Migrant Filipinos held a rally Trafalgar Square in London on Sunday to thank the UK government and the public for helping victims of super typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. Photo by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
LONDON — At Trafalgar Square on Sunday, two words were repeatedly read and spoken. They were written on banners and placards, and came out of the mouths of a grateful people.
At a thanksgiving rally, hundreds of Filipinos in the United Kingdom expressed their gratitude to the British government and people for the help they gave the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the country and killed thousands.
Thelma Potente-Manville, who hails from storm-hit Palo, Leyte, was among those who attended the demonstration.
“Nagpapasalamat talaga ako. Walang tutulad sa kanila. Nagpapasalamat talaga ako na nakatulong sila sa atin (I really thank the British people. They’re incomparable. I’m really thankful that they helped us),” she said while trying to hold back her tears.
In a speech at the ceremony, Rene Lucero of Guiuan, Samar recounted how lost and helpless he felt when the typhoon struck and he could not contact his family for several days. He told the crowd that he almost lost hope after seeing the scale of Haiyan’s devastation.
But then he was awed by the “unprecedented generosity” of the UK government, which pledged millions of pounds in aid, and the British people, who responded overwhelmingly to major charities’ appeal for donations.
“On behalf of the Filipinos back home and around the world, I would like to offer you my heartfelt thanks for your unstinting generosity,” Lucero said, his voice choking. “We may have been broken, but you have empowered us and gave us hope to move on.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I say, maraming salamat po.”
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a group of 14 British charities, has so far raised £81 million for the Philippine typhoon aid appeal.
Efforts like this, together with aid from the government, have made the UK the biggest donor to the Philippines after Haiyan, according to Philippine Ambassador Enrique Manalo.
He cited in particular the message of condolence and personal donation of Queen Elizabeth II to the British Red Cross.
“The assistance provided by the public here in the United Kingdom, combined with the assistance and deployment of personnel and assets by the British government, was an eloquent testimony to both the British people’s generosity and the strong bilateral relations and long-standing friendship between our two countries and peoples,” Manalo said.
“We have been deeply moved by all these expressions of support and sympathy, and we draw inspiration from them as we face the more difficult task of rehabilitation.”
In response, the DEC’s Matthew Warnock-Parkes also thanked the Filipino community.
"We really want to say thank you to the Filipino community today for showing such an incredible positive spirit,” he said. “The international community and the Filipino community have shown that together, we are stronger.”