Candlelight vigil set at WSU for devastated Philippines

By Linda Weiford, WSU News

Speak-for-Relief-Flyer-200PULLMAN, Wash. – When the weather turns foul, students in the U.S. get snow days; in the Philippines, Jeff Godoy got typhoon days.

Having grown up in the 7,000-island chain in warm seas near the equator, “I was used to bad storms,” said Godoy, a student at Washington State University.

But not storms like Typhoon Haiyan, which a little more than a week ago ripped through the region where he was raised and his parents still live.

Godoy, who’s earning his Ph.D. in crop sciences, is one of the scheduled speakers for “Speak for Relief,” an open mic and candlelight vigil planned tomorrow night at 5 p.m. on the steps of WSU’s Todd Hall. The event is being organized to raise awareness and collect donations for Filipinos impacted by what’s estimated to be the strongest storm ever to hit land.

WSU student Jeff Godoy, right, poses with his dad and brother in the Philippines in January at the monument built to honor Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who helped reclaim the region from the Japanese in 1944. (Photo courtesy of Godoy family)

Its mighty force was most concentrated on Leyte province, where Godoy is from. His mother and father work at Visayas State University and live in the same second-floor apartment on campus where he grew up, he said. In a phone conversation before the storm hit, the couple told him they decided not to evacuate and had stored up water, medications and food instead.

Afterward, silence.

Ten months later, the MacArthur monument shows the battle scars left by Typhoon Haiyan. (NBC Photo Blog, Aaron Favila/AP)

“For three days I couldn’t reach them or anyone else there,” he recalled. “I kept seeing pictures in the news of whole communities flattened and I recognized where buildings and landmarks used to be. It was quite stressful.”

Then, one morning before classes, Godoy called his dad’s cell phone once again. This time, a tired-sounding voice picked up.

“Dad, is it you?” Godoy remembers asking. Yes, the weary voice responded, assuring his son that family members had survived.

Battered from all directions

His dad’s account of the storm’s chaos goes like this: At first, wind and rain surged into the apartment through blown-out windows. Then, a chunk of roof blew off and he and his wife got pounded from above as well. Wind-hurled coconuts soared by and a tree collapsed on the building.

All the while, “my parents rushed back and forth from one end of the apartment to another, trying to save important belongings and themselves,” said Godoy.

Amazingly, no one was injured. Their apartment, though waterlogged and partially damaged, is repairable. Even their terrified pet beagle survived.

Godoy’s cousin, who lives in the city of Tacloban – considered ground zero of the devastation – braced for the worst by tying herself to an empty plastic water container to stay afloat in rushing floodwaters. She lived as well.

The image of his cousin rigging floats to herself is tinged with irony, Godoy said with a chuckle: “Most kids in the Philippines learn how to swim before they learn how to ride a bike.”

‘Speak for relief’ vigil and more

Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, hurled enough wind and water to kill more than 4,000 people and leave 3 million homeless, according to latest figures from the United Nations. More than 12,000 still languish with injuries.

Wednesday’s vigil is being organized by the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Coordinating Committee, an assortment of students and staff members across the campus, said Stephen Bischoff, associate director for multicultural student services.

“After that event, our goal is to keep generating relief efforts – monetarily and otherwise,” he said.

Members of the Chi Sigma Alpha sorority are taking donations at the CUB this week and Chi Delta Sigma sorority and Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity members will host a table at Dissmore’s IGA store during some weekend hours, said Bischoff.

Godoy calls his parents for updates each day, he said. Their can-do attitude gives him a hope that extends beyond the walls of the family home.

“Filipinos – we are happy people,” he said. “With enough assistance from others, we’ll rebuild our lives and our country.”

To see the vigil flyer, go to



Jeff Godoy, WSU student,

Stephen Bischoff, WSU multicultural student services, 509-335-7704,

Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209,