• Local man returns to Philippines after typhoon; Melbourne couple relieved family OK


    SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Typhoon Haiyan affected thousands of people not only in the Philippines and surrounding countries, but also in central Florida.

    Lake Mary resident Ariel Villanueva told Channel 9's Racquel Asa that he last heard from his family as the floodwaters from Typhoon Haiyan were still rising. He has not heard from them since the communication with the country was cut off.

    "I'm hoping until now that they are OK. It's really hard. I cannot sleep for how many nights because I'm thinking of them," Villanueva said.

    Now, Villanueva is heading to the Philippines to check on his family and help utilize his skills as handyman to help those in need.

    "That's why I want to go there. I want to know what is happening to my place," Villanueva said.

    Villanueva's family lives in a city a couple of hours away from Tacloban, but it was still destroyed by the typhoon. He said his family watched from the rooftop of its home while others died down below.

    "They were watching people screaming everywhere, but I don't know if they survived. I hope so," Villanueva said.

    Villanueva received $150 in donations from his friends to bring to the Philippines. He said the money can go a long way in a country where $1 can buy one packet of noodles.

    "I will help my fellow countrymen as well, not only my family, because they need help also," Villanueva said.

    Asa also spoke with a Brevard County family who had to wait an excruciating 48 hours before finding out whether their loved ones were alive.

    The Turingan's told Asa the only thing that eased their worries was social media.

    "My aunts are OK. My sister is OK," said Joy Turingan. "That's all I needed."

    When Turingan saw the post on her Facebook page late Sunday night, all the anxiety she felt since Friday was lifted.

    Before the post, she could only imagine her sister and aunts walking alongside the victims or lying underneath the mounds of debris along the shoreline.

    But for the Filipino natives Joy and her husband, Ralph Turingan, their emotions are mixed as they watch the international workers help the people of their community.

    The images of destruction are even harder to watch for Ralph who just visited Tacloban in April.

    "It was still very fresh in my mind what it looked like and then seeing the devastation on the TV, you have to cry," he said.

    The couple married in Tacloban 26 years ago.

    Photos from their wedding album show the beautiful church the two were married in, but photos taken after the typhoon show the same church with its roof badly damaged.

    The Turingans said they already have plans to go back to Tacloban before the end of the year to help once military aide wraps up.

    For now, Joy won't stop helping from home, trying to connect others with those who are still looking for their missing family members.

    "That's all I can do now because I feel like they have helped me already, so now I have to help them look for their loved ones," she said.

    The Turingan's and several other Filipino groups in central Florida are in the process of planning a fundraiser for the country. They plan to hold a marathon and cycling event next month in Melbourne.

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