My heart goes out to the people of Tacloban, Ormoc, Leyte and Cebu as well, and amid growing fears of how nature has proven to be such a formidable foe in recent years, I am also heartened by the sincere concern and generosity of other nations who have stepped up their humanitarian aid so that we Filipinos can cope. Yolanda was the single most devastating calamity to visit us in recent years, and to think that I always thought that we here in Northern Luzon were more vulnerable to deadly typhoons than those in the Visayas. Likewise, our government tried to manage the risks ahead through early warnings to people living in coastal areas and evacuation, but the system was not as efficiently carried out and many of our people ignorantly believed that they could beat the odds and weather the storm. I read about the account of the Romualdez family in Tacloban, and an officer of the PNP who was in charge of relief operations in Leyte there – they clearly knew the odds but they too miscalculated them and only by the grace of God were they saved. The aid was pouring in, but to get them to the people was not easy, and the authorities, trying hard as they could, could barely get their acts together.
Philippine Star’s president, Miguel Belmonte said they had about P5 million worth of relief goods to be shared with the people of Tacloban, but getting them across San Juanico Bridge was a big logistical problem because the bridge could not accommodate 10-wheelers.
In times of calamity such as Yolanda, my family always tries to do our share in giving, sometimes spearheading a miniscule fund-raising in our small pockets of friends to give to the victims. When Yolanda was finally unleashed last Friday, our annual Auto Focus Motor Show& Auto Expo event at the Mall of Asia (the 9th staging) was underway, having been launched a day before. All the displays had been put up days before, but with the early warning of a super typhoon headed our way, some of the exhibitors were asking last Wednesday if we as organizers could consider postponing the event for just a couple of days. With all the preparations now fully in place, this was no longer possible.
The next day, Friday, I braved the weather and was in the site together with my crew and it was a heart-breaking sight to see the beautiful display booths which took at least two to three days to put up being knocked down in a few swift hacks. Better this than risk the structures being completely destroyed or have them pose risks to life and property. Those tent materials, I was told by the suppliers were mostly rented from a Singaporean firm, and the risk clause the lease contract carried stipulated that in case of damage, the local contractor would pay P1 million for each tent damaged. All of the exhibitors coughed up good money for the display booths they put up, one automotive company shelling out as much as P3.7 million for its well-laid out exhibit, and it was heart-wrenching to see the contractor’s crew hacking away and knocking them down to the ground in less than an hour, transforming the MOA grounds into a wasteland, a virtual war zone miles away from the real battle ground.
I remember feeling so heartbroken, but upon reaching home and watching the news, I was also confronted by the realities of Yolanda in Tacloban and was immediately shamed by my own reactions. Our problems as organizers and the inconvenience which added costs to our exhibitors were miniscule compared to the problems of the people in this province, hearing about how their houses were reduced to matchsticks, how the town folks themselves were tossed around by the winds and flung about by the torrents. This was as real a calamity as they could ever face in a lifetime, and here we were crying about knocked down exhibit tents!
The next day, Saturday, everyone was mobilized to save the event, and it was no surprise that the whole industry, brave troopers that they were, showed up to rebuild their displays, less grand than the original ones to be sure, but approximating as best they could what they have put up days before. The sun was up, Yolanda’s fury had passed, the motor show was on again, and we still had two glorious days. SM Land’s senior vice president, David Rafael magnanimously agreed to give us a one-day extension, and so the event went on till Monday.
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Though this was strictly an exhibit, not a sales event, I understand the exhibitors had a good outing nonetheless because the motoring public, stranded at home for a day because of Yolanda, went out of the confines of their homes and headed for the biggest outdoor motor show in the country to test drive their dream cars at the 9th Auto Focus Motor Show& Auto Expo at MOA, enjoying the glorious sun. Indeed, when God closes a door, he opens a window to let the sunshine in.
A break from it all
It was a welcome respite from the woes of Yolanda when we went to see the Lettermen dinner concert last Wednesday at the Manila Hotel, the proceeds of which were for the typhoon victims. This was one of the many concerts of the Lettermen here in the country mounted by Ovation Productions, but each time the well-loved group visits, the romantic Pinoys come in full force to enjoy their love songs. This concert, sponsored in part by Air 21 (thank you so much to its president, Gerry Jara for the tickets for my wife Babes and myself), saw a full tent at the Manila Hotel grounds, the audience a mix of young and old, all dressed beautifully for a night of music. We were seated in the same table with Mr. Santos and wife (brother of my San Sebastian College classmate, Addy Santos, who I haven’t seen since high school days) and Miguel and Millet Belmonte together with Millet’s parents and enjoyed the dinner, a choice of salmon or very tender luscious beef which I had. The Tenors as we knew them is now down to two, and though ex-senator and now Manila Hotel president Joey Lina and former MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando missed the late Gen. Angie Reyes, they struck out on their own gamely and regaled the crowd with their own brand of music and humor. Bayani’s rendition of the classic Pitong Gatang was well applauded and Joey’s full tenor reduced the bustling hum around the full tent to a calm stillness.
Then the Lettermen trio came and gave us what we came for — a continuous flow of familiar love songs sung so beautifully, their voices blending into each other so effortlessly, exactly as we heard the Lettermen decades ago. And when the second half of the show came, the Christmas carols were likewise well applauded as the crowd sang along with Lettermen founder Tony Butala and the gang. The finale number, 12 Days of Christmas, had the Lettermen engaging the audience, picking out some of them to join them onstage to repeat their assigned line, and it was hilarious to see this impromptu part of the show on stage. Every one of them gamely participated and joined in the fun, and the audience just loved the whole show. I suspect we’ll see many of the faces there on the Lettermen’s next outing here.
Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.
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