Philippine Expats In California Contribute To Typhoon Relief California is home to one of the largest Filipino immigrant communities in the United States. It's also the center of a large fundraising and outreach effort for victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
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Philippine Expats In California Contribute To Typhoon Relief

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Philippine Expats In California Contribute To Typhoon Relief

Philippine Expats In California Contribute To Typhoon Relief

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Roughly four million people of Filipino heritage live in the United States. Right now, many are trying to reach family and friends in the typhoon zone, get a message there or get a message back. California, with the largest Filipino community in the United States, is the main center of fundraising efforts, as NPR's Kirk Siegler reports from Los Angeles.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Los Angeles is home to one of the largest concentrations of Filipino immigrants in the U.S. Many across this city are glued to the local Asian TV stations' nightly news broadcasts, and some are turning their worry and stress into action, pounding the pavement to raise money for typhoon victims.


SIEGLER: Caren Mempin is clutching a can full of coins and dollar bills, going from table to table at this fast food franchise from the Philippines called Chow King. It's in a bustling shopping mall home to other Filipino chains and a massive supermarket in L.A.'s Eagle Rock neighborhood.

CAREN MEMPIN: (Kigali spoken)

SIEGLER: Her pitch in Kigali isn't a hard one. The typhoon is on everyone's minds here and everyone wants to help. Like Mempin, so many people know friends or family affected.

MEMPIN: I just talked to my mom, and they said that they're all OK. But we have also relatives from Tacloban, especially my mom's brothers and sisters. They don't have any response, so we're still waiting for that.

SIEGLER: Mempin was born in Tacloban, one of the hardest-hit cities.

MEMPIN: I'm always keeping in touch with my mom. She's always crying about that, because my mom is very close to her family.

SIEGLER: The L.A. area is home to an estimated 400,000 Filipinos. The first wave of immigrants to come in droves in the 1930s settled in what's now called Historic Filipino Town, about six miles south of the shopping mall, as the crow flies.


SIEGLER: Here on Union Avenue is the modest, but well-kept Filipino Christian Church, the oldest Filipino church in the city. It's not much bigger than the apartment buildings it shares this quiet block with. Upstairs, in a small room, there are black trash bags full of donated clothes and other supplies.

PASTOR EINSTEIN CABALTEJA: These are the part of the rummage sale last Saturday.

SIEGLER: The pastor, Einstein Cabalteja, says they've raised close to $800 so far through the rummage sales and online donations to the church's website.

CABALTEJA: We are not very rich, and we're not a very big congregation. We have, on average, 60 on a regular Sunday. So we're not really a big congregation, but I believe our hearts are big.

SIEGLER: Cabalteja, who came to the States and this church in 2006, says his heart aches. He wishes he could hand-deliver these things.

CABALTEJA: You know, here in America, we're enjoying a lot of good things. But back there, there are less fortunate people. I wish I could be there.

SIEGLER: For now, relief organizations say what's needed most is cash. Shipping food and other supplies is expensive, and there's no guarantee it will land in the right people's hands. Alex Montanaces is with the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. As of late yesterday, his group had raised about $50,000 for relief. Inspiring, he says.

ALEX MONTANACES: In Filipino, we call it Bayanihan. And it's, like, a sense of Filipinos, like, the community coming together to help one another. So there's really a sense of Bayanihan spirit, I think, among the Filipino community here in this area.

SIEGLER: Back at the shopping mall in Eagle Rock, that spirit is palpable.


SIEGLER: People came here over the lunch hour yesterday to swap stories and check in with friends to see if they'd heard any more news. For the fundraiser, Caren Mempin, no word yet on her extended family.

MEMPIN: Hopefully, they're OK, because, you know, it's so sad if we cannot see and contact them.

SIEGLER: For now, while she waits, she says she's praying. Kirk Siegler, NPR News.

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