t has been a month since the super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippine islands of Leyte and Samar.
People there are slowly trying to get their lives back to normal, but millions are homeless. It may take years for some to even rebuild their homes and a lot of help from people here in the United States.
The Corpin family, consisting of Melvin, his wife Carla and four sons, Carlvian, Meldian, Mel and Mack now call Las Vegas their home after five years and want to help their devastated homeland.
Melvin is the music director at Our Lady of the Valley Church at 781 E. Gamebird in Pahrump and will have a benefit there to raise money for the survivors of the typhoon on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. The concert is $5 per person or if you have a large family it’s only $15. To do this, he will call upon his family to bring their talents together in concert.
Before coming to the United States, the family lived on Leyte in a place called Tacloban City, which was one of the hardest hit cities in the Philippines.
The family operated a music studio in the Philippines, where music lessons were taught. Everyone in the family is musically talented. The two eldest at 22 years are twins, Carlvian and Meldian; they play the violin and cello. The two youngest ones at 18 and 14, Mel and Mack, play the clarinet and flute.
The patriarch, Melvin, sings and plays the piano. Carla sings, too.
Melvin and Carla both come from musical families. In Melvin’s family all his four siblings play an instrument. Melvin went to school for music and so did his wife, who has a minor in music. The two met after college while both were playing in separate bands.
His family is their own band and is often compared to Austrian singers, the Von Trapp family, of “Sound of Music” fame. They all sing for Melvin in Pahrump every Sunday at the church where he works.
The Corpin family still has many relatives living in the Philippines and hope their efforts here help people back home.
“I am holding this benefit for the survivors of the typhoon. I wanted to make a contribution in my own way. A lot of people know me there from my music. I also wanted to do something for my church. I wanted to create some Christmas spirit for the church by putting on a show for the people there,” Melvin said.
The pastor of Our Lady of the Valley, Father Henry Salditos, said 50 percent of the money raised will go to the church and the other half will go to the churches in need in the Philippines. This hits home for the reverend because he too has family in the Philippines. He said despite corruption in the Philippine government, he can get the money to the people through church connections.
“The diocese has a separate distribution from the government. If you want to help the people there, it will be better to give it directly to the diocese in the Philippines because of the corruption in the government. We are not sure that the money will go directly to those who are in need through government agencies,” Salditos said.
According to Salditos, the people hit by the typhoon are still in need of aid.
“My plan is to send the money directly to the diocese in the Philippines,” Salditos said. “In this diocese in Samar, 100 percent of the homes were lost. The bishop there was asking for food, water and medicine. I am just thankful my family was not harmed.”
Melvin’s two-story home in Tacloban City played a pivotal role in saving lives during the super storm that hit his ancestral home.
His home sits just two miles from the coast. When his family left home for the United States, he left the home to his mother-in-law. The home is unusual for that area because it is entirely made of concrete and it is a two-story dwelling. This home took several years to be built. He started building it in 1997.
“It was long term construction. The inspiration came from my mom. She told me to start. She said if you don’t start anything you will have nothing. We started it in parts. I completed the second story in the year 2000. We had many strong storms each year. It is very strong. My dad passed away in 2010. I originally was going with just one story but I had a concrete slab as a roof and I decided to build up. I thought it was a waste of money not to build a second floor,” he explained.
Melvin said his house never had any problems surviving the frequent storms.
“Every typhoon the first floor would flood. The weaker typhoons the floor would just get wet,” he explained.
So Melvin knew the house was sturdy. What he did not know was that it would eventually save eight families from his old neighborhood.
On the day of the storm, Nov. 8, Melvin said many of the people ignored the government warnings to evacuate their homes.
“This area gets at least two typhoons a year. Most of the people felt they could weather the storm from their homes,” he said.
Carla’s 77-year-old mother was one of those people who felt the storm was not going to be very strong.
“The people around there thought it was just an ordinary typhoon,” Carla said. “This place usually gets typhoons before December. They are just not as strong. People stayed inside their homes with food but they never thought it would be as destructive like Katrina was to the United States.”
Carla said her mother survived because she had people there to help her. She said the storm surge almost took her mother’s life and if she had been there alone she might not be alive today.
“The storm surge raised the water level up to 14 feet high,” Carla explained. “My mother, her helpers and neighbors sought refuge in the second story of our old home. The water filled the entire first floor. The people were all safe because the house was built out of concrete, so that helped them. My mother was trying to get valuables on the first floor and she had to be saved and taken upstairs. It was so dark she did not notice the water had already filled the stair- case. I was lucky that someone pulled her to safety.”
Even though the town now has electricity and many businesses have come back and are back in business, many of the people are still without any place to stay.
“According to a friend of mine it is still hard to start their lives over again. My mom said practically everything was a disaster. To my mother, everything seemed like it was washed away. Right after the storm she relied on the food that she stored away. She stayed five days in the house before they were able to leave the second story. The water made it impossible for them to leave. The second story they were staying in was big, but not big enough for eight families to stay there,” Carla said.
Immediately after the storm some of Melvin’s relatives started to communicate with them to see if they were OK. The people are still devastated and really do not know what to do or where to go.
“My mother is a survivor and she always kept a jug of fresh water and during the storm she let others drink it. They had to look for food because during that time right after the storm there was no relief food. According to Facebook, people don’t have anything to cover up their faces and now they are getting sunburn. There is some distribution of water. My mom left the area and is no longer in Tacloban City. I cried when my mother explained how she had to eat stale rice with some salt just to survive,” Carla concluded.
According to a United Nations report four million people are still displaced after one month. It could take years to rebuild.