Maraming Salamat Po

The Empire State Building lights up for the Philippines;
photo taken by Noel Calingasan.
By Oliver Oliveros, Fil-Am Who's Who magazine editor-in-chief

The first time I visited the city of Tacloban, located in the northeastern part of Leyte island in the Philippines, was in 2009. At the time, I was handling publicity for international recording artists Christian Bautista and Sam Concepcion who were featured in a concert at the 5,000-seater Tacloban City Convention Center. The concert was packed to the rafters, and everyone had a great time!

I distinctly remember how the people of Tacloban were very warm and friendly. Two-term Councilor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez, who is married to Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, hosted a sumptuous banquet for our entourage. We even went to the “red beach” in Palo, Leyte to visit the historical “Leyte Landing” landmark, which is a tribute to General Douglas MacArthur, the American general who fought against the imperial Japanese army in the Philippines in the mid-1940s.

So imagine my shock when I saw on the news the massive convention center was gloomily transformed into a makeshift shelter for displaced people when typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) wrought havoc in Tacloban. On CNN, watching Councilor Romualdez in tears recounting her family’s ordeal with the storm was unimaginable.

For more than three weeks now, the Philippines has been the most popular topic in most international media outlets. Suddenly the world is paying attention to our island nation. Suddenly the world is on its toes sending humanitarian relief. Suddenly you realize that in times of crisis, the world is not jaded after all.

Apropos to recent events and to the thanksgiving season we are celebrating this week, allow me to sincerely extend my gratitude to fellow Filipinos and also to non-Filipinos — especially those who are based in the east coast region of the United States — who have donated funds and their time to countless relief efforts for my home country.

Philippine Consulate General-New York, Miss World Organization, Philippine Independence Council Inc., RDR Cargo, Lani Misalucha, Kirby Asunto, Kay Habana, Dennis Sy, Team United Maharlika Foundation Inc., Philippine American Chamber of Commerce, Ugly Kitchen, Jeepney, Maharlika, The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York, Fiesta in America, JCI Philippines New York, Filipino Legal Defense & Education Fund, Pinoy Pride Sa America, AFTA, Loida Nicolas Lewis, the Broadway cast of “Mamma Mia,” the Off-Broadway cast of “Here Lies Love” and many more…Maraming salamat po

Fil-Am Who’s Who on Facebook ( will be posting upcoming fundraising initiatives in the New York Tri-State area as their announcements arrive.

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