Monday, November 18

UCLA Samahang Pilipino helps out typhoon victims

Group creates balikbayan boxes, care packages with food and toiletries, to send to Philippines

Samahang Pilipino packs balikbayan boxes to help typhoon victims.

Samahang Pilipino packs balikbayan boxes to help typhoon victims. Samahang PIilipino

As a child, Edith Bell watched her mother pack and ship care packages, known as balikbayan boxes, to her family in the Philippines.

The practice is a common way for Filipino-American immigrants to support their loved ones back home.

Her mother also wired money to pay for her younger siblings’ education.

Based on these experiences, the fifth-year political science and international development studies student has seen firsthand the significance of the family in Filipino culture.

When a series of typhoons hit the Philippines, killing hundreds of people and displacing hundreds of thousands more, the community project coordinator for UCLA’s Samahang Pilipino got to work, packing balikbayan boxes and raising donations for victims of the disaster.

“(It’s hard) even for people to get back to that state of normalcy,” Bell said. “There are a lot of people who are living in schools in Manila (after being displaced), so now a lot of people can’t go to school.”

At the group’s first general meeting on Oct. 2, Bell screened a video of a young boy who said his family had lost all their possessions and were cold and hungry, she said.

By the end of the night, they had collected about $130, she added.

“It was very touching to collect so much money, because despite the economic downturn and rising student fees, students still wanted to give,” she said.

Bell said she spoke with Pearl Anne Pagarigan, president of Samahang, about what else they could do to help, so they went to buy brownie mix.

The finished product was called Barangay Brownies, named for the Tagalog word for community, symbolizing how the UCLA community came together to help the Filipino community. The treats were sold outside of the University Catholic Church, making more than $200 in profits, she said.

Since October is Filipino-American History Month, the group is also hosting an art gallery at Kerckhoff Hall, where they have set up a box for donations.

“A lot of our members have been directly or indirectly affected by the typhoons,” Pagarigan said.

She said that her friend had five cousins who drowned in the incident and another friend who recently came back from the Philippines and witnessed how high the water had reached.

While her own family lives in the northern area of the islands and was spared from the flooding, she said that she can’t be certain about their safety because so many disasters have been happening in southeast Asia.

“We are thinking globally and acting locally, but it’s also good to think about the greater context of the world,” she said. “This does affect a lot of Filipinos at UCLA, but it’s not just the Philippines that’s been affected by the recent natural disasters, and it’s good to talk about those as well.”

Samahang is planning an open mic night during the last week of October, where members can discuss topics such as the recent typhoons and donate money to the victims, she added.

The group intends to have a donation box at every event it plans this year, as well as bringing water jugs on Bruin Walk and in classes to collect money, said Paloma Doreza, cultural coordinator for the group. The proceeds will go to Ang Kalusugan para sa Pinoy, a nongovernmental organization that provides food, clothing and health services for the victims, she said.

As a child living in the Philippines, she witnessed the annual typhoon season, and the recent events have made her more passionate about getting the donation boxes out, she said.

She said that she remembers being scared, especially for her home. There was only so much her parents could pack in their jeep, so after each typhoon season, valuables such as photographs would be destroyed, and their yard would be littered with debris, she said. She’s also seen her dad and uncles moving through the flooded areas to get the family to safety or gather up livestock.

Janelle Viray, a third-year sociology student, is the internal social chair of Kappa Psi Epsilon, a Filipino sorority on campus that has also been collecting donations.

On Saturday, she said she joined members from her sorority and Samahang, as well as UCLA alumni and community members, to pack support packages for the community organization in Historic Filipino town called Search to Involve Pilipino Americans.

They symbolically called the packages balikbayan boxes. In them, volunteers packed items such as antibiotics, spam, corned beef, cereal, stuffed animals, notebooks and toiletries for the victims, she said.

“I feel like this is an event that affects all in the Filipino community, no matter where your family is. Just like when Katrina hit, it affected the whole nation. This has touched home for all of us. It’s the homeland,” she said.

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