After Typhoon Haiyan, Alaska's Filipinos struggle to make contact with family

Michelle Theriault Boots

On Sunday at the Filipino Bible Church in Jewel Lake, Pastor Val Natcher asked his congregation how many among them had relatives or knew someone else in the Philippines affected by the storm.

"I think a quarter of the congregation raised their hands," he said. "We can only pray."

As news of Typhoon Haiyan's destruction unfurled in Anchorage's large Filipino community this weekend, many said they were just getting in touch with family members in the Philippines.

Many Alaskans have relatives there: Alaska's Filipino population totals 19,394, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

That makes Filipinos by far the largest Asian group in the state and about 2.7 percent of the overall population.

In some hard-hit regions, information about the storm has come from news reports and rumors.

"The communications are still down," said Vince Fronteras, an Anchorage contractor. Fronteras comes from the island of Bohol in the central region of the Philippines where the typhoon caused major devastation. He estimates that about 100 Anchorage families have roots and relatives in the area.

Less than a month ago, Bohol was the epicenter of an earthquake that killed more than 200 people.

Locals were just beginning to get back on their feet when Typhoon Haiyan hit, Fronteras said.

"People are in great desperation," he said.

Fronteras said he'd already been fundraising to help the earthquake victims and expected several Filipino groups in Anchorage to gather money to send people displaced by the typhoon.

"They are still trying to keep up with the calamities," he said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.