Expatriate Filipinos can only watch and wait

Filipina  nurses Marisol Rollan (left) and Joanna Yap, both from Oamaru, are relieved to hear...
Filipina nurses Marisol Rollan (left) and Joanna Yap, both from Oamaru, are relieved to hear their families in the Philippines have not been affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Members of the North Otago Filipino community are reeling from revelations that more than 10,000 people could have died in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan and face an agonising wait to confirm the fate of their loved ones back home.

The category 5 typhoon left widespread devastation in the central Philippines on Friday, and the loss of communications has hampered efforts of Filipinos living in New Zealand to verify the safety of family and friends.

North Otago has an estimated Filipino community of between 200 and 300 people, who work mainly in the dairy and nursing industries.

Oamaru Filipino community elder Fely Parker said with the Philippines still recovering from recent floods and a 7.2-magnitude quake in central Bohol province last month, the super cyclone had left many expats in a state of shock.

''We are feeling the effects of it. I have just rung one person and her family lives near the eye of the cyclone and they are all right, thank God. I haven't talked to the others yet.''

Mrs Parker said it was too early yet to say how many in North Otago could be affected, but support from within the community would be available if required.

''We help each other.''

Oamaru Hospital chief executive Robert Gonzales said four staff members and two student nurses from the Philippines worked at the hospital, and one person was still trying to make contact with her brother and sister.

''That's a bit concerning for her. Communications have been cut off and they are still trying to restore power.''

He said most staff members had taken a ''wait and see'' attitude. Staff had been made aware that counselling was available if needed, he said.

Oamaru nurses Marisol Rollan, originally from Cavite, and Joanna Yap, originally from Cebu, were relieved their home towns were well-removed from the most badly affected areas.

Ms Yap said she had a ''nervous'' two-day wait before makingcontact with her family. She was thankful for the support and kind words from patients over the past two days.

Ms Rollan was able to contact her family immediately.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said the North Otago Filipino community was close-knit, but help would be available for those concerned about friends and family.

''No doubt many of them will have family and friends and neighbours who are not found, and it could be the worst.

"But I will say about the North Otago Filipino community, and our community in general, is that with the [Waitaki] Multicultural Council, they have very strong networks in looking after each other and, of course my office will do anything it can, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if necessary, in finding out about what has happened to people.''

Mrs Dean said anyone who was concerned about family in the Philippines could contact her electorate office on Thames St.


Add a Comment