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Benefit concert supports Philippines


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By Ashley Jenkins



Irene Reyes’ sister was swept from her house by a wave of water 10 days ago when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines.

The three days that followed were what Reyes describes as the longest three days of her life, trying to track her sister down.

Her sister finally called on the Monday after the typhoon to let Reyes know that she and her 8-year-old daughter were still alive.

She had walked to the airport, bruised from the debris that slammed into her as she walked through neck-deep waters just to reach safety.

She had to sell her jewelry to buy a plane ticket to get her and her daughter a flight from the city of Palo to Cebu, where damage was less severe.

“I answered the phone, and it was her, and my body just started shaking,” Reyes said. “I almost dropped the phone. We were so relieved, so happy.”

Reyes and her husband Sonny were among many on Sunday who gathered to raise money for Haiyan victims, despite an afternoon full of tornado warnings and heavy rain in Bloomington.

A benefit concert and auction sponsored by the Asian Culture Center was held last night at St. Paul’s Catholic Center to raise money for the victims of the typhoon that left half a million Filipinos homeless.

Several students and alumni from the Jacobs School of Music performed songs in the church’s nave, and a silent auction took place in the lobby.

Although anyone who has lived in the Philippines is used to severe storms and typhoons, this one caught Filipinos off guard, Sandra Bajamonde, co-organizer of the benefit, said.

“We expect storms all the time,” she said. “We prepared ahead of time, but what we didn’t expect was all the water.”

A 20-foot-tall storm surge broke concrete houses on Nov. 8. Most evacuation centers were destroyed, Reyes said.

She said that if her sister hadn’t thought to open the front of her evacuation center, she and everyone in it would have died.

“The pressure was just too much,” Reyes said. “Opening the front door to let the water through saved her life.”

Mass graves have been dug and filled. More deaths are expected, especially without a continued surge of donated water, food and money.

The auction raised $4,173 through the sale of   art, theater tickets and designer bags.
The money will be donated to American Red Cross in partnership with the Philippines Red Cross.

The concert was part of a pair of events the Asian Culture Center planned for their “Bayanihan for Haiyan.”

The second event will be a Typhoon Haiyan teach-in, forum and fundraiser at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Solarium of the Indiana Memorial Union.

Bayanihan means “in a spirit of unity” in Filipino.

“In Filipino culture, we literally move houses together with our bare hands, and it’s called a Bayanihan,” Bajamonde said, pulling up a picture of one on her phone.

“Dozens of people slide a foundation under the house and pick it up and move it. It’s a sign of community coming together, and that’s why we’re calling this a Bayanihan.”

She said though Filipinos in Bloomington lead very separate lives, it takes no time at all for them to connect in a time of need.

“It’s not just about raising money,” Bajamonde said. “It’s about the sense of togetherness. We’re used to storms in the Philippines, but when a disaster like this happens, we all suddenly become one.”

Hilary Martel came with her husband, who is from the Philippines, and still hasn’t heard from several family members there.

They’ve started a separate fundraiser at Hartzell’s Ice Cream, where a five dollar donation to the Red Cross earns a coupon for a free scoop of ice cream.

“Every little bit helps in a time like this,” she said.

Reyes’ sister has since moved again to the city of Manila to stay with another sister, but her daughter has nightmares about the typhoon.

“It’s a miracle she even made it out,” Reyes said. “They’re going to need help for a long time.”

Follow reporter Ashley Jenkins on Twitter @ashmorganj.




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