There was a tremendous outpouring of support for ‘Rise From The Ashes,’ the February 23 benefit concert for the victims of Taal Volcano’s recent activity. The event raised $3,420 from ticket sales and treated concert-goers to an entertaining evening of music from local Filipino artists that included Kaithlyn Yago, James Bryan Cruzat, Yzza Band, Shirley Platon, Gangza Rhythm Band, Humous, ALIW with Neil Cruz, AC Tongol, Geena Navales and Vina Dimayuga. Popular social media personality Papah Dee emceed the program that ran from 6 pm to 10 pm.
The fundraiser’s main presenters were the Filipino Music & Arts Association of Canada, Inc (FMAACI), Mar T Mance P. Eng Memorial Scholarship, Max’s Restaurant Winnipeg and Ain’t Your Ordinary Show (AYOS). Other local community organizations contributed as collaborators in putting the event together. These were the Talisay Association of Manitoba, the Association of Cordillerans in Manitoba, the Pinoy Alliance of Canada, this publication, and the Filipino Seniors Group of Winnipeg whose Event Hall served as the venue.
Located about 50 kilometers south of the Philippine capital of Manila, Taal volcano and the lake that surrounds it combine for a sight that is considered as one of the most picturesque in the country. However, Taal also has the fearsome distinction as the Philippines’ second most active volcano, with 33 recorded historical eruptions. Its phreatic eruption on January 12, 2020, spewed ashes across a wide region, turning it into a large gray wasteland. Although the area’s level of danger was eventually downgraded so that some evacuees were allowed to return to their homes, the long road to rebuild their lives and livelihood has only begun.
According to figures released by the Philippine Department of Agriculture, the eruption caused crop damage estimated at ?3.06 billion ($60.1 million), covering 2,722 hectares (27.22 km2) and includes 1,967 animals. Fishing cages nestled in Taal Lake, estimated to contain 15,033 metric tons of fish, suffered losses of ?1.6 billion ($31.4 million). Considering the damage in resources, FMAACI President Ernesto Ofiaza, Jr. explained that relief efforts for the Taal victims should have a new focus. “Right now, it’s all about rehabilitation because almost all of their homes and properties were already affected by the volcano. It’s all about livelihood now because they have nothing.”
For this reason, the organizers of Rise From the Ashes decided that the proceeds should go toward funding alternative livelihood projects. Ofiaza reported that they are co-ordinating with the Rotary Club of Santa Rosa in the neighboring province of Laguna, to organize Rotary Community Corps recovery projects in the affected areas.
Rise From The Ashes is just one of many fundraisers that were organized by Filipino communities across Manitoba to help the Taal calamity victims. Asked to comment about this widespread community support, Ofiaza explained, “Because Filipinos are so connected, every time there is some kind of calamity, our minds and hearts are still with them.”
Kris Ontong is an awardee at the 2019 National Filipino-Canadian Heritage Event. He is the presenter of Barangay Manitoba on Facebook, and sits on the Executive Board of the Filipino Music & Arts Association of Canada, Inc. (FMAACI)