Locals reach out

When Southern Oregon University professor Rene Ordonez realized how hard Typhoon Haiyan was expected to slam into the Philippines on Friday, a familiar sense of nervous-worry washed over him.

"When I realized that it was a category five, I heard that and thought I should call someone," said Ordonez, a native of the Philippines.

"It's the worst storm to hit the Philippines that I have seen in my lifetime."

Ordonez, who teaches in the School of Business at SOU, said he felt "incredibly fortunate" the super typhoon didn't devastate his hometown of Naga City in the province of Camarines Sur, about 300 miles north of where the storm made landfall.

He has immediate family who live in the Camarines Sur region and dozens of relatives, though he hasn't lived there for nearly 30 years, he said.

"My family is safe ... thankfully our hometown was spared from the path of the typhoon, but that means somewhere else was not," he said.

Haiyan, referred to as Yolanda by Filipinos, careened into the eastern shore of the island Leyte with wind speeds of an estimated 220 mph, carrying an at least 10-foot surge wave along with it.

The strongest storm ever recorded, Haiyan center-punched the Leyte Gulf, leveling the City of Tacloban in the Samar Province and several other island villages and towns in the region. It is estimated to have killed at least 10,000 and left millions without food or shelter.

Monday, Ordonez said he started a small fundraising initiative among faculty members in the School of Business at SOU to support the relief effort in Samar. One U.S. dollar equals about 43 Philippine pesos.

"That's enough for about five meals," said Ordonez, who plans to donate the money to the Philippine Red Cross.

"I would say it is comparable to Katrina in terms of devastation," said Ordonez. "It is very tragic."

Reach freelance writer Sam Wheeler at samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.

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