Students Gather in Song to Support Philippines Relief

Connor Ryan/Ram Realm

Connor Ryan/Ram Realm

Almost exactly one year after Fordham students packed the second floor of the McGinley Center, joyfully bound by song and dance — some performing, most simply watching, but all raising money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy — the stage was set for another benefit concert.

This time, the proceeds would go toward relief efforts in the Philippines, where a deadly typhoon had killed 5,600 people and left another 3.8 million homeless two weeks before.

This year’s concert raised a mere $228 for the Catholic Relief Services to put toward Typhoon Haiyan recovery efforts — significantly less than last year’s profit margin of $3,200.

Still, each of the 20 or students students who  took the Collins Auditorium stage were enthusiastic about being there.

Christina Millamena, GSB ’15, was among them.

“I guess knowing that my family in the Philippines could’ve been affected made me all the more eager to be a part of it,” she said in an interview. “For me, singing a song, singing ‘The Prayer,’ which is essentially a prayer for guidance, was the most natural thing to do.”

Millamena says her aunt and uncle, living in the Philippines, escaped the wrath of the typhoon unharmed. But she says her aunt has known many people who have lost loved ones as a result of the storm.

“The benefit was a way for me to give back in a way I knew I could,” Millamena said. “When things like this happen and it’s uncontrollable, it’s just right to do whatever you can to help out.”

VIDEO: Millamena sings ‘The Prayer’ during the benefit concert.

A number of student folk bands performed a selection of original songs and covers. Among these bands was the seven-member Keating Steps.

VIDEO: The Keating Steps performs an original song. 

Vanessa Agovida, FCRH ’16, recited the original poem “Before the Airport.” She began writing in the eighth grade about what it was like to say goodbye to her grandmother, who lived in the Philippines.

“I suppose what I was trying to capture is the ache that comes from realizing that you’re probably saying goodbye to a loved one for the last time,” she said before the event. “A lot of my close friends’ parents are in the same situation: their parents immigrated here as adults, and most of their relatives live in the Philippines. It’s too expensive to go back often, so every time you leave could be technically be the last time.”

VIDEO: Agovida recites “Before the Airport.” (Needs hyperlink)

Msgr. Joseph G. Quinn, vice president of Mission and Ministry at Fordham, began the event by offering a prayer, followed by a brief introductory welcome.

“You’re in for a wonderful treat tonight,” he said. “[There are] more performers than I can count up — they almost outnumber the numbers I see before me tonight.”

Indeed, the audience gathered for the event was relatively small compared to the enthusiastic cluster of the 20 or so performers huddled in one corner of the auditorium’s seating area.

But Muhammad Sarwar, GSB ’14 and one of the audience members present, said that the event should still be considered a success.

“Fordham’s mission calls for us to be men and women for others, and the showcase certainly shows that we are,” he said.

The benefit concert was the brainchild of Emily Pandise, FCRH ’14 and Caroline Reichert, FCRH ’15. They are president and vice president, respectively, of the Mimes and Mummers, perhaps the most high-profile on-campus theater group.

“We talked about [the showcase] back in August and then when the typhoon happened, Caroline and I got on the phone and said, ‘This is something that we should do,'” Pandise said. “We weren’t necessarily waiting for disaster to strike, but we saw and opportunity.”

Had the typhoon not happened, would Fordham have seen a showcase this semester?

“Probably not,” Pandise said.

But, she says, these showcasetype benefit concerts have proven to be effective in terms of generating money on campus for a particular cause.

“Sometimes it’s more effective to charge admission for something that people want to see than ask for money outright, especially for college students,” she said. “I think a lot of the community would rather give $3 to see their friend’s band play or see someone perform instead of just making a donation.”

Paolo Perez, FCLC ’15 and the president of Fordham’s Philippine-American Club (FUPAC), also played a part in planning the showcase.

“The Mimes were kind enough to invite me over to this,” he said. “They asked me about the idea of having a benefit concert for the Philippines in light of what happened, and I was more than happy to jump on the project.”

Perez added, speaking of the event: “Asking for donations is good, but at least this way [students] get something out of it — they get a nice little show.”

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