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Pittsburgh Filipino-American group reaches out to typhoon victims

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan early last month horrified Lorna Cabili, as it did other members of Pittsburgh's Filipino-American community.

“This calamity is of a magnitude that is mind boggling,” said Cabili, 49, of Carnegie, who emigrated from the Philippines in 1986 and is a spokeswoman for the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh. “Being so far away and seeing how much people are suffering makes you feel sad and helpless.”

Typhoon Haiyan killed nearly 5,600 people, and about 1,700 are still missing.

But Cabili said the sense of helplessness experienced by more 200 members of the FAAP quickly turned to a desire to find ways to help.

“We're an all-volunteers organization and don't really have funds we can contribute, so we decided to have a fundraiser to provide aid,” Cabili said.

On Saturday, the nonprofit organization will host a brunch and dinner featuring traditional Filipino foods in the Homeville Church in West Mifflin to benefit typhoon victims.

Tickets for brunch, which will be served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., are $10 and will include Filipino-style spring rolls or “Lumpia,” “Pancit” noodles and other dishes.

Dinner, which costs $15, will be served from 4 to 7 p.m. and feature traditional “Abuhan” home-style cooking.

“Food is a big part of our lives, and we felt that this event could be a great way to raise money that will go directly to people who need our help,” Cabili said. “We want to focus on providing assistance in remote areas that are not getting help from the government.”

Members of FAAP have been contacting relatives in the Philippines to help identify communities and individuals where aid can be sent directly. The organization plans to donate some proceeds to relief agencies, such as to the Red Cross or to churches active in the Philippines, to ensure that aid is going where it is needed.

“Right now, the most important need is rebuilding homes so people have shelter and helping business so people can work,” Cabili said.

More than 1.1 million houses have been damaged or destroyed, leaving about 3.8 million people displaced.

Simon Hills, a disaster response officer of the International Labor Organization, said 5.6 million workers have lost their livelihood.

Hills said 51 percent of those who lost their jobs were in the service sector and about a third were farmers whose lands were submerged in tsunami-like storm surges and fishermen whose boats were battered and washed away.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tony LaRussa is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media.

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