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Massachusetts Filipinos coalesce in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan

As the Philippines reels from Typhoon Haiyan, which claimed as many as 2,500 lives, Massachusetts residents and local Filipino-Americans are scrambling to send help to the ravaged island nation.

Philippines, November 2013. Typhoon Haiyan struck Philippines 8th November, 2013. Philippine Red Cross volunteers delivering emergency water and food at Juan B. Dosado Hospital, northern parts of Cebu. Photo: Jarkko Mikkonen/Finnish Red Cross Philippines, November 2013. Typhoon Haiyan struck Philippines 8th November, 2013. Philippine Red Cross volunteers delivering emergency water and food at Juan B. Dosado Hospital, northern parts of Cebu. Photo: Jarkko Mikkonen/Finnish Red Cross

As the Philippines reels from a storm that claimed as many as 2,500 lives, Massachusetts residents and local Filipino-Americans are scrambling to send help to the ravaged island nation.

"It is still a dire situation there. Clean drinkable water in many cities is in short supply. Over 2 million people have been displaced," said American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts CEO Jarrett Barrios, adding that the non-profit has 1,000 employees and 600,000 volunteers in the Philippines.

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Michelle Denise Ferreol is one of about a dozen students within the Filipino community at Harvard University that are organizing a campus benefit Friday, called "Singing in the Rain," to help typhoon victims.

"There is a saying going around right now that 'the Filipino spirit is waterproof,'" said Ferreol, who left Manila to study at Harvard. "Filipinos have a lot of grit. Our culture is one that really rises from tragedy and mobilizes very quickly."

Fellow student Shannen Kim, also from Manila, said she was shocked to learn of the severity of the storm.

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"It really is difficult being so far away from the Philippines. I don’t think it really hit me when I first saw the news," she said. "I think that’s maybe because typhoons are a frequent occurrence in the Philippines. Manila was not hit so badly, however a lot of my friends and relatives are still waiting to hear back from (people near the coast)."

The women, both juniors, have also set up an Indiegogo.com account for the benefit, which will feature music, traditional Filipino dance and comedy.

Census data shows there are approximately 11,000 Filipino-Americans living in Massachusetts.

Many who migrated to the United States have been unable to reach loved ones since the disaster, however those wishing to reach Filipino citizens can go through the The American Red Cross Restoring Family Links service.

"In a globally wired world we become spoiled into believing we can talk to anyone anytime anywhere storms like this remind us o fragile our telecommunication system is, and not being able to speak to loved ones at least is somewhat helped by resources like The American Red Cross Restoring Family Links service."

There is still a great need for clean water, food, shelter and basic supplies, according to the Red Cross, and Massachusetts residents can help by making monetary donations.

As aid makes its way to survivors, Ferreol said she is confident that Filipinos will hold tight to their "Bayanihan" spirit.

"'Bayanihan' alludes to practice back in 1800s where Filipinos would help each other move huts from place to place. They'd help carry houses on bamboo sticks. Today it is used more colloquially," said Ferreol.

"It has filtered down throughout the years because it is something we prize greatly. Even now, our community is coalescing despite being scattered across the world. There is a level of connection that I personally haven’t seen anywhere else."

For more information, or to donate, visit www.redcross.org/ma/boston.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
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