The last trip Alicia De Grandis made to her birth city of Tabuelan, Philippines was almost one year ago, and at that time, the land was dusty and the climate, dry.
“This is in the northern part where people farm the land,” said De Grandis.
“There isn’t too much rain and the farmers depend on the weather to grow their food.”
Fast forward to Nov. 8 when one of the deadliest storms to hit the Philippines landed on the island country leaving devastation and death in its wake.
According to the latest reports, the Philippine government estimates that nationwide, the death toll from Typhoon Haiyan stands at 3,982 with 1,602 still missing and more than 200,000 homes destroyed, with over one million people displaced.
“All their crops have been washed away and they won’t be able to grow food for another year or two,” she said.
De Grandis has siblings and their children who farm the hard-hit northern land in the province of Cebu and many relatives living in an area of Cebu City that was less ravaged by the typhoon’s fierce winds.
“Half of my family lives on the farm and everything was destroyed,”she said. “It is a remote area and because there is no electricity I haven’t been able to contact them.”
De Grandis is helping raise money for the West Kootenay Filipino Canadian Society and will be on hand during the Dec. 1 community fundraiser at the Genelle hall, with all proceeds being sent directly to those affected.
“People are starving and kids are standing by the side of the road waiting for help,” she said. “And food is being hijacked because they are starving and just trying to survive. We need to help right now.”
She explained that the farming towns near her native Tabuelan are in a distal mountainous region, and Canadian Red Cross helicopters are unable to land, meaning food, water and medical aide isn’t reaching the village’s survivors.
“The situation is critical and we are going to help because we have people there that we know,” said De Grandis. “They can carry the food and water into the village because a helicopter can’t land. That is how we can get what they need distributed. You need to know somebody there.”
People in the area and many business have responded to a previous Trail Times story, “Greater Trail’s Filipino community plans fundraising for typhoon survivors”(Nov. 13), which has Siony Campbell feeling more hope.
Thompson is organizing the Society’s fundraiser and has relatives in the south eastern coastal region affected by the tropical storm.
“I couldn’t believe it, right away I had a $100 donation from person in Trail,” she explained. “She is wheelchair bound and couldn’t get to my home so I went and picked it up,” said Thompson. “It was wonderful and we’ve a few more calls since then.”
To donate to the Filipino Society, or for information, call Thompson at 250-693-5476.
Alicia De Grandis has lived in Trail for 26 years but her life in the Philippines is never far from her heart, especially when tending to her garden and greenhouse, along with husband Angelo, in the backyard of her West Trail home.
And she has never forgotten that surviving hardship isn’t just about the family getting by, it’s about the wellbeing of the community as a whole.
“We cannot wait for agencies to get there to help, because the people will die waiting,” said De Grandis. “Because it’s not just about helping my family. They are all homeless and if you give to your family then you have to give to help someone else’s family too. That is what we do.”