Passionate. Faithful. Global Citizen.
These are but some words that cannot even begin to describe Filipino-British actress and humanitarian Cassandra Hepburn.
Cassandra is known for her roles on television’s Days of Our Lives and The Young and The Restless, as well as in Hollywood movies like Surfer Dude (as Woody Harrelson’s wife) and Quentin Tarantino Presents: Hellride (as Maria). She has also been a print and runway model for several high-profile jeans and swimwear advertisements, as well as several features and covers in Los Angeles Confidential, Maxim, and People Magazine.
She was born in Tacloban City, one of the areas that were hit the hardest by Typhoon Haiyan.
Born to a Chinese-Filipina mother and a British father, Cassandra became a global citizen at a very young age. She left the Philippines at age 2 and grew up in different places around the world, including New Mexico, California, London, New York and Hong Kong.
In spite of growing up away from her hometown, Cassandra feels very close to her Filipino culture.
Cassandra told Asian Journal that although she hasn’t had strong ties with the Philippines in the past, she feels that there is a strong pull for her to rekindle her connection with the Filipino people.
“I want to be a responsible Fil-Am, meaning I want to not just help Filipinos here [in the US], but in our own country. Our own country need our help, and I’ve seen it,” she said.
This feeling was reaffirmed most recently when she traveled to the Philippines with CMC, visiting local communities and barangays (villages) in Luzon and Cebu to evangelize the Word of God.
During this trip, she saw that Filipinos are a warm, generous, and kind-hearted people.
“Traveling to the barangays I saw how beautiful and loving the Filipino people were by always welcoming me into their homes and feeding me,” she pointed out.
Cassandra narrowly missed the national disasters, which struck the Philippines.
The 7.0 earthquake hit Cebu a day before she left for Mindanao. The Bohol region was devastated.
Cassandra also recalled that she barely missed Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall by mere hours, as she was about to leave for the United States.
“I saw in the news that a typhoon was coming but no one knew how massive it would be,” she said.
When she was on the plane, the lights came on and the voice of the captain crackled through the PA system.
“Everyone please buckle up, it’s going to be a really rough ride,” Cassandra recalls the captain saying.
It was only back in Los Angeles when she learned and realized the category 5 typhoon, which hit Tacloban City and the rest of Leyte, left tremendous devastation in its wake.
Cassandra got numerous calls and text messages from friends and family in the US, asking if she was alright.
During the days that immediately followed Haiyan’s landfall, it was difficult for Cassandra. She and her mom wanted to reach their family in Tacloban.
However, due to the power outages, they couldn’t get to any of their relatives.
Three days later, there was still no word. Even a cousin in Manila could not reach the family from the province.
There was a growing fear that they could have lost everyone in Tacloban.
It was only through Facebook that Cassandra and her mom learned that a cousin and two children survived the flood. They were then flown to Manila.
Another aunt and cousin were severely dehydrated.
A few more days days after that, more grim details started coming in. Cassandra learned that some other cousins did not make it.
For Cassandra, all of these events served as a catalyst for her to do something.
Her actions reflect a famous Hellen Keller quote: “I cannot do everything, but I can still do something.”
When she got back here in LA, the actress immediately reached out to the pastor that accompanied her during the crusade in the Philippines and to her rabbi, and urged them to spearhead the relief efforts.
“I wanted to do something for them, so I talked to some organizations about helping and sending care packages out to the Philippines to rebuild Samar and Bohol,” she said.
“I lost family in the typhoon, I have family in the hospital because of the typhoon. So it’s really personal to me and I wanted to do something. It’s my country. The hardest-hit area is where I was born, Tacloban,” Cassandra said.
Set in motion
And so, the wheels were set in motion.
The actress, together with SPAN Relief, Fusion Global, Pastor Jonathan Morris and Rabbi Jason Sobel, have put all their resources together to organize a fundraiser that help the the typhoon-affected regions get back on their feet.
On December 15, 5pm to 9pm, there will be a special fundraiser at the exclusive Malibu West Beach Club. For a minimum donation of $50, guests will be treated to great food, bubbly drinks, awesome music, and other surprise appearances by Hollywood stars.
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening will be Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr.
Guest speakers include actor John Savage from Deer Hunter, actress Angela Rockwood from Push Girls, and actress Cassandra Gava from Conan the Barbarian.
There will be special guest performances by internationally-renowned DJ Vikter Duplaix, Superstars of Dance – The Groovaloos, and Entertainer of the Year awardee Charles Jones.
All of the event’s proceeds will go towards Life Cubes (1,600-foot pre-made homes equipped with electricity and water facilities), care packages, and relief goods to be distributed to the victims.
Aside from the performances, speeches, dinner and drinks, there will also be silent and public auctions.
The fundraiser hopes to meet a goal of $100,000 to bring to the Philippines. If you would like to donate or attend the event, please visit spanrelief.org for more information. (With reports from Mico Letargo/AJPress)
(LA Midweek December 11, 2013 MDWK pg.2)
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Donna Defin is a fashion blogger at sunnynblue.com and co-founder of an online fashion boutique at shopserenesky.com.