Filipinos in US hunker down for superstorm

By Aleta Nieva-Nishimori,

Posted at Oct 30 2012 04:42 PM | Updated as of Oct 31 2012 08:40 AM

Storm preparations of some Americans may seem a bit exaggerated to some Filipinos who have lived in the Philippines, a country hit by about 20 storms annually.

“Ang biruan ng mga Pinoy dito napaka-OA ng mga Amerikano. Lagi namin joke yun kasi we overprepare in a good way,” said Alladin Bacolodan, a former ABS-CBN reporter who is now a Maryland resident.

Bacolodan said Filipinos are used to typhoons. “You’ve seen the worst when you have lived in the Philippines,” he said.

However, he also admitted that megastorm Sandy is different.

“The truth is - this is really a reason to prepare because this is really unusual,” he said.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Sandy to a post-tropical cyclone as it crashed into the US coast near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The megastorm has so far claimed the lives of 13 people in US and Canada.

Strong winds and heavy rains continue to pound most of the East Coat resulting to heavy flooding in a lot of cities and towns in at least 11 states and the District of Columbia.

Power outage is the biggest concern now with more than two million people without electricity.

The national and local government implemented stringent measures, including mandatory evacuations, imposing curfew and travel ban, to encourage people in the path of the storm to remain indoors for their own safety.

“Right now, there is a ban for you to go outside. You’re not even allowed to drive a car. You can be arrested for doing that,” Bacolodan said.

“Like today in Maryland, they’ve announced you cannot go out unless you’re a medical officer, a part of the rescue team, or working in a hospital or some medical facility.”

That, he said, gives them no other choice but to remain indoors.

“That differentiates us from there. Kasi dyan, may katigasan tayo ng ulo. Dito, kailangan talagang sumunod dahil mahuhuli ka,” he said.

60 million affected

The storm, he added, is really huge affecting about 60 million people or about 20 percent of the US population.

Of the 60 million, 460,000 are Filipinos living in at least 13 states in the east coast.

He said the highest concentration of Filipinos in the east coast is in New Jersey with 110,000; New York, 104,000; 66,000 in Virginia and about 44,000 in Maryland.

“The Philippine Embassy in D.C. and the Consulate in New York are closed today. But Ambassador Jose Cuisia issued an advisory to brace for the worst and keep an eye for each other in case someone needs help,” Bacolodan reported.

A duty officer is likewise on standby in both the embassy and the consulate to receive calls from Filipinos needing immediate help.

Filipino community leaders have been notified to keep in touch with members for any development or emergencies.

Like most residents, Filipinos there have done their part in preparing for the worst by stocking on supplies like food, water, and emergency kits.

Well prepared

In New York, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau correspondent Don Tagala said most Filipinos he knows have prepared well before the storm.

“A lot of people I know went out Sunday before the hurricane came in. They went to Filipino stores to buy canned goods, emergency supplies,” Tagala said.

In Manhattan, freelance correspondent Cat Sandoval is among the many Filipinos bracing for superstorm Sandy.

Sandoval reported to ANC that many parts of the city are already flooded, without power. She added that most residents are well prepared because of early warnings from authorities.

“I think what's really good, the mayor did a really good job of warning people, the government did as well, so people are pretty safe,” Sandoval said.

Another New York resident Bernadette Corpuz-Perez is waiting it out in her apartment.

“We’re doing ok. We were warned by Mayor Bloomberg so we stocked up on food and water. Everything is fine on our side,” she said.

Perez said Manhattan is one of the areas without power.

“Our service elevator is not working so it’s really 19 flights of stairs going down. We’ve been here since Sunday. We were warned to stay home because it’s safer. We were able to go outside this morning just to get supplies but since then we’ve been stuck here in the apartment,” she said.

It was a good thing, she said, that they were informed early on to prepare as water was also turned off.

“We're hoping it will be over soon. We don’t have TV that can guide us on what's happening outside, but so far for Manhattan, I think the worse is over,” she said.

Perez has been in New York for more than 10 years and had seen the worst kind of tragedy in the 9/11 attacks.

“Were not used to this kind of calamity in New York, but were very prepared,” said Perez.

“What's great about New York is that were always getting feedback from our politicians. So we’re warned. I’ve been here long enough to know that people are actually out there--we have policemen and firefighters ready to help,” she said.