Lone Waray* raising funds for his village

Alfonso Alao and his donation show box. The FilAm photo

Alfonso Alao and his donation shoe box. The FilAm photo

By Cristina DC Pastor

Alfonso Alao, 31, is a cashier at Phil-Am Restaurant and Grocery in Colonia, New Jersey. When he learned Typhoon Yolanda – international name: Haiyan – was about to descend on his province of Leyte, he quickly called his family in Albuera town, urging them to take care and prepare canned food and flash lights.

He was relieved to learn two days later that his parents and two siblings are spared, although the family residence, built by his grandfather, had its roof blown away. Their house may be top down, but better to be exposed to the elements than to lose a loved one is how the Alaos feel, grateful for God’s mercy.

“OK naman sila,” Al replied when The FilAm asked how his family is doing.

Although his family in Albuera is safe and sparsely surviving on stored canned goods and water, the same cannot be said of other provincemates. Al decided to retrieve an old shoe box, cover it in white paper and open a slit for money to go through. Some dollar bills and coins are now in this crude but charming donation box, which sits beside the grocery’s cash register. It’s been there for three days now.

“This is not for my family kasi OK naman kami,” he said. “Para ito sa mga kababayan na mas grabe talaga.”

Albuera (pop: approximately 40,000) is not as badly battered as Tacloban city (pop: about 220,000), the epicenter of the devastation. It takes an hour and a half to get from Albuera to the capital, said Al, who was born and raised there and came to the U.S. in 2003.

“Naawa lang ako kaya gumawa ako nito,” he explained his attempt at a fundraising nowhere near the star-studded concerts staged by Filipino American organizations in Los Angeles and an NBC-sponsored telethon in Washington D.C.

Donations are trickling in, mostly coming from customers. Coins that would normally go to the tip jar are now filling up Al’s box. Collected cash will be sent through Western Union.

“Hanggang ngayon marami pa sa amin hindi kumakain, gutom na sila,” said Al, who is single and who lives in the U.S. with an older sister.

He said food has not reached his town because the survivors mob the planes and ships carrying food, drinks and medicine.

“Pagdating sa amin wala na,” he said relaying information from his family. “Naawa lang talaga ako.”

*Waray is a native of the Visayas, especially those from Samar and Leyte provinces. Like Imelda Marcos, Alfonso Alao is a Waray.


  1. What a commendable deed to be undertaken by someone on his own volition. God bless his kind spirit.

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