LONDON - Ramon Tenoso’s voice broke and he struggled to hold back his tears when he welcomed guests to his group’s Christmas party last weekend.
The hall was quiet and the mood somber as he spoke about the long road to recovery for Filipinos who suffered from Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms in history that killed more than 6,000 people.
“It will take some time, perhaps years, to rebuild what was destroyed,” said Tenoso, playwright and director of Philippine Theatre-UK, the only Filipino theatre group here. “All we know is that economically, socially, and politically, our country is struggling to overcome the harsh realities.”
It was a night of Filipino talent, dancing, and at the same time, fundraising for the typhoon’s survivors—just one of many efforts of the Filipino community in Britain since Haiyan, locally named Yolanda, struck the Philippines more than a month ago.
Since then, various Filipino groups have been holding fundraising events such as concerts to help their storm-hit homeland.
At Philippine Theatre-UK’s party, pins bearing the design of a candle with colors of the Philippine flag were sold to raise money for typhoon survivors.
“The flame represents the one thing that the typhoon did not destroy, one thing that the typhoon did not kill: our perseverance, optimism, and faith,” Tenoso said. “We will rise again.”
Amid the loud celebration, helping the storm’s survivors also became the theme of the Christmas celebration of a group of Filipino lesbians in the UK.
Members of the Filipino Movement or FilMo serenaded guests with traditional Philippine Christmas songs to ask for donations.
As in previous years, the hall was packed with the group’s members and supporters—a perfect opportunity to raise funds.
“They come here to celebrate instead of cooking on their own. They enjoy celebrating Christmas with FilMo,” said Vanz Bio, the event’s organiser.
The event was also an opportunity for Filipinos, most of whom are busy with work to earn a living for their families back home, to come together.
“I’m very, very happy because I get to be with fellow Filipinos,” said Marilou Carlos, a housekeeper. “And there’s lots of food.”
As they celebrate Christmas thousands of miles away from home with singing, dancing, and Filipino food, Filipinos in London say they will never forget their countrymen at a time of great need.