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Quieter Christmas in Manila as funds go toward typhoon victims

Publication Date : 23-12-2013


Christmas has always been a lavish affair in the Philippines. Malls begin playing Christmas carols as early as October, when consumers duly sway to the beat of commerce and set off on shopping sprees that stretch well into the first weeks of January.

This season, however, celebrations in Metro Manila have been muted, as those who have so much give to those Typhoon Haiyan left with nearly nothing.

Haiyan pummelled central Philippines on November 8, cutting a large swathe of destruction in Samar and Leyte provinces.  It levelled Tacloban in Leyte, and left at least 6,000 dead in the city of 200,000.

“Most companies here in the Philippines have chosen to either tame their parties or totally cancel them,” Ivy Lisa Mendoza, managing director of events organising firm MediaSense, told The Straits Times. “Some have asked their employees' opinion before cancelling. Most, however, cancelled the parties based on management decision.”

San Miguel, the country’s largest food, beverage and packaging company, did away with its annual Christmas party for thousands of its employees at its headquarters in Metro Manila, and asked professional basketball players in its roster to auction off their jerseys and other memorabilia.

San Miguel president Ramon Ang also urged the company’s various divisions to refrain from holding their individual parties or, if they must, to instead organise intimate, muted gatherings outside the company’s premises.

The company was able to raise at least 1.6 million pesos (US$33,720) through these initiatives, Camille Buenaventura, executive director of San Miguel Foundation, told The Straits Times.

“The employees were okay with it because many of their fellow employees in Tacloban were affected by the typhoon. There were a few who said, ‘It’s already a lonely Christmas. Why make it worse?’ The majority, however, were okay with it,” said Buenaventura.

San Miguel has a big field office in Tacloban, and most of its employees’ homes in the city were destroyed.

Philippine Airlines and media giant ABS-CBN likewise reallocated the money they would otherwise have spent on Christmas parties to foundations funding relief and reconstruction efforts in areas affected by Haiyan.

Telecom giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), for its part, set up a “Project Hero” programme that allowed its employees to donate part of their salaries to Haiyan victims.

The company’s various divisions were also asked to give up their Christmas party budgets of 300 pesos (US$6.71) per staff, and most heeded the call.

PLDT vice-president Butch Jimenez said “Project Hero” raised about 10 million pesos.

“Everyone saw what happened in Tacloban, and the sorrow and gloom from there just blanketed the entire country.  It made everyone appreciate how much they have, no matter how little, and that made giving easier,” said PLDT’s public relations manager Jay-Anne Encarnado.


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