TACLOBAN, Philippines — A massive winter storm is wreaking havoc across the United States, threatening to ruin Thanksgiving travel plans for millions of Americans, but citizens of the typhoon-ravaged Philippines have promised them they won’t have to face the storm alone.
Less than a month after typhoon Haiyan flattened Philippine communities and displaced more than 3 million people, survivors of the catastrophe are banding together to provide aid to U.S. travelers stranded by the winter storm.
“We feel it is our duty as human beings to help those who struggle,” said Dionisio Aris, a fisherman who hopes to finish clearing the rubble from his community by 2016. “My home was destroyed and I lost three children, so I know what it’s like to miss your family.”
Aris is one of thousands of Filipinos who pledged to send goods such as iPhone chargers, 5-Hour-Energy, Fiji water, and pirated DVD’s to individuals and families affected by the winter storm.
“I’m just sorry I don’t have any of the new nine-pin iPhone 5 chargers to send. It would be a shame to go through all of this effort for nothing,” said Aris.
The deadly storm, which has already menaced the western half of the country, is headed towards the mid-Atlantic and northeast, prompting the National Weather Service on Tuesday to issue sweeping travel warnings for those hoping to visit loved ones.
Jill Loveall is one of many college students who may be forced to stay on campus in lieu of the ritual holiday trip home, but she said she looks forward to a care package from “truly selfless Koreans, or whatever country the Philippines is in.”
“Seriously, I was so bummed about not being able to go home, but just knowing that help is on the way makes me feel blessed.”
Witnesses on the ground at airports in Atlanta, Charlotte, and New York say victims of the winter storm have been stranded for days, with only dozens of options for meals and entertainment at overpriced airport vendors.
Pittsburgh resident Russell Jones said he and his wife and two children have been stuck at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for almost 18 hours. Jones said if aid money arrives in time, he’d be able to buy an electric eye pillow for his wife, who he describes as a light sleeper.
“We’ve been living out of our suitcases next to a Starbucks for almost a day now,” Jones explained “It’s been rough on all of us.”
Jones said his family is “enormously grateful” for the Philippines’ generosity.
“If we’re lucky enough to survive until after Black Friday, we’ll have to return the favor. Whatever money we have left after holiday shopping, we’re going to send to the Philippines. I heard ten cents can buy you anything over there.”