Like many of Victoria’s Filipino community, Tamiko Sianen was glued to the TV as Typhoon Haiyan rolled through the homeland of her parents.
“I was devastated. It was the long weekend and was watching the Filipino news channels and seeing all the families affected,” said Sianen, a Mount Douglas high school student and student body president. “I couldn’t stop thinking about all those kids whose parents were gone.”
Sianen has a large extended family in the Philippines, who fortunately live in the north of the country and away from the devastation that has killed thousands and displace 4 million people. “We immediately tried to contact family to see if they were OK, to see if they were safe,” she said.
Students of Filipino descent at Mount Doug banded together this week for a fundraising lunch featuring traditional Filipino food, donated by 10 families. Members from the Filipino Bayanihan Community Centre helped dish out the food.
“We didn’t expect so many people. We sold out of main courses in 15 minutes,” Sianen said. “We raised $271 in 50 minutes.”
The Mount Doug donation adds to the growing total collected by the Bayanihan Cultural & Housing Society for the Canadian Red Cross, now nearing $40,000.
Laila Pires, treasurer for the Bayanihan society, based at the Bayanihan Community Centre on Blanshard Street, said individuals and organizations across Greater Victoria have fundraised for relief in the Philippines.
“It’s not only the Filipino community, but the Italian community, the Polynesian community and retirement places helping with the fundraising effort,” Pires said. “It’s heartening to see individuals getting their businesses to do silent auctions.
“It’s a big consolation we’ve got support from the community in this regard.”
Like Sianen, Pires has family in Philippines who live in northern areas, away from the path of Haiyan. She admits the scale of the devastation caught the local Filipino community off guard.
“My god I was shocked. We know (the Philippines) is in the typhoon belt and thought people would be ready, but we didn’t realize the extent of the disaster,” she said.
“People are displaced with no jobs and no school and no homes. What are they going to do for the next three to five years?”
The Victoria Filipino community is hosting a gala dinner and dance on Dec. 7 at at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, in partnership with the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers Union. Pires said they’re looking to raise $10,000 from the event. The Canadian government is matching donations until Dec. 23.
“We hope not to lose the momentum, but after (the gala dinner) we’ll have to see how we can continue to help,” Pires said.
“We realize there is a lot of demand for peoples’ generosity with Christmas coming up.”
-Tickets for the benefit dinner at Cedar Hill rec are $30. It runs from 6 p.m. to midnight on Dec. 7. Seebayanihan.ca for details on all upcoming fundraising events or email firstname.lastname@example.org.