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Bieber brings cheer to Tacloban

International pop singing sensation Justin Bieber hugs a young survivor of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” during his visit to an evacuation center in Palo, Leyte province, on Tuesday, December 10. Dennis Jay Santos/Inquirer Mindanao

Publication Date : 11-12-2013


The teen heartthrob, who has been in the news lately for the wrong reasons, brings cheer to survivors of Supertyphoon Yolanda


Teen heartthrob Justin Bieber made a quick surprise visit to an evacuation centre here on Tuesday as he began a campaign to help victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).

The singer, adored by young fans worldwide for hits like “Baby”, arrived on a helicopter at past 1pm and rode to the nearby Tacloban Central Elementary School, where residents who lost their homes had been staying since Yolanda flattened the city and numerous other communities in central Philippines on November 8.

Bieber’s arrival caught the evacuees by surprise, as there was no announcement about a visit by an international entertainer.

He sang seven Christmas carols, including “Silent Night”, for the audience, mostly children, said Kate Donovan, a spokesperson for the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), one of three aid agencies expected to benefit from the pop idol’s charity work.

Bieber also sang a special song for a girl who turned 16 in the evacuation centre on Tuesday.

He hugged and kissed the celebrant, Dzyny Pagobo, who declared she was “happy and excited”.

“This is my best birthday,” Pagobo said, adding that seeing her singing idol in the flesh made her forget for a while the suffering that she and her family were going through in the aftermath of Yolanda.
Bieber also played basketball at an improvised sandlot court with some of the young boys, later hugging some of them and posing for photos.

Fund drive
He also gave away white T-shirts marked “#Give back to the Philippines”, the name of the fundraising campaign he has launched to help survivors of Yolanda.

“Unicef is very pleased that Justin Bieber wanted to visit Tacloban, and stopped by Central Elementary School, which has suffered a great deal of structural damage,” said Unicef emergency coordinator Angela Kearney.

“Justin brought a lot of joy, hope and cheer to the hundreds of children who were there,” she added.

Bieber’s visit lasted an hour. He arrived in Manila in the morning to begin the fundraising campaign.

“Most touching trip of my life,” the singer said on Twitter, also describing the performance as the last stop and “the most important one” of his global “Believe” tour.

“I saw the devastation firsthand today. They need our help,” he added.

Plea for support

In a video posted on the fundraising platform Prizeo, Bieber asked fans to help him support victims of Yolanda, which left nearly 6,000 people dead and close to 2,000 others missing.

Bieber is one of the several foreign and local celebrities and VIPs who have helped out.

Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys visited the Philippine Air Force base in Manila two weeks ago and distributed crayons and colouring books to children of families who arrived aboard mercy flights by the Philippine and US military from the typhoon-ravaged provinces of Leyte and Samar.

The R&B star was in Manila at the time for a concert.

Bieber said donors had a chance to win a prize: hanging out with him in a studio in Los Angeles while he works on his upcoming album.

“The typhoon has affected the lives of millions. Everyone knows I got the best fans in the world. The moment I heard about the tragedy a few weeks back, I knew that I could count on you guys to make a difference. So I’m looking for you guys to help me help them,” Bieber said.

Wil Productions business unit head Jay Montelibano said Bieber’s entourage rented an aircraft from TV host Willie Revillame on Tuesday morning for a flight to Tacloban.

The aircraft was flown by Capt. Dan Helkamp, who is under Revillame’s employ, Montelibano said.

“There were no Filipinos on board,” Montelibano said. “Even our pilot wasn’t allowed to take photos or divulge anything.”

Bad boy stunts
Bieber, 19, has been drawing flak recently for spray-painting walls after holding shows in Bogota in Colombia, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Brisbane in Australia.

Curiously, Bieber has used his interest in street art to help the survivors of Yolanda.

Together with friend Milk Tyson, Bieber recently spray-painted the words “Pray 4 Philippines”, his initials and an image of two clasped hands on a wall in Los Angeles.

He then posed, as if praying, in front of the graffiti, and posted a copy of the photo on his Instagram account.

According to a report on the entertainment website TMZA, Bieber planned to auction the used spray paint cans and the autographed photo of the graffiti to raise money for the storm victims.

Despite the criticism he is drawing for his “bad boy” stunts, Bieber has drawn admiration from local music artists for his humanitarian efforts in the interest of the typhoon survivors.

“I’m happy that he’s right there now, and I hope he inspires more of our [countrymen] to lend a helping hand, too,” singer-actor Christian Bautista told the Inquirer. “Now I want to fly to Tacloban, too.”

International singer Charice said she saluted Bieber for going straight to Tacloban to help the typhoon survivors.

“His kindness will surely uplift the spirit of the people there,” she said in a text message to the Inquirer. “This is one act of generosities that the Filipino people will remember.”

On his Twitter account, Parokya ni Edgar frontman Chito Miranda commended Bieber for doing a “good job”.

“I’m not a fan, but I think his intentions are good,” Miranda said. “[I admire him for his actions].”

Ogie Alcasid said his daughters were big fans of Bieber, and that he was ready to join the “club”.

“He is a blessed young man and the way he shares his blessings is truly admirable,” Alcasid said.—With reports from Allan Policarpio and agencies


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