“I was really devastated and really sad when I saw the pictures on TV. ’Cause I was born in the Philippines and was baptized there, also during a typhoon. When we came out of the church and started driving home, the water was halfway up our car. So it was scary. It’s a really poor country, so this is not something I want to see happen again. “My family goes back there every summer for two weeks to help out, and my mom is going back this Friday. We have a lot of relatives there, and my dad’s aunt from my grandma’s side, we haven’t heard from her sisters. So we’re really praying that nothing happened to them. And I think what we’re doing today, it’s great, ’cause it really helps.” Yzabela Fontila and the other 302 students at Cathedral Chapel School in Los Angeles had just launched “Prayers for the Philippines,” a fundraising drive for parochial elementary schools across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The hour-long service in the school’s auditorium featured hymns, dancers in native Filipino dress along with the display on stage of handmade student posters. One poster read: “Lord, we know how much you love children. We pray, in a special way, for those little ones who have lost their parents or guardians to Typhoon Haiyan.” Prayers of petition were offered for the devastated island nation, where nearly 4,000 are confirmed dead, 18,175 injured and 1,598 persons still missing, caused by one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded. The closing hymn, sung by Cathedral Chapel’s Children Choir wearing yellow polo shirts, was “Touch and Heal the World,” written years ago by church choir members Gines Uy and Manual Agner. During the drive, students at more than 200 Catholic schools will be asked to donate at least $1 each plus pray at their school one day a week through Nov. 22 for victims of Haiyan. The Missionary Childhood Association’s “Children helping Children” program is organizing the prayer/fundraiser. An anonymous donor, who has contributed to the archdiocese’s emergency drives in the past, has pledged to match each dollar raised by Catholic school students up to $100,000. “The way it works is that there is a Holy Childhood Mission organization in the Philippines just like here, and by Dec. 1 we’re going to send them all the collected money from the schools,” Msgr. Terrance Fleming, archdiocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, explained at the Nov. 18 morning prayer service for victims of Typhoon Haiyan. “So before Christmas, we hope, it’ll be a big pot of money.“And don’t forget that these people need a lot of prayers right now because they’re hurting,” he said. “They’re hungry and they’re cold, and they’re lonely and they’re sad. So we’re going to put some money into their pockets before Christmas. So no matter what they’ve lost, they still will not have lost the meaning of Christmas, which is to give of ourselves to others.”Kevin Baxter, archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic elementary schools, also stressed that the most important thing was to continue praying for the Filipino people. He praised Cathedral Chapel students for already raising more than $3,000 for the relief effort. “All of our schools are participating in this drive, but you’re setting a great example for all the 215 schools throughout the archdiocese in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties,” he told them. “You’re setting a great example for them to continue fundraising and, of course, to keep the people of the Philippines in your prayers.”Tina Kipp, Cathedral Chapel’s principal the last 11 years, wasn’t surprised by her student body’s most recent giving, donations collected in a single “free-dress” day the previous Friday. Fifteen to 20 percent are, in fact, Filipino, but 35 percent are from Korean families with the rest being Japanese, Chinese, African Americans and Caucasian. “All of our families reacted to what they saw on the news from the Philippines,” she told The Tidings. “I think any time we’ve had a disaster and we’ve asked the families to respond they have. We put the word out by e-blasts to remind the families of the real need and that there will be matching donations.”And the veteran Catholic school educator thought the archdiocesan-wide “Prayers for the Philippines” was a wonderful teaching tool with a vital life lesson. “We teach our children to be generous, so they don’t have a second thought when a disaster like this happens that they have to do something,” she pointed out. “We did it for Katrina, then Haiti. Catholic education is a ministry and the lesson is give to others, serve others, make sure that the less fortunate are taken care of.” Two sixth-graders, who sung in the choir along with Yzabela Fontila, certainly got that lesson.“I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it,” Maliyah Goka recalled. “I had to blink a few times watching television to make sure it was true. And I’ve never been to the Philippines, but I’ve heard it’s a beautiful country. To see all these people suffering, it’s just sad. So I want to do my best here in California to raise money and do everything I can to help these people.”Isabella Androde watched the first news reports about the typhoon with her mother. “I started crying because it was just so sad, and I felt like I needed to help,” she said. “I was just stunned to see how much destruction there was and how people were suffering. They don’t have any food or water. And I’m trying to do my best to help, too, and donate money to the school.”Both girls also agreed the killer storm and its aftermath put their own privileged adolescent American lives in perspective. “I think that we all should take a moment and see what these Filipino people are having to deal with,” observed Maligah “We’re complaining about all the stuff that we have to deal with, like wearing your uniform or not having the snack we want during school. But many of these people have lost their homes and their families.”A solemn faced Isabella was nodding. “‘Prayers for the Philippines,’ it’s a great idea,” she said. “It’s showing them how much we care about what they’re going through.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1122/prayers/{/gallery}