The typhoon that struck the Philippines on Nov. 8 was strong, but Bessie Barredo said the people of the Philippines are stronger.
Barredo, 68, was born in Manila and was an actress in the country for many years before settling down in Blaine, where she lives with her daughter and her daughter's family.
Though she left that country in 1995, much of her family still lives in the Philippines, including siblings and cousins. Most have been safe in Manila, though three family members live farther south, in the area that bore the brunt of the storm. She's heard from two and has heard second-hand that the other relative is safe.
Many others aren't so lucky. The typhoon, which brought winds of more than 200 mph, has killed more than 2,300 people, leveled tens of thousands of homes and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
There have been times when the news coverage has been just too much to bear for Barredo, seeing families pulled apart and those who died together.
"You can see the pictures right away and then you have all this technology now that as it happens you can see it," she said. "It's terrible. I wasn't able to talk about it without crying. It was really bad."
Watching the devastation from afar has been difficult. She's seen news coverage of natural disasters in other countries and has always felt for people, but she said it's even harder to watch now that it's her country in distress.
"You feel like you're helpless here. You can't do what you want to do for your country because it's so far away," she said. "Every little thing really helps a lot of people. One little thing really makes you feel good that you were able to do for your county."
Barredo, who was in dozens of movies in the 1960s, is hoping to use her name recognition to raise money for aid. She's participating in a fundraiser for Red Cross Nov. 22 over the border in Surrey, B.C., and she's looking into ways to raise money in Whatcom County.
"I used to have a name and some people still know me," she said. "In a time like this, if I can use it, I will."
Barredo said the resilient spirit of Filipinos should help get them through the disaster, but she also hopes that people throughout the world will come together to help the country recover.
"We are so used to hard times; we do the best with what we have. Something like this is totally devastating. It's really hard," she said. "No matter how hard it is, they get up and smile and try to do the best with what they have. That's a Filipino."
HOW TO HELP
-- Restaurant fundraiser: HomeSkillet, a restaurant at 521 Kentucky St. in Bellingham, is planning to host a silent auction with the proceeds going to the relief effort. The restaurant also will be serving a variety of Philippine-style food. The event runs from 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17.
-- American Red Cross Disaster Relief: Go to redcross.org/donate, call 1-800-RED CROSS or mail a check to P.O. Box 4002018, Des Moines, IA 50340-2018. Designate the money to help those in the Philippines by noting it's for the "Typhoon appeal."
-- Doctors Without Borders: Go to doctorswithoutborders.org or call 212-763-5779.
Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or email@example.com.