DUBAI // As Filipinos prepare to celebrate a festival in Dubai on Friday, plans are now in place for a new standing disaster relief fund.
"After four typhoons swept through various parts of our country last year, it's time to celebrate and have fun," said Alan Bacason, the president of FilCom, which represents Filipino community groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. "But we should also think about the future and raise some funds in case of calamities."
To kickstart the fund drive, the community is preparing for the Bayanihan Festival Fiesta in Dubai. It will feature a parade of banners, dancing and music, a mini bazaar and Palarong Pinoy, a traditional Filipino game.
"The Bayanihan festival has become a tradition for the Filipino community in Dubai," Mr Bacason said.
"Bayanihan is an old custom wherein a group of Filipinos help carry one's house, a nipa hut, on their shoulders to move it to another place. The family throws a fiesta or a party for their friends and family to celebrate."
FilCom's vice president, Matilyn Bagunu, said some of the money raised by the festival would go towards the new disaster fund.
When four typhoons hit the country last year, Filipino groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates had to scramble to raise funds for the flood victims.
In October, bureaucratic hold hold-ups prevented FilCom from sending cash donations. Although some individuals and groups managed to send cash and boxes of relief goods, it was unable to launch a fundraiser.
When tropical storm Washi, known locally as Sendong, hit Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City in December, pledges and cash donations from various community groups were collected and sent directly to the Philippine Red Cross and two major TV networks GMA-7 and ABS-CBN in Manila.
And it was the Philippine Business Council - not the FilCom - that organised Hakbang Buhay ("Walk for Life") on January 6. The walk's proceeds, totalling almost Dh68,000, have been handed to the UAE Red Crescent Authority.
"But these calamities and the relief operations have united various groups, regardless of their affiliation or religious beliefs," said Mr Bacason. "When we helped the Sendong victims, we kept the bayanihan spirit alive."
"Bayanihan" is derived from two Filipino words: bayani, meaning hero, and bayan, meaning nation. In a wider sense, it refers to helping people in times of need and the spirit of leadership, volunteering and a sense of unity.
The festival will be held on Friday from 9am to 8pm at the Zabeel Park Megabowl.