When Typhoon Hiyan, also known as Typhoon Yolanda, struck the Philippines last November, its shockwaves were felt all the way in northeast Pennsylvania when Edna Cementina decided she had to do something for her homeland.
Hiyan was the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing more than 6,000 people. It is also the strongest storm recorded there at landfall and, unofficially, the strongest typhoon ever recorded in terms of wind speed. The devastation was so bad from Hiyan that as recently as January, bodies were still being found in the Philippine islands.
Cementina was born and raised in the Philippines, having emigrated to the United States when she was 11 years old. She readily admits that her heart is still there and, as a result, she decided to create the We Care Philippines Relief Fund, a non-profit organization to help her native country recover from Hiyan’s devastation.
A benefit dinner and cabaret for the We Care Philippines Relief Fund will be held on Saturday, March 8, at the Ramada Clarks Summit, 820 Northern Blvd. Doors will open at 6 p.m. while a three-course dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. A love and friendship-themed cabaret performance will be held from 7-10 p.m.
“The typhoon wiped out two thirds of the islands,” Cementina said. “Being from there, and seeing the poverty already that’s been there and just looking and seeing the news of how the country is still struggling after the fact, I knew I had to do something.”
Cementina explained that all funds raised during the dinner and cabaret will be given to the Red Cross, who will then use them in the Philippines.
“There are a lot of organizations we could help out but the Red Cross is quick, easy and they go all over the world,” she said. “Running a non-profit is a lot of work but I am so blessed to be able to do what I can. I can be a role model to my own children as well and give them insight that if we can make any person back home smile, it is worth it. They aren’t trying to build a mansion, they are just trying to get clean food and clean water on the table and a roof over their heads.”
Devastation from Hiyan spread throughout the Philippine islands, destroying many buildings and piling up many cars. Low-lying areas on the eastern side of Tacloban City, 360 miles southeast of Manila, were the hardest hit, with some areas completely washed away. Flooding from the typhoon extended inland for more than half a mile and city administrators claimed that roughly 90 percent of the city was destroyed. According to CNN, the devastation from Hiyan was “off the scale and apocalyptic.”
“Every penny that we can get to help out is important,” Cementina said. “I am all about the children because they are our future and seeing them in the rubble and poorest of all situations, they can still have a smile on their faces.”
Tickets for the We Care Philippines benefit are $40 per person, which includes a three-course meal, two drinks and the cabaret performance. Tickets will be sold at the door or can be reserved by calling the Ramada Clarks Summit at 570-586-2730.