Death Toll: 696 so far FUN Launches Relief Drive for Typhoon Ondoy, Pepeng Victims

September 30, 2009

A global fund relief drive among Filipinos has been launched by the Filipino United Network (USA) September 28th to provide aid to the thousands of victims of typhoon Ketsana, nicknamed “Ondoy,” and Parma, nicknamed "Pepeng," according to Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, chairman of the FUN (USA) Foundation.

Packing a maximum wind of 100 kph, and a flood level which rose to about 5 feet in some areas, Ondoy has claimed more than 350 lives so far in its 3rd day of intense wrath that devastated most of Luzon. Rough and high waves measured as high as 3.7 to 6.5 meters.

And the more devastating killer typhoon Pepeng followed with greater impunity, raisng the death toll to 696 so far. More are expected to perish in these clamaities.

FUN (USA) intends to extend its initial aid to the indigent families of those who died and then to the rest of the suffering displaced and hungry poor victims. The aids will be coursed through Gawad Kalinga, Caritas, and the Christ the King in Metro Manila, and will be coordinated by a FUN (USA) certified representative, who will visit the families of the dead victims, obtain information and also verify the death certificates.

Strict measures will be instituted to protect the funds contributed by the donors, for transparency and accountability. The names donors will also be posted on the FUN (USA) website at, unless anonymity is requested.

“We have the full responsibility of earning the trust and confidence of our donors and prospective contributors, especially in these days where scam, fraud, graft and corruption is pervasive all over, otherwise the ultimate suffering shall be borne by those victims of calamities and disasters among our people,” Chua strongly emphasized.

The Filipino United Network (USA) pleads with every Filipino and everyone to have compassion and not to neglect our fellowmen languishing in poverty and now even more devastated by typhoon Ondoy simply because of doubt about the integrity of the fund drive, and use this a convenient excuse not to help.

“The concern is valid and justifiable,” the FUN chairman said, “but practical integrity check could be done to assure everyone that the funds will go to the intended deserving victims of this disaster….and this is the reason why FUN (USA) has appointed a certified coordinator we personally know, and Christ the King as our conduit, to justly and properly distribute our aids to the victims.”

Parameters have been set for the FUN coordinator to follow, including details about the family and the dead, and verification of the death certificates.

“We are doing all this precaution for the peace of mind of all donors to this FUN (USA) humanitarian drive,” Chua stated. The Filipino United Network (USA) is a 501(c)3) tax-exempt foundation in the United States and all donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the IRS. The FUN (USA) Federal Tax ID number which the donor’s accountant will need is 261-71-7446.

To donate, please go to and click on the orange DONATE button for the PAYPAL method of fund transfer by credit card, or mail your donation to Dr. Ale Ragaza, FUN Treasurer, to FUND FOR HOPE, c/o Dr. Ale Ragaza, M.D., Multicare Medical Center, 232 Boston Post Road, Milford, CT 06460, USA. Make all checks payable to Filipino United Network (USA).


Jose Ma. Montelibano
16 October 2009

When We Cared, When We Shared

After Typhoon Ondoy hit Metro Manila, the destruction was so massive that it broke open an emotional dam among Filipinos here and abroad. While most of the victims were poor, even those in the middle and upper classes were affected, too. By joining the relief work of Gawad Kalinga, based at the Ateneo University and the RFM gym where it continues today, I had several firsthand experiences at the misery that befalls flood victims.

I had written in the past about the fate of poor Filipinos whose manner of death rested largely on where they choose to squat. The word "squatter" has been changed to the more politically correct "informal settler." I think what is more politically correct can deodorize by sound and imagery what is truly ugly and scandalous. I, therefore, prefer to use the word "squatter' to define the Filipino who is landless and has no resources to legally rent land or a house. The act of squatting is so graphically symbolic of what poor Filipinos have to do in order to simulate sitting without a chair.

As if Ondoy was not enough, Pepeng had to pass and then turn back to do a double whammy on North Luzon. Hardly had the relief work in Metro Manila eased when the cry for help came wailing from several provinces who experienced both floods and landslides. Pepeng killed more people than Ondoy and I was urgently informed by friends in Baguio that they had a difficult time looking for cheap coffins to accommodate the dead who were brought in by batches. The whole North was practically isolated as roads became impassable.

Floods were caused by record-breaking rainfalls, but there was another kind of flood, a brighter, helpful one - the flood of sympathy from Filipinos worldwide and even non-Filipinos who saw videos of raging flood waters and the shock of hapless and helpless Filipinos. A rush of sympathy covered the people and areas hit the hardest by Ondoy. Help came pouring in, volunteers found their way to relief centers to receive and repack food and other relief items. In Gawad Kalinga's sustained center of operations in the RFM gym, more than six thousand volunteers in eight days came to help.

Many stories have been written about the sympathy and generosity triggered by pain of millions of flood victims. They are inspiring but too many for me to enumerate. Suffice it to say that the Filipino can, and the Filipino did help. But when Typhoon Pepeng made a U-Turn instead of continuing its path to China, then hammered more of Northern Luzon, I thought I saw the shoulders of the helpful Filipino sag a little in shock and in inadequacy of what was being asked of him and her. I heard the words "donor fatigue' and I feared for the new victims of floods and landslides.

Doubt and fear penetrated what was just feeling so elated and appreciative of generosity, bravery and kindness. I though many had already began the natural journey of reconstructing normalcy in their lives and would be overwhelmed by a new call for more generosity and volunteerism. I was not wrong. Many do feel overwhelmed. But I was wrong at the same time because others remain very concerned and have not stopped helping.

While government grapples with a need so massive and simply too much to serve even if it had the heart and resolve to do so, guardian angels from abroad are suddenly on the scene to augment in very powerful ways. Donations from individuals, institutions and foreign countries provide a fresh capacity to tend flood victims. I know many will be prepared to help efforts to rebuild destroyed homes and communities when relief work is largely over. Even medical missions, doctors without borders, have waded in to prove that many care and take extra steps to share that care.

I visited a few towns in Tarlac and Pangasinan, again with a relief team from Gawad Kalinga. Even as we distributed food packs to poor communities, we learned that the greater and more urgent need comes from La Union and Benguet provinces, including Baguio City. I felt that helplessness creep in to threaten my confidence, but reports of more donors coming in, non-traditional sources of funds and food finding us when we never knew them before quickly lifted my spirit once more. I know that Gawad Kalinga will be in La Union and Baguio soon, maybe in a day or two.

As we were driving home in a large SUV owned by another generous friend who not only brought us from Manila to Tarlac and Pangasinan, and back, but also fed us three full meals from early morning to early evening, the experience affirmed what two weeks of relief work have shown me time and again. Kindness exists everywhere. Generosity is expressed everywhere. The need is great, especially since so many Filipinos are poor, but the capacity to care and share is even greater.

Why, then, is there so much misery? Why, then, is greed more consistent than kindness? Why are so many left to fend for themselves in the most harsh of conditions attendant to poverty when there is great abundance and wealth available to ease the pain of scarcity? Why do those in power prove unable to resist the temptation to exploit the very people they are sworn to protect and serve?

I remember how the military had extended to Gawad Kalinga men and equipment to help in the distribution of food and other relief items. I saw the uniforms of soldiers but most had no firearms. They were driving their trucks and lifting bags of rice or cases of drinking water. I wondered why they were called Armed Forces of the Philippines when they were not fighting but helping many in need.

It occurred to me that life is giving us all the choices to be there for one another, and intensifies this reality through natural calamities. Yet, we choose more often not to care when we can care, not to share when we can share, to take advantage when we can be generous, to use the uniform for war when it can save lives. There is so much goodwill and sympathy around us, triggered by the sight and need of so many who have died, who have suffered, who go sick and hungry.

I hope that many of us will remember this moment when we cared more and gave more, and that it is always a choice we can make. ***

-- "There is always a philosophy for lack of courage." AlbertCamus


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