Deadly Tornadoes Hit Texas Town; Fil Am Families Spared

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) A Filipino American family in Rowlett, Texas survived ten tornadoes that claimed the lives of 12 people during the Christmas holidays, according to community leader Gus Mercado of Dallas, Texas.

The ten tornadoes touched down within a span of 12 hours in the cities of Rowlett, Garland, Sunnyvale and other places in Northeastern Texas, covering a 30-mile radius, leaving massive property destruction in its wake.

More than 5,000 houses are still without electricity. Property damage has been estimated in the hundreds of million dollars.

Mercado, chairman & CEO of Datalogix, a high-tech company in Dallas and in Silicon Valley that employs hundreds of Filipino engineers in many states, identified one of the Filipino survivors as Joseph Jojo Palomar, also employed in a high-tech industry, and his family of three children. Their dog, Gussie Bear, was carried away by the tornado for two miles but survived.

In addition to the Palomar family, at least two other Filipino families suffered from the last weekends tornadoes. The Torio family was vacationing in the Philippines when their house in Garland, Texas was destroyed by one of the tornadoes. There is also another Filipina, married to an American whose house became unlivable and are reportedly living temporarily in a hotel, Mercado added.

Palomar, a native of Negros province in the Philippines, shared his family’s harrowing experience as several hours of pure terror. They hid in the interior room on the ground floor of their two-story house, which is deemed the safest place to hide from tornadoes and high winds.

Unlike in other states, there are no basements in Texas homes. The frame of their partly destroyed house was still standing when the tornadoes left but holes were punctured on their roofs by wooden posts from a neighbor’s house and pierced through their bedroom (see picture), causing heavy water damage to the house. The rest of his neighbors were not so lucky. According to Jojo, his street was the worst hit in the city of Rowlett.


By the grace of God, no members of our family were hurt, Jojo said, but one of our family dogs, Gussy Bear, a 5-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback was picked up by the tornado. He was pulled from our house when the front door was opened by the high circulating winds. The door was blown open and we believe he was sucked away. The riveting speed of the tornado did not give us enough time to gather all the dogs with us. Our young children are devastated by the loss of their favorite dog.

When asked how the experience affected his and family’s perspective in life, the articulate young Jojo was very introspective and in high spirits. You are absolutely right, this just made us stronger, he said. We can always rebuild, but we are already blessed in that we came out of this safely, God has protected us and the response from the community has been very admirable.

Asked how the rest of the Filipino community can help, Jojo said they are not asking for anything, but the community has been very generous with their rapid response and prayers. We received gift cards to help us through the difficult time of rebuilding We have received food, water and some came over to help with the massive cleanup. We are not walking this path alone. Words cannot describe the gratitude we have. We have been blessed.

Again, we are not asking, we rely on Faith and Hope and just as our Heavenly Father protected us that night, we know He will deliver us through the adversity, which was surreal and overwhelming. We know He carried us on His shoulders all throughout this ordeal.

If others would like to bless us, we will accept their blessing. We need cleaning supplies, like heavy-duty trash bags, towels. Most of our home supplies were damaged, and not having electricity makes it very difficult. Thank you, Sir, and I know that people are willing to give but what we need most right now is prayer to keep us strong. Yes, our weakness and the support of our community have made us strong.


Three days after the deadly tornadoes wrought massive destruction, killed 12 people and sent scores to hospitals, destroyed entire neighborhoods and took the Palomars dog Gussy Bear, the dog was found by a couple in a rubble near a lake. He was skinnier, not having eaten for three days. He had light bruises but otherwise okay overall. He ran around the house, ate then went to bed. Praise God, exclaimed the young father of three. This was our best Christmas present ever.

Mercado said, if the Fil-Am community can help the Palomar family in any way, “they can communicate through us. Our point of contact in the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce would be our VP Tessie Villoria, also from Garland who knows the Palomar family. Tessie’s email address is or our former secretary and cousin of Jojo’s, Joselynne Palomar,” — Joseph G. Lariosa/Gus Mercado


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