Monday | August 31, 2015
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Isle’s Filipinos aching for homeland


Tribune-Herald staff writer

For 200,000 self-identified Filipinos in Hawaii, home is currently a place of heartache.

“You can’t see what I see. You can’t even imagine,” Margarita “Day Day” Hopkins said about her birthplace of Leyte, a province in the Philippines that was struck by one of the most powerful storms in human history on Nov. 8.

Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) swept through the country’s central islands more than a week ago, killing thousands and destroying almost everything in its path. She expects months from now, the island and its people will still be suffering from disease, famine and lack of water.

While on the Big Island 100 inches of rainfall a year is the norm, Hopkins said back in her hometown, typhoons were a way of life, experiencing too many to count in her lifetime.

“Whenever I was a kid and the sky would get dark, I would get so depressed because I knew a storm was coming,” she said.

That’s why her response was simple when she first heard from her daughter that a storm was coming to her homeland.

“So?” She remarked.

But it wasn’t just a storm — with wind speeds reaching past 200 miles per hour at its peak and a storm surge that resembled more of a tsunami.

Hopkins said she felt an indescribable pain.

“I can vision it; I can see it,” she said while closing her eyes to picture her home. “It’s the most depressing thing. You want to know, you want to help, but you cannot.”

Hopkins waits with bated breath to hear from her family. In the meantime, she, along with many other Filipinos on the Big Island, has been putting her energy into working with local organizations to assist in relief efforts.

As Hopkins continues to search for her sister and waits to hear from her family, Oliver Parenas, a member of the Hilo Visayan Club, is grieving.

Days after the storm, Parenas was told one of his friends and her family did not survive the devastation.

“She was such a nice person. Every time I would go to Tacloban I would stay there and she’d give me free food and everything, ” he said.

Despondent, he decided there was only one thing left to do — help others. He started to collect donations from his home on Kilauea Avenue.

All week long his spirits have been lifted while he watched strangers drop off blankets, clothes and various goods to be shipped to the Philippines.

Hopkins, Parenas and other Filipinos have found it difficult to cope with the tragedy as they’re thousand of miles from home. But, true to their heritage, they intend to persevere.

“The Filipinos are very resourceful, resilient and hard-working people,” Hopkins said. “We’ve learned to cope with calamities. And they’ll do it themselves, without looking for a handout. We just keep going.”

Email Megan Moseley at


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