November 25, 2013
(Hong Kong) Unlike on their other holidays, Filipino maids last Sunday were busy packing up donations from their friends and employers in Hong Kong to send back home to their hungry families and friends.
Two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest recorded typhoon in human history, smashed into the central Philippines, millions of people are reported to be living in hunger and suffering from the tragedy. Major roads remain blocked, and food and clean water are scarce. At least 2 million people have been displaced from their homes.
Instead of sending money back home as usual, individual groups of maids, who make up the majority of domestic helpers in Hong Kong, have been collecting and packing food supplies for their families.
“Normally, they can buy anything when I send them money. But at this time, they cannot buy anything at the market,” said Danila Dorrengo, a 65-year-old maid who comes from a village in the central Philippines.
An immigrant worker who has spent over 18 years in Hong Kong, Ms. Dorrengo said her families and grandchildren are fortunately fine, but she needed to send them food supplies and other daily needs instead of money to save them from starving.
“They are now waiting for my supplies…water, food, and other things cannot be bought in the market anymore,” she said. “Instead of sending money, I send them food.”
Food supplies and daily needs—included toilet paper, medicines, shampoo, shoes and clothes, rice, packets of food, and household appliances—were packed in large boxes and shipped back home.
A 38 year-old domestic helper, Eden B. Magnamua, who is from a small island in the central Philippines, said yesterday that half of the villagers from her town were flashed out by water. Now the survivors in the villages are struggling for food and supplies, so she has been shipping food supplies and daily needs for them.
“While we are here in Hong Kong, we collect the donations and money to buy sacks of rice to send back to the Philippines because there is no help at all from the government. They are living in hunger. They are starving to death,” said Ms. Eden. “We are here living in Hong Kong—we can only send back some donations.”
Luckily, Ms. Eden’s village is located on an island where food can be delivered. But not all people are so lucky.
A 40 year-old migrant worker, Lourdisita Dingding, said the majority of the infrastructure in her hometown had been destroyed and her parents and siblings had been missing until last Saturday.
“I got a call from my brother…they’re fine,” said Ms. Dingding. “My employer asked me: do you want to go home? How can I go? There is no transportation.”
“I always pray for them and I am happy to hear they are fine. Nothing is more important than life,” she added after a praying ceremony at a church near Causeway Bay.
Ms. Dingding, who is from Biliran Island, about 12 hours from the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu, said she can only hope that her family will somehow get access to donations from government and aid organizations.
“I hope that by now they will have been helped by the government” she said.
According to the latest figures from the Philippine government, the destructive typhoon, which hit the Philippines on November 8, took at least 5,600 lives, leaving over 26,200 people injured, while 1,761 people are still missing.