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Typhoon Haiyan Hits Close to Home

Marylhurst student Mario Martinez talked with The Oregonian about the recent tragic events in the country of his youth.

Excerpt from an article by Susan Nielsen in The Oregonian,
November 16, 2013.

Mila Tambule, 62, moved here from the Philippines eight years ago and works as a laundry attendant at a downtown Portland hotel. Her friend Mario Martinez, 60, is a local interpreter who was born in Portland but spent much of his youth in the Philippines.

For them, Typhoon Haiyan isn't a news story or abstract calamity. It's about childhood friends they've lost touch with and cousins now out of reach. It's about recognizing their relative wealth in the face of others' great misfortune.

Typhoon Haiyan destroyed great swaths of the Southeast Asian island country this month and left many thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. One night last week after Martinez's evening college class, Tambule and Martinez tried to explain what it meant to them.

They don't just see the devastation. They see their own memories, too, of wild horses in the mountains, rice fields stretching to the horizon, front yards planted with vegetables, family everywhere.

"The whole place is flattened, it's like pickup sticks," Martinez said. "Everyone's desperate."

Tambule isn't a stranger to helping out. She said she regularly sends money back home, no small feat on a hotel worker's wages. ("I tighten my belt," she said. "It's hard. But I'm happy to help them.")

For Martinez, who said he has not been back to the Philippines since his early 20s, the ties are more distant. But he does remember the hospitality people showed him when he arrived there as a boy knowing little or no language. It's part of the reason he became an interpreter here, trying to return the favor. He knows what it's like to be dislocated. He knows how small gestures can make uprooted people feel more at home.

» Read the full article on OregonLive.com

Mario Martinez is enrolled in the BA in Interdisciplinary Studies program at Marylhurst University.

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