Friday, April 4, 2014

Typhoon Haiyan, The Pasta King, and the Operation Typhoon Haiyan Committee: A Post-Event Post

When Art Ibleto, aka The Pasta King of Sonoma County, heard about the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda last year, he called his friend, Chris Smith, at the local paper, The Press Democrat, and asked him to help him connect with the Filipino community in Sonoma County. There are many Filipino organizations in Sonoma County but only the Filipino American Community of Sonoma County, Inc (FACSCI) has its own physical location in Fulton and is the oldest organization in the county. Chris Smith contacted FACSCI and a meeting with Mr. Ibleto was set up.

Art Ibleto is probably the most generous community donor who helps organizations of all kinds raise funds for causes via his Pasta and Polenta Feeds.  When the Japanese tsunami hit three years ago, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the folks at Enmanji Temple in Sebastopol were also supported by Mr. Ibleto. When JACL and Enmanji Temple members heard that Mr. Ibleto wants to host a fundraiser for Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, they offered the Temple as the venue for a Typhoon Haiyan fundraiser.

In this coming together between Mr. Ibleto and the Japanese American community, the Operation Typhoon Haiyan Committee (OTHC) - an alliance of various Fil Am organizations and individuals - went to work to organize the event.

But alas, it only takes one person to throw a curve ball to get plans off-track. And the Pasta feed almost didn't happen because of one individual's confusion or misperceptions. Internal ethnic community politics shouldn't even figure in this event but it did. Fortunately, Mr. Ibleto and Chris Smith were able to see through this temporary set-back and the fundraiser finally happened on March 30th; but it did cost us almost three months of planning time.

With one month planning time to work with, the core team and the OTHC volunteers went to work like efficient and productive busy bees working on making honey. We told ourselves that our Kapwa back home need all kinds of support and that we should be able to rise above the community politics that threaten always to undo the best of our intentions. We told ourselves "no drama, please" and we promised ourselves to have fun, to spread the word, and raise a lot of money for the Yellow Boat of Hope FOundation and the Panay Bukidnon communities.

We prepared an FAQ to answer all the questions about our protocols and questions about the two beneficiaries. We made sure that all transactions are transparent and accountability is a priority.

But most of all, what all of us demonstrated are the Filipino core values of pakikipag-kapwa tao (shared Self), and kagandahang loob (beauty of Spirit). Indeed the event turned out to be colorful, joyful, and delicious! Mr. Ibleto was in his element; he stepped away from the kitchen to greet the event-goers and posed for photos with his new and old fans in the Filipino community. Chris Smith brought his two Japanese exchange students who helped serve the dinner and he enjoyed posing for photos as well. For what is a Filipino event without kodakan?

Enmanji Temple was transformed momentarily into a Filipino cultural hub -- with kulintang/kulintronica music by Ron Quesada, a big table full of bibingka, leche flan, maja blanca, a long table of raffle prizes, and vendor tables of beautiful ethnic textiles, woven banigs/mats, Tiboli jewelry, kimonas, malongs, books, and others.

People opened their hearts and purses and together we raised more than $7000. Donations continue to arrive in the mail.

Thank you, Mr. Ibleto and Chris Smith. Thank you, Sonoma County!

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