Sitting in his Fresno residence, Isabelo "Lou" Artacho talked via Skype to his mother and sister while a massive storm was raging outside their home in the Philippines.
Like many Filipino Americans in Fresno, the news he received from family in the country about Typhoon Haiyan -- what officials say may claim 10,000 or more lives -- has been frightening.
"It is quite scary as a doctor for me to think about the conditions right now, for the children and the elderly especially," said the Fresno neurologist, also the president of the Filipino American Association of Fresno & Vicinity. (Note: Artacho's specialty was incorrectly reported as cardiologist in the original version of this story.)
His mother and sister live south of where Haiyan hit, and were unhurt by the massive storm -- unlike thousands who perished or saw their homes and possessions washed away.
To help those affected in the Philippines, Artacho's been leading a fundraising campaign -- even using his doctor's office as a drop-off location for supplies, medicine and food.
Fely Guzman, a board member for the association, shared a shocking quote from a doctor in the Philippines on Tuesday to illustrate the destruction:
"There's an epidemic breaking out soon in critical places, with those corpses just lying on roadsides. After four to five days, it's only today that the mass grave for 240-plus corpses will be attended to."
The nation's plight was the subject of a service held Tuesday night at St. Anthony de Padua Catholic Church in Fresno.
More than 180 people -- from all generations -- attended the impromptu service led by the Rev. Joel Davadila, spiritual director of the Filipino Catholic League.
Many familiar faces within the Filipino community gathered in front of the church before the Mass, all sharing how this tragedy has affected their own lives.
Marc de Castro, 62, said he was relieved when he heard that his father, who lives in Mindanao, was safe. But he knows that many people did not share the same luck his father had, and came to the Mass to show his support.
"When something like this happens the Filipino community gathers together and supports with whatever we can, especially in prayers," Castro said.
Lulu Ruperto, 56, and her mother, Aida Angeles, 89, said they went to the service to be united in prayers with Filipinos around the world.
"We need this," Ruperto said. "We are far away from the Philippines, so to hear that kind of news is heartbreaking."
During the hour-long servuce, people sang traditional hymns in honor of the victims. Davadila encouraged the community to always remember the "bayanihan spirit" of the Filipinos.
"It's the common effort, the spirit of endeavor that no matter how hard life is, through the bayanihan spirit, everybody unites and it shows no one is alone."
The Valley response to help the typhoon victims has been strong.
Other Fresno Filipino groups leading fundraisers include the Filipino Catholic League and the Philippine Nurses Association of Central California.
Additionally, about 1,000 people from Lemoore Naval Air Station were aboard the USS George Washington on Tuesday, headed to the country to assist victims of the typhoon.
On a smaller scale, a Fresno restaurant, Jowli's Filipino Cuisine, is donating all its proceeds from purchased $5 meals this coming Sunday to help with relief efforts.
All 89 Roman Catholic churches through the Diocese of Fresno will also be taking special collections through the end of the month to help those affected by the storm.
"It's just unimaginable what's happened," said Titus Verzosa, a board member for the Filipino Catholic League, which organized the Tuesday night service .
Verzosa's family in the Philippines relayed some of the horrors.
"They have no food, they have no drinking water, they don't have any shelter," he said of thousands in the country, adding "there is no hope" in many regions.
Lilian Delmando, co-owner of Jowli's Filipino Cuisine, has family in the Philippines and has heard many sad stories from Filipinos who've gathered at her restaurant.
"It's very disheartening and saddening to hear the news, especially when you see all of the bodies just laying along the seashore or along the street," Delmando said. "It's unimaginable."
Lourdes Nisperos, vice president of the Western region chapter of the Philippine Nurses Association of America, who also oversees the Central Valley chapter, gave another account of the destruction.
"The bodies are all spread out there and there's too many things going on (to get an accurate count of the dead)," Nisperos said. "That is really horrible."
Some, like Chris Stevens, president of the Filipino-American Association of Kings County, gave a haunting description of those searching for loved ones.
She said her sister's cousin survived, but "his whole family is still missing."
How to help
The American Red Cross is advising Northern Californians trying to get in touch with friends or relatives in the path of Typhoon Haiyan, which swept across the central Philippines on Friday, to continue those efforts, although many phone lines are down throughout the devastated area.
The American Red Cross said it has activated its family tracing services. For more information on the Red Cross efforts, see www.redcross.org/ or call (800) 733-2767.
The U.S. and other governments and agencies are mounting a major relief effort to help typhoon victims.
A number of Valley organizations are providing help to victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Here is how to make donations:
Filipino American Association of Fresno & Vicinity: Donations payable to the association's typhoon relief fund. Supplies, food and medicine also can be dropped off at the office of neurologist Dr. Isabelo Artacho, 6323 N. Fresno St., suite 104, Fresno, during normal business hours. For donation pick-ups, call Artacho at (559) 227-7141 or (559) 287-4064, or Fely Guzman at (559) 417-6767.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fresno: Canned food drive and fundraiser in Fresno's River Park shopping center, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, in the parking lot near Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill (near intersection of Blackstone and El Paso avenues).
Filipino Catholic League: Checks can be made out to the league and mailed to St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, 5770 N. Maroa Ave., Fresno CA 93714.
Philippines Nurses Association of Central California: mypnaa.org. Make checks payable to PNAA and mail to Jeanette Livelo, 20 Woodcliff Rd., Holbrook, MA 02343.
Local shoppers can donate at checkouts to the American Red Cross at Save Mart, Lucky, FoodMaxx, Maxx Value and S-Mart.
Couples for Christ, Fresno: donatedisasterrelief-ausa.org/ or mail donation checks to ANCOP (Answering the Cry of the Poor) Foundation USA Inc., 0-37 Hamlin Court, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.
Filipino-American Association of Kings County: Raising money locally to donate to the Diocese of Fresno.
University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Central California, Area III Fresno & Vicinity: upaacc.org.
Jowlis Filipino Cuisine: All proceeds from meals (minimum $5 donation) on Sunday, Nov. 17 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. will be donated for typhoon relief.
Philippines Typhoon Relief Concert: 8 p.m. Nov. 29 at Cuvee Spirit & Wine Parlor in Fresnos Tower District, 1140 N. Van Ness Ave. #103. Donations taken at the door for American Red Cross, and Fil-Am Association of Fresno will collect supplies, food, medicine, clothing and toys.
Other charities working to provide relief in the Philippines include:
United Nations World Food Program: It asks for donations at www.wfpusa.org or by texting the word AID to 27722 to instantly donate $10.
UNICEF: Donations can be made to UNICEF at unicef.org/support.
Red Cross: Those looking to support relief efforts can mail a check to their local American Red Cross chapters, with "Philippines Typhoons and Flood" in the memo line. Go to redcross.org for local chapter information or redcross.org.ph to donate directly to the Philippine Red Cross.
Catholic Relief Services: The agency is accepting donations on its website, emergencies.crs.org.
World Vision: It asks for one-time donations to be made at worldvision.org.
— Bee news services
Bee Staff Writer Lewis Griswold contributed to this story. The reporters can be reached at (559) 441-6386 or (559) 441-6659.