3 Pinoys die in Joplin twister

WASHINGTON D.C.  – Three Filipino Americans were among the 139 people killed by a killer tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22.

The fatalities were identified as Tomas Sarino, 76; Grace Aquino, 46; and Estrelita Manansala Moore. The twister was the deadliest to strike the US since the National Weather Service started keeping records in 1950.

Sarino, who had worked for Warner Brothers in New York, reportedly lived alone in his apartment at 2001 Connecticut Avenue in Joplin. A neighbor said the tornado ripped open the structure and believed that Sarino was already dead when the wind sucked him out of his apartment. He is believed to have been originally from Cebu.

He moved to Joplin in 1995 to work for Loma Linda Golf Resort as the vice-president of the Finance Department. He has since retired.

Aquino was the first reported Filipino casualty. The 46-year-old mother of three was struck by a concrete post hurled by the twister when she rushed to the aid of her son Jacob, 11.

Hundreds of Joplin residents, hearing of her gallant effort to save a son, attended her memorial service.

Moore, a hairdresser and breast cancer survivor, died when she was carried away from her apartment, the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago reported to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs in Manila. Her body was found two days later.

Their remains were cremated and brought back to the Philippines.

Philippine consular officials in Chicago said there are 10,396 Filipinos in Missouri, most of located in the St. Louis, St. Charles, Fort Leonard Wood and Blue Springs areas.

Relatives from Cebu confirmed to ABS-CBN the death of Sarino. According to his niece Grace Sarino, she was contacted by a certain Taylor Jayne Thompson who then relayed to her the coroner’s confirmation of the elderly Sarino’s death.

Grace told ABS-CBN that she last spoke to her uncle on May 2. Sarino was not reported missing earlier because he lives alone, and he has no family members in the US who could report on his whereabouts. He was also not known among Joplin’s Filipino community.

Grace Sarino said her uncle worked as an accountant at the Bangko Sentral in Manila before moving to New York where he found employment at Warner Brother Inc.’s finance department.

In 1995, he moved to Joplin to work for Loma Linda Golf Resort as the vice-president of the Finance Department. He has since retired.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer in Manila was able to interview Gloria Aquino, who resides in Guagua, Pampanga. According to her, Grace died while protecting her 11-year-old son Jacob from the falling debris, she said. Jacob survived.

“I saw my mommy’s death,” Mrs. Gloria Aquino quoted Jacob as saying when he gave her an account of the tragedy by long-distance telephone.

Grace and Jacob were attending a church service when the twister ravaged Joplin, she said.

Gloria said Rizaldy Aquino, Grace’s husband, was working at the local rail yard while their other children, aged 24 and 20, had gone to Kansas City to look for work. Mrs. Aquino said Rizaldy described Grace’s body as “mangled.”

Gloria said Grace migrated to Missouri in 2002, a year after her husband arrived there in 2001. In their nine years stay in the American Midwest, Grace took on odd jobs to help support their family, she said.

In Guagua, Pampanga, Grace’s father, Armando Layug, said he was devastated by her death. Grace’s twin sister, Luz Villaruel, said her sister helped the family get by.


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