City of Cerritos and Fil-Am Chamber of Commerce of OC show support for Tacloban

TWO years after the anniversary of super-Typhoon Haiyan, the city of Tacloban in the Leyte islands is slowly rebuilding. Despite a fading news coverage, the people have seen an outpouring of support from other nations, non-profits, volunteer-based organizations, and government leaders, who continue to raise funds through benefit events for the city’s restoration.

“It is an amazing feeling to be getting help from so many people, countries, different NGOs, non-profits, and international volunteers,” said Cristina Romualdez, the wife of Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, at a press conference event held Thursday, March 12 at the Leelin Bakery and Café in Cerritos, Calif. “We are getting our homes and our livelihood back. Slowly but surely, we are rebuilding our city.”

Cristina and her husband were invited to the States to speak and promote the city’s latest fundraiser event in Los Angeles, a “Love for Tacloban” benefit concert and dinner show on Saturday, March 14 at the Radisson Hotel in Whittier, sponsored in part by the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Orange County (FACCOC). The performers are a special group of typhoon survivors, called the “I Love Tacloban” band, who were brought together by Mayor Alfred Romualdez several months ago to showcase the musical talents of Taclobanons, as well as their love for their hometown.

“We have been planning this concert with the Mayor, and are excited to see this event come together, and hopeful that it will contribute to our cause to help our Filipino brothers and sisters in Tacloban,” said Elena Lapid Salonga, current FACCOC President, adding that she had visited the city earlier last year and was astounded by what she saw years after the typhoon struck the region.

“When [Mayor Romualdez] formed this band, we knew we had to get them to play here in the States, to raise even more funds for rebuilding the city and restoring its livelihood.”

A portion of the proceeds from the dinner show will go to the GMA Kapuso Foundation, an organization dedicated to serving and uplifting the underprivileged Filipinos all over the country. The Kapuso Foundation has been rebuilding houses in disaster areas throughout the city, establishing relationships with the people and raising awareness for this disaster.

“The typhoon may have caused a setback in the people’s lives, but it certainly did not end it,” said GMA-USA affiliate Jush Andowitt. “We are honored to help in any way that we can. At the Love Tacloban concert, we will be presenting our video piece on what the GMA Kapuso Foundation has done since Typhoon Haiyan to give the affected people back their homes and their lives.”

Though Mayor Romualdez was not present at the conference due to illness, his wife Cristina was happy to report that while the town itself may be in reconstruction, the overall spirit of Tacloban is not gone.

“There are new businesses opening up downtown, even an SMC and Robinson’s mall!” she shared. “Schools and cinemas have reopened, and the people who left during the disaster are starting to come back home. And of course, the people’s spirits are being restored from the amazing projects and livelihood programs. So many things are happening and are almost back to normal, thanks to all the support worldwide.”

She shared about the Comprehensive Learning Educational Program (CLEP) that was started back in 2007 as a “learn and earn” program and vocational school. Barangay men and women can take courses on things like electrical wiring, plumbing, hair-cutting, cooking, sewing, food preservation, and other easy-to-learn skills that can help improve their livelihood and earn them a living. For the men, she said, carpentry is an in-demand industry especially after the typhoon.

So far, there have been nearly 7,000 completers of the ongoing program in Tacloban’s City Hall.

Cristina also spoke about Pope Francis’s recent visit to Tacloban in January, where he briefly met the Romualdezs’, typhoon survivors, and greeted thousands at the papal mass at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport.

“The papal visit gave all of us hope. The mere fact that he was there for such a short time; it still gave the people hope and meant so much to us,” Cristina said. “He went out of his way to fly into Tacloban, despite the typhoon signal in January. It was really amazing.”

At the press conference, Leelin Bakery and the City of Cerritos also expressed their support for typhoon relief efforts.

“We are helping [FACCOC and Cerritos Councilman Mark Pulido] with major fundraising for Tacloban and the Haiyan victims. Leelin has always supported these events, especially in relation to our Filipino community,” said Leelin President Mendrei L. Leelin.

Fil-Am Cerritos Councilman Mark Pulido presented a formal proclamation award to Cristina Romualdez, showing the City of Cerritos’ support to continue funding contributions in the form of clothing, medical supplies, and monetary donations. In the past, Cerritos has altogether pulled over $50,000 in typhoon relief funds, he mentioned.

“We present this proclamation as a gesture of support and solidarity from the people of the city of Cerritos,” Pulido said. “It is an honor for me to welcome you and [Mayor Alfred] here to the US.”

“Like the phoenix, Tacloban will once again rise from the ashes. We’re hopeful, and all praying for the best.”

(LA Weekend March 14-17, 2015 Sec. A pg.1)

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