Local fundraiser brings in $5,000 dollars for Typhoon Haiyan victims, to be matched by the Canadian Red Cross

Joey Pacis hosts the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fundraiser. Photo by Alycia Sundar

Joey Pacis hosts the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fundraiser. Photo by Alycia Sundar

As the Lower Mainland becomes consumed with holiday cheer, not many Vancouverites consider the fact that the number of displaced people in the Philippines nearly matches Vancouver’s population. Millions don’t have beds to sleep in after Typhoon Haiyan devastated not only the city of Tacloban, but six surrounding islands, flattening communities and leaving 10s of thousands dead.

Typhoon Haiyan is the worst storm on record, and despite international relief efforts after it hit on Nov. 8, victims are left without food, water, electricity and clothing.

photo by Alycia Sundar

photo by Alycia Sundar

Saturday, Nov. 23, a fundraising event and silent auction was hosted at the Executive Inn in Coquitlam in order to raise funds for the relief efforts, and the Canadian Red Cross agreed to match the proceeds raised by the event. The event raised over $5,000 between ticket sales and the silent auction, which included Seacret Spa and Nissan gift baskets, White Spot gift cards and row 10 seats to the Canucks vs. Phoenix Coyotes game in two weeks.

The event was hosted by the well-known Filipino jazz/pop artist Joey Pacis (Joey Albert), 53, and her all-girl group, Manila Band. Pacis says that the most important part of the event was being able to “provide an opportunity for people to help.” The Manila-born pop star is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the natural disaster, which has claimed up to 10,000 lives and counting.

“Every Filipino that leaves [the Philippines] doesn’t leave because they want to,” she said. “Ninety per cent of the Filipinos that leave our country leave to find a better life.”

The magnitude of disparity in the Philippines is shocking. So many people have lost everything, resulting widespread looting and violence. Much of the population is in a state of anarchy.

“I can’t even take a bath, and enjoy my water without thinking about people that don’t have any,” Pacis said, her voice breaking. “I can’t eat my food, without thinking about people who don’t have any.”

The most overwhelming part is what Pacis describes as a feeling of helplessness, being so far away from home. Pacis spent all day Saturday collecting food and clothing donations in Port Moody, after which she went to the hotel to begin setting up for the fundraiser.

After hours of volunteering, Pacis delivered a high-energy performance, ending the night with her hit single “Tell Me.” Monday, she left for San Francisco to perform at another relief fundraiser for her country. The most fulfilling part for her is “being able to say [she] did something,” and being able to give others an opportunity to say the same thing is twice as fulfilling for the artist.

The event was a definite success: guests enjoyed dinner, drinks and dancing until about 1 a.m. The event space was decorated full-tilt with holiday decor, spirit and joy which starkly contrasts the trauma of victims overseas.

At this point, the LA Times reports that President Benigno Aquino III has declared a state of “national calamity”, in order to free up emergency government funds, but it wont even begin to help the countless families who are starving and homeless.

“So what all of this really does, is give the helpless Filipinos here an opportunity to help,” says Pacis. “Every little bit helps.”

To donate to the UNHCR’s refugee agency click here.

Alycia Sundar

Pocket sized fury. A west coast journalism student with a love for food and travel.

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