LORAIN — As Maria Escuro stood carefully working on her clients’ hair at her Spa Cecilia salon in Lorain, her brother was among thousands whose world was turned upside-down by Typhoon Haiyan.
The 190-mph winds laid waste to much of the Philippines, particularly in the city of Tacloban. Her brother couldn’t find his wife afterward, and he feared the worst.
“He was walking the streets and could not even bear to look at the bodies lying there because he was afraid he might find her,” Escuro said of her brother, Yul Osin. “Can you imagine? What if he had recognized her dress?”
His wife, Rachelle, who had gone to the city to visit her parents, was found by Osin alive and well at her parents’ home.
While her brother’s story ended on a positive note, those of thousands of Filipinos did not.
The Nov. 8 storm left hundreds dead in Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 and capital of the island home of Leyte Province.
The city is not far from Red Beach, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore in 1944 to keep his “I shall return” promise to return to the Philippines to battle and defeat the Japanese during World War II.
An archipelago nation of 7,000-plus islands, the Philippines have lost more than 5,200 people since the typhoon struck.
More than 23,000 were injured, another 1,600-plus were left missing, 4.3 million displaced, and 500,000 homes destroyed by one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall.
The tragedy — and its personal impact on Escuro — galvanized her to go to friends to begin a collection of canned food, new and gently worn clothing and books to benefit the storm-ravaged Filipinos.
Books, especially those for youngsters, are desperately needed because the typhoon did so much damage to local schools.
“I went to organizations that I knew were collecting for this disaster, but the nearest was about an hour away in Cuyahoga County,” Escuro said.
So she decided to get the word out via Facebook and other means that she was accepting donations at her Cooper Foster Park Road salon.
“The response has been enormous,” Escuro said. “I’m amazed at how Americans always respond really well to disasters like this. They are very generous.”
Escuro and a group of volunteers spent part of their Saturday afternoon packing up boxes of adult and children’s clothing as well as canned food to be shipped to the Philippines.
She plans to keep the collection drive going through the end of the year.
Escuro also has collected cash donations, which will be sent to the ABS-CBN Foundation International.
“I’ve worked with them before and know they are trustworthy,” Escuro said.
Escuro’s brother, who is in his 40s, lives on an island that is normally a 90-minute ferry ride from Tacloban.
But in the wake of the massive damage wrought by Haiyan — or Yolanda, as it is called in the Philippines — it took Osin 14 hours to reach the ravaged city.
Once Osin arrived in storm-battered Tacloban, he couldn’t find the way to the home of his wife’s parents.
“He got disoriented when he saw all the destruction,” Escuro said. “The house he thought was his in-laws was just a concrete foundation.”
While searching, Osin managed to get a call through to Escuro, but he was overcome and unable to speak.
“He was sobbing … believing his wife had died,” Escuro said.
After regaining his composure, Osin was directed to his wife’s parents’ home, where he found them.
Another family Escuro knew told her brother of their ordeal when the typhoon struck the city.
“The father was staying home to cook meals because his daughter was giving birth at a hospital,” Escuro said. “He noticed the water rushing in and he couldn’t even get upstairs because the water became waist-deep.”
The man eventually climbed through a window and clung to a tree for life.
“He saw people swept away in the current, and saw the fear in their faces, which was the hardest because he couldn’t do anything to help,” Escuro said.
The area around Tacloban is among the poorest regions of the Philippines, according to Escuro, which makes the aid coming from some two dozen countries including the United States doubly important.
“Things like this keep your faith in humanity,” Escuro said.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Drop off items, especially cash, canned food, new and gently worn clothing and books, at Spa Cecilia. 1980 Cooper Foster Park Road, Lorain. Collections will continue through the end of the year.