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After Super Typhoon Haiyan, Filipino-American Community Bands Together To Send Aid To Philippines

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Maryam Bermudez, a humanitarian worker in the Philippine province of Bohol, braced herself Friday before venturing into towns devastated by super typhoon Haiyan.

She knew the people had not yet recovered from last month's 7.2-magnitude earthquake when the storm hit.

"I'm scared about what I might see," she said via Skype. "But I have to be strong because people are waiting for assistance."

Fortunately, help is on the way.

Filipinos and Filipino-Americans across the greater Los Angeles area are mobilizing fund drives and relief efforts to help their family, friends and compatriots -- or kababayan -- back home.

There are an estimated half a million Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the greater Los Angeles area, making them the second largest Asian group after the Chinese.

Ruth Stewart, founder of the nonprofit Renew Our Minds and Heart (ROMAH) Foundation in Encino is preparing to fly to the Philippines this month to distribute aid alongside nuns, missionaries and other volunteers in remote villages ravaged by the storm.

"Shelter is a dire need for them right now," she said. "It takes people years to recover from a catastrophe like this. For us to provide immediate response would alleviate a lot of their stress."

Bing de la Vega, co-founder of the Philippine Disaster Relief Organization said his organization would hold a 5K walk at Woodley and Balboa Park in Van Nuys on Sunday to raise funds that would benefit victims of both the super typhoon and last month's earthquake.

"I'm sure there will be people in refugee camps," de la Vega said. "Food and medicine and blankets are needed for emergency relief," he said.

The Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles said monetary donations may also be sent through the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council , the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Philippine Red Cross.

Pastor Elbert Moralde of the Waterman Visayan Filipino Seventh-Day Adventist Church in San Bernardino said many of his parishioners have relatives affected by the storm and are eager to help.

"Tomorrow, during our church service, we will ask for donations from the entire congregation," he said.

Petita Virata, administration director of St. Denis Catholic Church in Diamond Bar, welcomed checks made out to Catholic Relief Services, which has deployed humanitarian workers to the Philippines.

She said some members of the congregation don't yet know the fate of their relatives because the storm knocked out power lines and phone lines.

"I'm hoping that most of us will be able to communicate with them by FaceTime or Skype," Virata said. "Our prayers are with all of them."

Marc Lawrence, head instructor at the South Bay Filipino Martial Arts Club, is worried about friends on the island of Cebu, which was in the path of the storm.

"Oh my God, I hope that they're all right," he said.

Ashley Sta. Ana of Torrance is fretting about her aunt, whom she has not been able to contact, despite many attempts.

"I'm scared and worried because we don't really know what's going on," she said.

Ashley's father, Von Sta. Ana, plans to put together packages and donate money to storm victims.

"After a storm that bad, then for sure nothing is going to be left," he said. "The housing there is not that sturdy and there are old people and I'm wondering what is going to happen to them after this storm." ___

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