Hundreds of Filipino Americans Evacuated to Qualcomm Center

By Rene Villaroman/

SAN DIEGO — Close to a thousand FilAms have taken refuge at the Qualcomm Center football stadium to escape from several fires that had ravaged several communities in San Diego County since Sunday, October 21st.

Volunteer coordinator of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations Joanne Fields informed Asian Journal that most of the FilAm evacuees, except for a handful awaiting orders to go back to their home, have left on Tuesday.

“I’ve met close to a thousand Filipino families here early this week, and they stayed here for three days at least,” Fields said.

Among of the FilAm evacuees were from North San Diego County and from communities heavily affected by the firestorm, like Rancho Bernardo, Ramona, Escondido, and Poway.

On Thursday afternoon, when a team from the Philippine Consulate General’s Office in Los Angeles got there, all of them have already gone back home or have opted to stay with close relatives and friends. Vice Consul Jim Tito San Agustin led the contingent from the Philippine Consulate General’s Office.

“We’re sort of glad that we did not find any Filipinos there,” San Agustin told a small group of civic leaders at the Villa Manila Restaurant in National City. “The family ties of Filipinos are still strong. We all have close family ties, and, I believe that (displaced) FilAm families stayed with their relatives and close friends,” San Agustin theorized.

“Evacuation procedures were very organized at Qualcomm Center,” San Agustin told the civic leaders.

He also said that his team talked with the staff of Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) and were told that no Filipino was reported in distress. FEMA wasn’t able to ascertain whether some Filipino-owned homes were burned down. NAFFAA’s Fields corroborated this information, saying that government agencies’ records did not specify ethnicities and nationalities.

“We are highly organized here in San Diego,” said Rita Buencamino Andrews, Chair of the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) of San Diego.

COPAO is a 35-year-old umbrella organization that presides over 59 organizations in the San Diego area.

“I would like to volunteer COPAO to organize a fundraiser,” she informed San Agustin. “Although there was no loss of life, there will be income and job loss as a result of the disaster,” she added.

The leaders agreed to take immediate action to raise money on November 3rd.

Bing de la Vega, head of Philippine Disaster Relief Organization (PEDRO), said that his organization would be glad to pitch in.

“We’ve aided victims of the Katrina disaster who did not qualify for FEMA aid,” de la Vega said. “Let’s just make sure that the money is given to those people who really need it,” he added.

Realtor Carmelita “CL” Larrabster-Vinson suggested creating a separate fund. “We need to set up a fund so that when something like this happens again, we will have the money.”

The leaders united in deciding which agency to give the money to: The American Red Cross.

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