More than seven months have passed since typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) ravaged Eastern Visayas in the Philippines and left millions of families displaced, thousands dead and hundreds missing. Support poured in from all over the world. Filipinos in the diaspora gathered together to raise funds for their less-fortunate brethren affected by the super typhoon.
In Washington, DC over the weekend, a benefit concert called After the Storm was staged at the renowned Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Lea Salonga led the pack of world-class performers, which also included Apl.de.Ap, Darren Criss, Lou Diamond Philips.
“We’re all very happy that the concert went well. It was such an honor to be performing with this amazing group of people and we’re doing it for a great cause,” Salonga told us after the show. She shared that the performers had fun bonding backstage.
Apld.de.Ap couldn’t agree more.
“We were all having fun up there. I know it was a serious event but we wanted it to be light-hearted as well,” said the Black-Eyed Peas singer. This benefit show is Apl’s fourth major Haiyan fund-raising event after Music for Relief in LA, Pinoy Relief in NY and just a week earlier, Rebuild Philippines also in LA.
It’s not every day that you get to see these Filipino-American stars and performers share the stage and perform to their hearts’ delight.
Two of the more well-applauded numbers were Lea Salonga’s duet with Darren Criss (“It’s our third time doing the song, this time it’s not from a bar in the West Village, we’re at Kennedy Center!,” she remarked) and Darren’s jamming with Apl.de.Ap as they sang BEP’s classic Where is the Love? (“That was last minute. He asked me if he can sing with me. I said, ‘Of course’!,” Apl said).
What added to the fun factor to both numbers was the host, Lou Diamond Philips who pranced on stage doing pirouettes as Lea and Darren sang A Whole New World from the film and musical Aladdin. He went back onstage when Darren and Apl were singing and the three of them danced together, much to the delight of the audience.
The concert line up was a mix of various performance styles.
Audience members danced to Apl.de.Ap’s We Can Be Anything, Criss played the piano as he sang Not Alone and Charice sang her hit Pyramid.
Also well-applauded were opera singer Rodell Rosel’s amazing rendition of Nessun Dorma, ballerina Christine Rocas’s graceful performance and violinist Philippe Quint.
Salonga was, as usual, in her element. The Tony Awardee was a show-stopper with her medley of I Dreamed a Dream and On My Own from the musical Les Miserables and her Bayan Ko/Climb Every Mountain finale.
World-class Filipina fashion designer Josie Natori was among the presentors.
Other artists who shared their music that evening were soprano Melissa Mino, Kennedy Center’s principal cellist Amy Frost Baumgarten, concert pianist Lisa Emenheiser, the Broadway Community Chorus, the National Broadway Chorus, and the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra conducted by Luke Frazier under the direction of Christopher Zimmerman.
Celebrites who were not able to be at the concert sent their well wishes and reminded the audience of the resiliency of the Filipino people. Among those who sent their messages include Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Renee Fleming, James Caan and Suze Orman, whose message caught quite a stir and a few giggles because she greeted everyone in the audience “Mahubay!” instead.
Vice President Biden’s second son, Hunter, a representative of the World Food Program, also went on stage to tell the audience how impressed he was with the resilience of the Filipino people. He said he was particularly amazed at seeing typhoon victims, among them children, welcome him with smiles along the roads of typhoon-devastated Tacloban.
Across the board, there was a great reaction on the performances. Some complained about the shortness of the program (90 minutes) and others asked what happened with Charice.
“The galaxy of Filipino and Fil-Am stars who performed was stellar! It was my first time to see/hear tenor Rodell Rosel, and his rendition of Nessun Dorma was powerful! Joffrey Ballet’s Christine Rocas was mesmerizing with her impressive Swan Lake interpretation. Of course, Lea Salonga, Apl.de.ap and Darren Criss never fail to elicit “oohs and aahs” from the audience–and so they did at the concert! Their solo performances and duets were rousing hits and brought the house down!,” said Mitzi Pickard, Philippine Arts, Letters & Media Council president.
“I was delighted by the performances (except for Charice’s) but more importantly, inspired. My favorite part was Lou Diamond Phillips hamming it up. I was also surprised by Lea Salonga’s edge,” added Erwin de Leon.
“It is so heart-warming to see so many Filipinos, Fil Ams, the Diplomatic Corps, friends of the Philippines all coming together for a few hours to show love to the Filipinos specially those affected by Typhoon Haiyan,” community leader and journalist Bing Branigin said.
Pickard, De Leon and Branigin are just three of about two thousand people from across the nation who flocked to the Kennedy Center last Sunday to watch the benefit concert.
And while some heaped praises on the performances of the cast, others expressed their disappointment in Charice.
“Not a single hello during the opening, no good-byes, she didn’t even bother to do the finale, to take a bow,” Branigin said, “Filipino-Americans specially here in DC are very forgiving and respecting people, to be treated that way when we were there to raise funds for our kababayans, she just missed a good PR specially to the LGBT community who are embracing her tightly when she came out.”
Pickard acknowledges that the road to recovery from the catastrophe brought by Haiyan is rough and arduous but like many Filipinos, she is hopeful that the government will focus on disaster preparedness to lessen the impact of natural calamities that hit the Philippines.
“It is integral that disaster preparedness be part and parcel of the Philippine government’s strategic plan for progress and development. The national and local governments must educate their citizenry about the dangers of deforestation and illegal logging, as well as reiterate to them the importance of reforestation/planting trees on a continuing basis and not taking residence so close to coastal waters,” Pickard added.
The Philippine Embassy said the concert was a tribute to those who lost their lives in Typhoon Haiyan and to those who helped in rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts. It was also a celebration honoring Filipinos and their resiliency as the country rebuilds after Typhoon Haiyan.
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., who initiated the concert with his wife Maria Victoria, after Typhoon Haiyan struck in November, expressed his gratitude to those who lent a helping hand to the Philippines during the difficult times following the typhoon.
“I am truly heartened by the compassion and kindness shown by the American people and other friends throughout the world, who rallied to come to the aid of those in need. I hope this spirit of solidarity will persist long after we overcome this adversity. I look forward to continue working with you all and contribute to rebuilding the lives of our brothers and sisters in Central Philippines,” Ambassador Cuisia said.
President Benigno S. Aquino III, in a video message, also thanked the US Government and the American people for their assistance to typhoon victims in the Philippines. He also congratulated the US-Philippines Society and the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition for organizing the concert.
Vice President Joseph Biden, in a message read for him by his daughter in law Kathleen, reiterated the commitment made by President Obama when he visited the Philippines in April. He said the US will continue to stand by the Philippines not only during troubled times but also as the country gets back on its feet and rebuilds after Typhoon Haiyan.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his video message to those at the concert said: “I visited the Philippines after the typhoon. But there was a little something that kept the people going.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario also sent his greetings to the artists and concert attendees.
Ambassador John Negroponte, Co-Chair of the US-Philippines Society, said he was delighted to see how effectively Americans and Filipinos joined in making the benefit concert such a success. “Performers and presenters, sponsors and patrons all pulled together to send a “message of hope,” assuring people in the central Philippines that they can succeed and are not alone in rebuilding their lives after Typhoon Haiyan,” he said.
Ambassador John Maisto, President of the US-Philippines said the concert featured an exceptionally broad repertoire that included Broadway tunes, hip-hop, ballet, opera, contemporary and classical music in a spectacular display of entertainment by world-renowned artists from the Philippines and the United States. Everyone left wanting more.
After the Storm: A Benefit Concert for the Philippines, was produced by Emmy Award nominee Robert Pullen and directed by Baayork Lee, was also made possible through the help of generous sponsors from both the US and the Philippines.
(NYNJ June 20, 2014 LifeEASTyle Magazine pg.2)