California family to skip Christmas to help Philippines

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A South Bay family is sacrificing their Christmas this year to send every last penny to help the relief efforts in the Philippines.

Helenita Penola is making a bold move -- one that she says is necessary to help her family in Tacloban City, an area devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

“I was born in Tacloban, I grew up in Tacloban,” Penola told RTV6 sister station 10News.

She told her family Monday that they are foregoing Christmas this year, which is the only holiday she says she celebrates with her family due to her busy schedule as a nurse.

Instead, they will send all of the money they would have spent to her six siblings and their families in the Philippines.

“They are sick, they are hungry, they are thirsty," says Penola. "I don't know if my conscience will let me [celebrate Christmas.”

She says what hurts the most is seeing how friends post pictures of their meals here at home, while back in the typhoon-ravaged Tacloban, they are without food.

“I said can you please stop posting it because it hurts my feelings when they are hungry over there," says Penola.

Penola says the electricity alone costs them $400 to $500 during the holidays.  But this year, there will be no outdoor decorations, no tree and no gifts.

“I already bought gifts for my grandchildren," she says. "I am going to return them.”

“My grandson said, ‘Oh, I’m sad,’" she says. "I said, 'This is only just one Christmas."

Her youngest son says he was disappointed at first, but understands the money is going where it is needed most.

“At first I was sad,” said Gepe Penola.  “I was looking forward for Christmas, but at least I can help my family in the Philippines.”

Other relief efforts are coming from a local humanitarian team.

10News was there as two relief experts from PCI, Project Concern International, headed out of Lindbergh Field for the Philippines Thursday evening.

They will help identify the hardest hit areas and assess the short-term and long-term needs of those devastated by the typhoon.

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