Filipino-Americans in Las Vegas hear from loved ones back home

Romy Jurani, a Las Vegas resident from the Philippines, had been worried sick for two days.

He had no way of knowing whether his nephew survived one of the most powerful typhoons on record, a storm that has claimed thousands of lives across a broad swath of the islands.

But on Saturday morning, the email came: everything was OK, his nephew, Ryan Andeles, 27, wrote him.

“It’s been scary, and we weren’t sure we were going to make it at first, but everything is OK,” Andeles wrote from Cebu, a province that suffered power outages but appears to have been spared the brunt of hurricane-force winds and surging waters.

Said Jurani, 70, of the good news from his nephew: “I’m so glad he and his family are safe. I didn’t know what to think for a while. Nobody here knows anything. We still don’t know who’s survived and who hasn’t, and when you don’t hear anything, you automatically fear the worst.”

The typhoon slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday, wiping away buildings and leveling seaside homes. At last report, 10,000 people were feared dead.

About 140,000 Filipino-Americans live in Las Vegas, and many of them have family and friends in the western-Pacific archipelago.

“It’s the not knowing that’s the worst part,” said Rozita Lee, a Las Vegas resident who serves as a board member for the National Federation of Filipino Americans Association. “My family is OK. I know that. They wrote me right away. But what of the thousands of others? We just don’t know yet. The numbers are still being tallied.”

But instead of just sitting around and fearing the worst, dozens of local Filipino community leaders plan to meet at the Aloha Kitchen on Monday to see how they can better communicate with their family members and raise funds for those who have survived the typhoon.

The restaurant is at the intersection of Decatur Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.

“We need to figure out how we’re going to raise the money and how we’re going to send it thousands of miles away,” said Lee.

“Everybody’s been saying it’s the worst storm of the century, so it’s been devastating. The winds were so strong, they were lifting babies out of the arms of mothers, and nobody knows where to find anybody, including those of us who live here,” she said.

She said thousands of of Filipinos have family living in Eastern Visayas and the provinces that were struck from Samar to Cebu to Leyet.

Most of the Filipinos who live in Las Vegas started coming here in the 1950s to work in the hotel-casino industry. Others have been immigrating in large numbers ever since, Lee said.

She said many Filipino immigrants are engineers, accountants, doctors and lawyers.

Contact reporter Tom Ragan at tragan@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.