walk in Dublin yesterday for a special service for members of the Filipino community.
Prayers were offered and candles lit for family members caught up in devastated cities, towns and fishing villages across the Philippines. Others were pouring their energy into fundraising to support rescue operations.
Filipino priest Fr Rene Esoy said difficulties communicating with home were heightening the sense of anxiety and uncertainty. “We can see the images on TV. But the communications systems are down and there is no power, so it is very difficult to know what is happening on the ground,” he said.
“We are sharing news with other members of the community on Facebook. All we can do is pray and hope that our families and friends are safe.”
The Filipino community in Ireland is estimated at between 10,000- and 15,000-strong. Many are here to earn money to support families at home.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday touched on the close ties between the two nations when he announced €1 million in aid to assist the recovery effort.
Funding is being made available immediately and will go towards shelter, food, water and health. “Ireland has strong bonds with the Filipino people through our missionaries and through the many Filipinos working in our hospitals and elsewhere in Ireland,” he said.
“My thoughts are with the families of those who have perished, and indeed with those waiting to hear of news from their loved ones. This funding and the emergency supplies will go towards those most at risk, as the crisis moves to the recovery stage.’
The Department of Foreign Affairs has fielded a small number of queries regarding the wellbeing of Irish citizens, but it said it had no information to suggest any had come to harm.
The Philippine consulate in Ireland has also been fielding dozens of calls over recent days from worried relatives.
It has recommended members of the community to contact the Philippine Red Cross “trace a person” service or to get detailed information via a natural disaster website operated by the Filipino government .
In the meantime, family members such as Jean Elises, a mother of three, are waiting – and hoping – for good news .
“We were planning to return home soon,” she said. “We put everything we earned into setting up our businesses at home. We have a small internet cafe and a boarding house. Now, I don’t know if they are destroyed, or if my husband is safe . . . we are all praying that everything is okay.”
Philippine Red Cross
“trace a person” website:
Updated reports on typhoon: www.ndrrmc.gov.ph