By Lauren Wanko
Ocean City shares a special connection with the Philippines — a sister-city called San Jose Occidental Mindoro. And when Super Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the country, residents in this Cape May County town watched helplessly.
“We have everything in America — iPods, electronics. When children there lost mom and dad, they don’t have a floor, a bed to sleep in. They woke up in shelters with their own families that’s dead there next to them,” said Ocean City resident Mary Ann Deleon-Sese.
But now they’ve rallied to rescue friends and relatives, even though the devastated Philippines is more than 8,000 miles away.
“I want to share what we have and I think this will teach our children they have everything, they are lucky,” Sese.
Sese was born in the Philippines. She’s helping to lead the relief efforts. She’s working with schools to raise funds and collecting a long list of items — including clothing, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toys, school supplies and more — all to be shipped to storm victims desperately in need. Ocean City first became a sister-city to the Philippines five years ago after Mary Ann’s husband reached out to local officials in both countries.
“We feel now really that Ocean City is like a sister and a brother to all of us there in the Philippines, not only sister city to San Jose Occidental Mindoro, but the sister city to the whole of the Philippines,” said Deputy Consul General Zaldy Patron.
Typhoon Haiyan affected about 10 million people, resulting in 5,235 fatalities as of today and 25,559 injuries; 1,613 people remain missing.
“It is the strongest typhoon ever recorded in history as they say. Its impact was truly devastating, it breaks our heart to see that images of destruction everywhere, villages completely wiped out, dead bodies on the street and evacuation centers, people in search of their loved ones. Many children have become parentless, many parents have become childless,” Patron said.
Ocean City officials ask that all donations be sent to OCNJ CARE — an Ocean City community organization born after Superstorm Sandy.
“Following this huge storm in the Philippines, naturally from a humanitarian perspective we feel for those folks. It was a devastating storm, there in a real bad way so we’d like to help,” said OCNJ CARE Co-chair Drew Fasy.
Ocean City officials are in the process of planning a fundraising walk and a new pageant set for this coming March. proceeds from those events will also go toward relief efforts.