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Haiyan puts locals on edge

Former Sonora resident Philip Valenzuela (right), pictured with his wife, Mercedes, was in the Philippines when Typhoon Haiyan hit Friday. Courtesy photo.
A Sonora woman is awaiting word from her brother, former Sonora resident Philip Valenzuela, who she has not talked to since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, where he lives part-time.

Lisa Jones, of Sonora, has been in touch with the Sonora branch of the American Red Cross to see if they could help locate Valenzuela. They have not found him so far.

Haiyan struck the Philippines on Friday, destroying numerous cities and possibly killing up to 10,000 people. About 600,000 more people have been displaced.

Valenzuela has a home and business about 80 miles from Tacloban — the most severely hit city — in the small village of Caibiran.

Jones remains optimistic, however, as Valenzuela’s son, Philip Jr., has family about 10 miles away from Caibiran and they survived. 

“Their roof was torn off, but people from their church came and put it back on for them,” she said. 

Valenzuela Jr. had only gotten through after calling over and over to an emergency contact number, she said.

His family didn’t know the fate of Valenzuela Sr.’s family.

“He had just opened a seaside store to sell supplies to fishermen,” Jones said of her brother. “That’s probably destroyed.” 

She noted, hopefully, that his house is made of cinderblocks, so was sturdier than many other structures destroyed.

Jones is not the only area resident impacted by Haiyan.

Joe Gamboa, owner of the Jamestown Asian Market, has family on the edge of the typhoon area, in the province of Negros Occidental.

“But my family is safe,” he said. “They were pretty much prepared, but they had to evacuate to a shelter.”

Gamboa was able to reach his brother via text message, and his brother confirmed the family was safe. 

“Some of their friends’ families were not as lucky,” Gamboa said. 

He has been coordinating with Philippine officials and was on his way to the Bay Area to meet with the president of the Philippine Nurses Association of America on Tuesday afternoon to discuss relief efforts. 

Ulysses Verceles, of Sonora, was born and raised in the Philippines and still has relatives living on the island nation.

He said his family was much farther south than where the typhoon hit. They’re alive. 

However, the family of his late friend, Edison Navarra, remains unreachable in Tacloban. 

Navarra was a boy who immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 to get medical care and surgery at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento. Verceles offered his home to Navarra after seeing him with severe burns in an orphanage in the Philippines. Navarra died in June in Sacramento at 23 after having a seizure. 

Verceles has not been able to contact Navarra’s father in Tacloban.

Members of a local nonprofit, Seeds of Dignity, returned to the U.S. just days before the typhoon struck.

Founders Kathy and Tim Atchley, of Cedar Ridge, and five other Seeds of Dignity members spent 15 days in the country, offering medical clinics and early childhood education.

The group works in Mindanao, at the very south of the Philippines, which wasn’t directly hit by the typhoon.

“Everyone is praying for them,” Kathy Atchley said, “We hope we can go back next year.”

The group plans to collect clothes, shoes and vitamins for typhoon victims soon and is collecting money now, guaranteeing 100 percent of funds go to victims.

Checks can be made out to Seeds of Dignity, marked for “Typhoon Relief” and sent to 17076 Carriage Road, Sonora, CA 95370. 

Donations can also be made through the American Red Cross, which has a Philippine unit in the country now.

Donations to the Red Cross can be handled by phone at 533-1513 or at www.redcross.org.

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