Clarendon couple looks anxiously home to Philippines
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | November 18,2013
Rob Mitchell / Staff Photo
Luisito and Rita deRoxas, who work at the Best Western in Mendon, talk about the damage to Rita’s home town in the Philippines, which was affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Growing up in the Philippines, Luisito and Rita deRoxas remember tremendous storms that brought rain and wind to the islands where they were raised.
But they were nothing like Haiyan.
That’s the name that the Philippine government gave to the super typhoon that was called Yolanda elsewhere, including in the United States.
A week after the typhoon made landfall in the South Pacific island chain, the deRoxas said they can’t believe the devastation they’ve seen in photographs taken by family members, many of whom have lost their homes.
“This is the worst one ever,” said Luisito deRoxas. “Usually (typhoons) flood farmers, but when houses are wiped out and the leaves are blown off all the trees, no one has seen anything like that before.”
The couple have lived and worked in Rutland County for more than 20 years.
Luisito’s hometown in the Batangas was only hit by the fringe of the storm and the damage there wasn’t bad.
But the region where his wife grew up near Roxas City, a coastal city on the island of Panay, was closer to the eye of the storm and was hit by winds that exceeded 200 mph.
Many of her family members, including three brothers, a sister and numerous nieces and nephews, live on the island and have seen their homes devastated by the storm.
For years, the couple, who live in Clarendon and work at the Best Western in Rutland Town, have sent money home to the Philippines, where the value of the American dollar far surpasses the local currency, the Philippine peso.
In the wake of the storm, they’ve been sending even more — $1,200 last week — and the company they work for is trying to send more.
Coleen Lio, the hotel’s general manager, said she’s seeking the support of other hotel property managers and the public to help six of the deRoxas’ family members rebuild.
Lio’s parent company, Linchris Hotel Corp., in Hanover, Mass., has already donated $500, she told the Filipino couple Friday, and she said she hopes other company employees will step forward as well.
“They work hard and they send everything they can back home to their families,” Lio said. “They’re the kind of people who are really what this company is all about.”
The deRoxas said it’s going to take a long time to restore all that the people of the Philippines have lost.
Among Rita’s family alone, three houses were toppled, two others had their kitchens destroyed and another lost its roof.
“At my sister’s house it’s all gone. Only the concrete survived. The rest is gone,” she said.
None of Rita’s family was killed during the super typhoon but most of their belongings were destroyed and food, medicine and other supplies have been in short supply.
A week after the storm, the couple said planes carrying relief supplies had been seen in the air but recovery efforts had yet to materialize on the ground.
Both blame corruption within the Philippine government for the slow response to the catastrophe. Both said they were hopeful relief efforts would pick up with the intervention of foreign governments, including the United States.
“It’s so bad there when you see how in America the government helps out right away,” Luisito said, recalling the quick emergency response to Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont. “Over there you are on your own and if nobody helps you, you’re going to die.”
Those interested in making donations to help the deRoxas can send checks payable to Rita deRoxas to the Best Western, 5 Best Western Place, Rutland, VT 05701.