AMID the chaos and desperation in the Philippines in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan), Filipinos in North America had the opportunity to reach out and lend a helping hand to our kababayans in the Visayas, whose communities have been ravaged by the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall.
From November 13-14, ABS-CBN International’s The Filipino Channel (TFC) in US and Canada and ABS-CBN Foundation International took a big step further in its relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines by holding “Magkasama Tayo sa Kuwento ng Pagbangon” – a Sagip Kapamilya Telethon, LIVE ON TFC from its headquarters in Redwood City, California.
During this 24-hour telethon, we were able to raise more than $240,000 (equivalent to more than P10 million) from viewers all over the United States and Canada, who generously donated thorugh our hotlines and online via www.abscbnfoundation.org.
This donation is specially meaningful because it came from ordinary people, who may be struggling financially themselves because of the present state of the US economy. Yet, they offered a part of their hard-earned money to help and make a difference.
Some also donated their time and services by volunteering in the telethon,. They stayed in the office for 24 hours with no sleep, to help us raise the money for typhoon victims.
Other businesses send in food for the staff, others called in and pledged to send donations in kind that were most needed in Leyte and surrounding provinces like skin antibiotics, infant formula, and diapers. Somebody also offered to lend his two airplanes, including gasoline, to be used by the foundation to send relief goods to areas that have been a challenged to reach.
I have personally been getting a lot of calls, texts, emails, tweets and Facebook messages from so many people (friends and strangers alike) who wanted to know how they could help.
Many Filipinos community groups have also organized themselves and have established headquarters filled with volunteers to receive donations in kind and in cash (payable to trusted and reputable foundation like ABS-CBN Foundation, Red Cross).
Even our own aged Filipino veterans spent their Memorial Day holiday sending to and receiving donations for our kababayans in Leyte.
Private individuals also came together from coast to coast to come up with fundraising events (such as concerts, zumba sessions, fashion shows, dinners, etc.) so they send help to the Typhoon Yolanda victims.
The telethon became a success because many kababayans were able to watch this Balitang America special episode, even if they were not TFC subscribers. This was made possible by the generous support given by our media partners.
All digital subscribers were able to watch the telethon and special news coverage on Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on TFC at no additional cost. This free service will be ongoing until November 30 for Comcast, and November 24 for the other participating cable operators.
International Media Distribution (IMD), which distributes TFC, announced the list of the participating cable operators:
-AT&T U-verse * Bright House Networks
– Comcast’s Xfinity TV (TFC is not available in all markets)
– Cox Communications (TFC is not available in all markets)
– Time Warner Cable (TFC is not available in all markets)
– Verizon FiOS TV
In Canada, the following carriage partners of TFC have also agreed to open their signal to non-TFC subscribers at no additional cost until November 17:
– Shaw Cable (Channel 509) – for Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia
– Bell Fibe (Channel 859) – for Ontario
– Telus Optik TV (Channel 513) – for Alberta and British Columbia
– Rogers TV
– City west Cable
The full telethon was also made available for viewing via livestream for FREE on TFC.tv.
Some phone companies also gave free phone calls to the Philippines:
– Hawaiian Telecom
ABS-CBN Foundation International Managing Director Jo Ann Kyle said the money raised will be used to help Yolanda victims rebuild their lives and communities.
Homes, schools, hospitals, infrastructure in the region had been destroyed. It would probably take years, if not a decade, to rebuild what was lost.
The exact death toll is still undetermined, as of press time. However, according to the United Nations (UN) 11.3 million Filipinos have been affected by Typhoon Yolanda. 673,000 have been displaced.
The UN said the total fund necessary for relief efforts and to help rebuild the region is a whopping $301 million.
More than ever, we need our bayanihan spirit to see us through.
* * *
Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos