It's been more than a week since Typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the Philippines, and the bad news hasn't let up. Thousands are confirmed dead; millions are homeless, and countless lives have been forever changed.
It's been difficult to get aid to the area, where most of the infrastructure such as airports and roads have also been destroyed, but it's not for lack of trying; aid agencies from around the world have donated in cash and kind to the survivors of the typhoon. (NBC News broke it down by the numbers, quoting Weather Channel lead meteorologist Michael Palmer as saying,”It is the most powerful storm ever to make landfall. … It is as strong a typhoon as you can get, basically.”)
Southern California has one of the biggest Filipino-American communities outside of the Philippines, so for Filipinos and Filipino-Americans like me, it's been a harrowing week. Emotions from helplessness to fear and anger are inescapable even for people (like me) don't know anyone who personally perished in this disaster. And while we're all doing what we can to raise awareness and money for the victims of the super typhoon; this is just the beginning of the help we need to give. Four artists — musicians, a standup comic and a director — talk about the fundraisers they organized, and why.
3 Headed Dog
Two of 3 Headed Dog's members, guitarist/singer Dave Aguirre and drummer Wolf Gemora, were huge rock stars in the Philippines in the 1990s. After immigrating to the United States, they formed 3 Headed Dog with Danny Gonzalez on bass. Laguna Niguel resident and drummer Gemora says, “I visited Tacloban [one of the hardest hit areas] three years ago. The things I keep thinking about are all the places I visited in that city. An old library that carried these old books from WW II. A small mall that had the first ever escalator in Tacloban that was installed right before I arrived. I can remember people going up and down the escalator because it was the first time most people there even saw one. The barbecue stands that lined the main street in downtown Tacloban served some really good food. All of those places are most probably gone. It's a weird feeling and just makes the heart ache.
“We are part of the fundraising concert because it is our duty as Filipinos to help our countrymen/women in need. … I am so proud to be Filipino right now and how the Filipino people have come to the rescue of their kababayans in need.”
Moonpools and Caterpillars
Moonpools and Caterpillars had a huge hit (“Hear”) in the 1990s, and just recently reunited in July to raise $35,000 for Ethiopia Health Aid. Three of its members are from the Philippines; while none of them have family caught in the storm, all of them know people who are struggling with loss, says singer Kimi Encarnacion. “When news of the suffering in the Philippines reached the US, our first thought was our big Filipino fan base. Thinking that some of the people that have supported us may be down there, looking for missing family members or even trying to find a bottle of clean water broke our hearts. We had to do something and do it quick.”
Fundraiser: The band quickly put up a webstore (Moonpoolsandcaterpillars.bigcartel.com) up to sell band T-shirts with all the proceeds going to disaster relief.
Quark Henares, director, Rakenrol
Quark Henares, director of cult films Keka and Rakenrol, scheduled the special Los Angeles screening of the hilarious Rakenrol to go with a performance by Sandwich, one of the most famous bands in the Philippines today, months ago. (It's also, coincidentally, the band that his film's co-writer Diego Castillo plays guitar in.) When they received news of Typhoon Haiyan, they immediately turned the event into a fundraiser. “We were just really frustrated that we weren't in the Philippines. We felt helpless. None of my family was affected, thankfully, but one of the people I was with [when we found out] received a message where her friend lost his parents and his house. Another friend couldn't find her dad for a few days. Thankfully he's OK now. Then the stories came out one by one at dinner. Someone's friend set his parents up in a hotel so they would be safe and the hotel was destroyed, but he lived. There are so many stories like that. We really should be home and we felt horrible. It's been the worst year for the country in memory. The floods, then Zamboanga, then the pork barrel scandal, then the earthquake and then this. We should be there at this difficult time in our country's history. It's really debilitating.”
Fundraiser: Dec. 5, 7 p.m., $30, Rakenrol screening with a special performance by Sandwich and Spazzkid at Busby's East. All proceeds will go to the Philippine Red Cross for relief efforts. 21+
Rex Navarrete made a name for himself as the most famous Filipino-American comedian in the United States; soon after he heard the news of the devastation in the Philippines, he organized a fundraiser with various standup comics in Southern California. “I don't have family who was affected, but I have enough relatives of close friends who were affected, and having been to the region many times, my heart just goes out to everyone I've met.”
He credits the comedy community for mobilizing quickly to help give their support. “The comedy community is so tight to begin with,” he said. “I just called the Laugh Factory and other comics I worked with in the past and they just gave me an immediate yes. A lot of people really want to come together on this; the world has never seen anything on this level. What can you say, No? We're all working comics who bring laughter to people, and this is what we know how to do; this is the least we can do. We can go a long way in one night. Filipinos will mobilize and help other people; this time we have to help ourselves. It's great to see the world helping us too, with those heartbreaking images you see inspirational images of the world coming in [to help].”
Fundraiser: WTH Yolanda?! A Comedy Benefit for the Typhoon Victims of the Philippines Nov 20, 8 p.m., Laugh Factory – Long Beach, 151 S Pine Ave., Long Beach. With Vargus Mason, Dan Gabriel, Justin Rivera, Nico Santos, Ron Josol, Felipe Esparza, Russell Peters and more. The show will benefit the Philippine Red Cross.