WOODSIDE — Dozens of people gathered in Queens' "Little Manila" Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, and to make an urgent appeal for members of the local community to assist in fundraising efforts for the devastated Philippines.
The event was organized by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), a nationwide coalition of grassroots groups, which has helped form a special Taskforce Haiyan to raise money and coordinate relief efforts for the disaster.
"This typhoon is being described by the media as the worst ever in history," taskforce member Gary Labao said at a community meeting at the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center in Woodside.
"It's really necessary for the people to get together and really assist and help our people."
NAFCON is collecting donations on its website, and members say money is more effective than donated goods, which can take long periods of time to reach the Philippines and can get held up in customs.
The Filipino community in Woodside — known as the city's "Little Manila" — has been organizing relief efforts since Haiyan struck last week.
Many in the neighborhood still have family in the Philippines, and have been desperately searching for information on their whereabouts.
"The great difficulty right now is nobody is getting any real information," said Msgr. Michael J. Hardiman, the pastor at St. Sebastian Church on Roosevelt Avenue.
"People have tried to get in touch with their relatives, family and friends — the communications are just so poor at this point."
The church had already been planning fundraisers this month to support victims of last month's earthquake in the Bohol, an island in the Philippines, Hardiman said. Now the events will raise money for both disasters.
St. Sebastian's will be collecting monetary donations during this weekend's masses, Hardiman said, and will be hosting a line dance fundraiser on Nov. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of St. Sebastian School.
At Wednesday night's vigil, state Sen. Mike Gianaris said those who are still trying to reach relatives can contact the Red Cross at 1-877-REDCROSS, which is working with relief workers in the Philippines to find information on those who are missing.
Rusty Fabunan, a director with the Philippine Forum, which operates the Bayanihan Community Center at 40-21 69th St., said they are also working with sister organizations in the Philippines that are currently on the ground in some of the hardest hit regions.
He said the center has been trying to help many in the Woodside area who are still trying to locate family members.
"A lot of our community members are stopping by, leaving names, leaving phone numbers so we can search for their relatives," he said, adding that the effort has been difficult in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
"We've got zero hits so far," he said.