‘Hawak Kamay’ event to raise money for disaster relief 

In the middle of the night on Dec. 17, heavy rain and flash flooding awoke the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in the Philippines. Typhoon Sendong showed no mercy, killing nearly a thousand. Others still remain missing. ABS-CBN, a major television network in the Philippines, said it left nothing but destruction in a scale never before seen on Mindanao, the island on which the typhoon hit.

The network reported Filipinos from all over the world donationing to the victims of the natural disaster. The Philippine Red Cross reported total cash donations of 98,771,839.05 Philippine pesos as of Dec. 28, which is roughly $2.3 million Canadian.

To further help with the recent disaster, Mariedelle Velasco, a young Filipino-Calgarian, will be hosting a benefit show called Hawak Kamay to help raise money for the typhoon victims. Together with the charitable foundation Harmony For Kids and Elderly, of which Velasco is president for the Mount Royal University Chapter, the event will showcase various young Filipinos’ talents in Calgary.

“Hawak Kamay’ means holding hands,” Velasco explained.

“We’re lending a helping hand to those victims, and we’re holding their hands to help them get through this.”

Velasco’s family was safe from typhoon Sendong, but knowing it could have been her own family in need, she said she wanted to help regardless.

The money raised will be sent to the Philippines through ABS-CBN. It will be used for medication, food, shelter, clothing and other immediate necessities.

“The final scene will portray hope. After all the suffering, there’s some hope and inspiration.”
— Claudee Jamila

For the event, Velasco gathered singers, dancers, actors and instrumentalists to perform. She organized the performances to correlate to the disaster and its victims. There will be cultural dancing, as well as hip-hop performances. Velasco herself will sing “Stand Up For Love” by Destiny’s Child.

Claudee Jamila, a nursing student at Mount Royal University, plans to act out a skit playing a 16-year-old victim of Sendong. To represent the victims, she plans to be covered in mud during her monologue.

Jamila’s family was directly affected by the ensuing flood; Jamila’s uncle, Marlon Berongoy, is a survivor who lost his father in the flood.

Berongoy and his father witnessed the heavy flood destroy homes in the city of Cagayan de Oro as they stood at the top of the roof, Jamila has been told. The flow of the flood caused massive objects to crash into their home —including a dump truck — which hit Berongoy’s father. It wasn’t long until they were washed away, and only Berongoy was found alive by locals in a different town, Jamila said.

“After hearing all that, it just touched me inside,” Jamila said. “I was deeply affected just knowing that I have family members who went through that.”

The skit to be performed at the benefit show will be influenced by her uncle’s experience and the loss of her “Tay Pabling,” as Jamila calls the late Pablo Berongoy, Marlon Berongoy’s father.Claudee Jamila researches on the typhoon victims to prepare for her monologue.
Photo by: Kian Sumalpong

“The final scene will portray hope,” she said. “After all the suffering, there’s some hope and inspiration.”

Jamila aims to connect with the audience through her actions and words. And in the end, she said she wants people to be thankful for their own safety.

Hawak Kamay will be held at Coach Hill-Patterson Heights Community Centre on Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15.

For more information, visit www.harmonyforkidsandelderly.org

ksumalpong@cjournal.ca