LONDON - Different generations of Filipino entertainers came together for a rare all-star benefit concert for the victims of tropical storm Sendong.
Stage actress Monique Wilson, best known for her star turn in "Miss Saigon" on the West End, performed with other artists at the packed Costa Dorada restaurant in Central London.
Wilson wowed the crowd with her acoustic performance of “Ako Ay Pilipino”.
“It’s amazing that we can gather together and raise funds for this cause,” she told ABS-CBN Europe. “But I think more importantly, we as Filipinos have to really stand up and speak out, and really question why this happen. And we must do everything in our power to know why, and to be able to change the situation back home.”
She also encouraged young Filipino artists to use their talents for positive action: “[Artists] have an amazing voice, and you can use your talents for a wider good. It has to serve a purpose. Sometimes your artistry has to go somewhere where it can serve.”
Artist Rebecca Grant, best known for her role in British television show Holby City, elegantly danced the Singkil with veteran performer-turned-talent agent Ronnie del Barrio, alongside UK-based Filipino dance troupe Lahing Kayumanggi.
Newly formed trio West End Mamas, composed of veteran stage actresses Gia Macuja Atchison, Cez Bonner and Maya Duffy, entertained the audience with popular Filipino songs like “Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas”.
Popular drag act Lady Imelda, 2011 winner of BBC's The Weakest Link and also a veteran stage actor, provided laughs and performed musical numbers to an enthusiastic audience.
Pop music was championed by young upcoming British Filipino artists Jordan Saflor, who was touted by BBC Radio 1 as one of the next big things in R&B, and Jaynee, who recently released her first record. Jaynee's mash up of OPM classic “Parang Di Ko Yata Kaya” and Adele's “Someone Like You” was one of the highlights of the evening.
The world of opera was represented by soprano Karlene Denolo Hayworth, who recently launched her own independent performance group Cartoon Opera, as well as Thea Tadiar who has performed with the English National Opera.
Others artists in the concert also included singer-songwriter Mark Villarosa, recording artist Natalie Chua, Philippine Barangay Folk Dance Troupe musician Rey Madriga, and musical theatre veterans Cleo Sagun and Viven Mercado Noakes.
“I’m truly grateful to all of [the performers], and of course, the audience. They came in droves. Hopefully this will go some way in helping our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the Philippines,” said Peps Villanueva, organizer of the Help Now Benefit Concert.
Proceeds from the event will go towards Philippine National Red Cross and other local groups in aid of storm victims in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City. Together with Pinoy Radio UK, they have so far raised over £2000 (roughly P135,000).
Tropical storm Sendong, also known as Washi, hit the Mindanao region last month causing devastation to several communities through flooding and landslides. Damage to local infrastructure and agriculture is currently estimated at P1.4 billion.
At the event, Wilson said she felt “angry” about the calamity in southern Philippines. Speaking to ABS-CBN Europe, she raised the issue of illegal logging which could have contributed to the extent of the devastation.
“We have to question illegal logging and deforestation. And we have to question all the infrastructure that’s not going right. And we have to be angry about it, otherwise we’re just going to forget about it until the next one happens,” she said.
“Sometimes we [Filipinos] get used to national disasters, and we just accept it. But we have to be more enraged about the situation. We really have to be worried why in the Philippines, where we have the most amazing people, talent, generosity, why disasters like this happen on the scale that they do.”
She also urged overseas Filipinos to speak up about the issues to instigate positive changes, saying: “We all have to do our bit to keep this discussion going and to keep questioning, or the situation will not change. We cannot let our fellow Filipinos suffer like this.”
According to latest statistics from the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Sendong has affected an estimated 120,233 families in the Mindanao region. The death toll currently stands at 1,257, with over 6,000 reported injuries and 176 still missing.