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Effort under way at W&M to support typhoon recovery

Debris-strewn landscapes where entire towns once stood, families huddled together with arms entwined and tears wet on their cheeks: The news photos coming out of the Philippines this week show a nation devastated by a major storm and a people in dire need of aid.

The world is now mobilizing to help the hundreds of thousands who were impacted by Typhoon Haiyan, and William & Mary is joining that effort, asking College's family to become “heroes” for the Filipino family.

On Wednesday night, a vigil for the Philippines will be held in the Wren Chapel at 6 p.m. That same night, at 7:30 p.m., a Filipino film festival will take place in Tucker Theatre. Both events are open to the public and aim to raise funds for the people of the Philippines who not only suffered through the recent typhoon, but also endured a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month. The events are free, but attendees are asked to bring cash donations.

The two events are part of the WM Bayanihan: Philippines Recovery Initiative, organized by a group of faculty, staff and students. Bayanihan comes from the words Bayani (hero) and Bayan (nation) and is meant to promote the Filipino community spirit of being a hero for each other, said Francis Tanglao-Aguas.

“In the Filipino community, everybody is family,” said the Class of 2015 Associate Professor of Theatre and Africana Studies. “Everybody is taught no matter where they are raised in the whole world, in the Filipino family custom we are responsible for and to each other … that’s the essence of Bayanihan and that is what we are trying to introduce to our already thriving community spirit at W&M.”

The initiative actually has its roots in conversations that Tanglao-Aguas, who was born in the Philippines, had with members of the Filipino-American Student Association (FASA) last month in the wake of the earthquake. However, before those efforts could come to fruition, Typhoon Haiyan hit the nation, killing at least 1,700 with some estimating that number to eventually reach 10,000.

An interest meeting for the initiative was held on Tuesday, and people from across the university attended, including FASA leaders Jasmin Green ’15 and Paul Atienza ‘14, Elle Wilkinson from the physics department and Dorothy Reyes  from the dean’s office in Arts & Sciences. Also in attendance was English Professor Jacqui McLendon, whose “African American Nature Writers” class is helping with the initiative.

The group will continue its efforts following Wednesday’s events, with another memorial event expected to take place next week. Funds from this week’s efforts will go directly to a family in the Philippines that lost its house. More information about upcoming events and other ways to give may be found in the initiative’s Facebook group or on its webpage.

As the initiative continues to find ways to help recovery efforts, Tanglao-Aguas said that they aren’t just giving to the Philippines.

“As we help the Philippines, the Philippines and her culture and traditions are also teaching us Filipino concepts like Bayanihan, which is basically everybody being a hero for everybody,” he said. “I think that’s quite a wonderful way of seeing your fellow human beings, so in that respect, we take solace and comfort in our Filipino customs and traditions and traits.”