A powerful typhoon that tore through the Philippines on Friday left thousands of Bay Area residents unable to get in touch with relatives and friends who are usually just a quick phone or video call away.

Already fundraising to help victims of a deadly October earthquake and earlier disasters, some Filipino-Americans felt overwhelmed by the latest calamity -- a typhoon reported to be the most intense ever recorded.

"It's very tragic for the Philippines," said Jose Esteves, mayor of Milpitas and a native of Makati, a city just outside Manila.

"All these natural disasters seem to erode progress" in a country where the economy and government had been improving, he said.

The super-typhoon will surely cost the country jobs, and bring more poverty and hunger, he said. "You are going up, and then here you are going down again."

About 400,000 Bay Area residents identify as Filipino, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, and many keep in touch with close family members who live across the Pacific nation's many islands.

Esteves estimated that about 30 percent of the local Filipino community is from the Visayan Islands, in the central part of the Philippines hit hardest by the typhoon. But, he said, in rushing to aid their native country, regions don't matter: "We think we are still one. Everybody's helping, to do the best that we can."


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After his family home was mostly destroyed in the 7.2 earthquake that killed more than 200 people on Oct. 15, it took the Rev. Eddie Castañas more than two weeks to reach his parents. His parents were safe, but now he is worried about them again. Still, even the most intense typhoon was less worrisome to Castañas than an earthquake.

"We are used to typhoons, but earthquakes, we're not," said the vicar of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Pinole. "We live with typhoons every year. But the earthquake was devastating."

Victims of the storm were remembered at mass on Friday morning at St. Anne's Catholic Church in Union City, one of many Bay Area churches with large Filipino-American congregations.

"Our parishioners are very concerned. So many of them are from that area," said the Rev. Geoffrey Baraan, the church's pastor.

"We're praying for the people there; they have been hit so hard," Baraan said. "There was discussion this morning, why the Philippines? We had the earthquake, and now this storm."

It will be a few days before any formal relief is organized, Baraan said. He plans to contact his brother, who is a government official in the Philippines, to learn more details.

Churches are among many local groups planning to begin collecting money for the storm's victims, said Thelma Valera, who coordinates the Filipino-American Ministry at All Saints Catholic Church in Hayward.

"Everybody's concerned, everybody wants to help, but we don't have an organized system yet," she said. Valera has a high school friend who lives in Cebu, one of the hard-hit provinces.

"They're in the middle of the whole storm. I have not heard from them. Of course, power is out, so we have no way of contacting anybody," she said.

Daly City resident Ray Leano was concerned about a family friend who had traveled into the thick of the storm as a TV journalist for a Philippine network, ABS-CBN News. Footage of rain-battered Atom Araullo reporting live from a street in Tacloban city went viral on Filipino websites Friday, with many praising his fearlessness.

Taking the news more calmly Friday at the Hercules Senior Center were several elder Filipino immigrants who moved from the country long ago.

George Funk, 95, said he remembered many a typhoon in his youth, an era before the country's rapid urbanization when many families sheltered their homes with bamboo rafters woven with nipa palm leaves. He moved to the United States in 1945 but still has family near the capital.

"I experienced typhoons. We were kids then. We enjoyed it. You could go out there and take your shower," Funk said.

But he also said, "I know how dangerous it was," recalling "roofs ripped up and flying around."

Staff writers Rebecca Parr, Paul Burgarino and Aaron Kinney contributed to this report.