Balikatan: Montreal Goes ‘Shoulder to Shoulder ‘ to Help Victims of Typhoon Haiyan

Phil Penlosa and Alex Gelbert – founders of the hot, new video production start-up Let There Be – have jump-started a relief initiative to combat the devastating after-effects of Typhoon Haiyan. The initiative, known as Balikatan Montreal, which means shoulder to shoulder in tagalog, has brought together a network of Montrealers dedicated to a full year of fundraising by hosting a series of philanthropic events.

Last Thursday, Balikan hosted their inaugural meeting, a successful union of influencers who were ready to join the movement and open their wallets for the cause. Amongst the notable attendees was the Ambassador of the Philippines, Eric Tamayo, who spoke about the significant contribution Canada has made since the tragic natural disaster that left so many from the island of Bohol with nothing. A Gawad Kalinga Canada representative shared some shocking figures, such as the death toll (5,000+) and its impact on the Filipino community. All those involved in re-building emphasized the importance of focusing on infrastructure, which is the most visible and palpable expression of transformation for the residents.

Accordingly, Balikatan’s first and foremost objective is to build homes for those affected by the typhoon. In partnership with Gawad Kalinga Canada, a charity recognized by Oxford and Harvard Universities for their efficacy in reconstructing houses in affected areas, Balikatan will help to bring a home back to families who lost theirs in the storm. Kathryn Chovanes, who helped form Balikatan Montreal alongside Phil Penalosa, Veraida Bermejo and Jennifer Flores, took the stage to explain how she will be overseeing the project and informing donors of the progress being made. Kathryn explained that each recipient family will not only aid in the construction of their own home, but in the homes of future recipients. Phil will be on the ground in the Philippines to lay down the foundation and capture each milestone in the way he knows best: video.

When asked about his five-year-term goal, Phil responded with “sustainability for everyone.”  Each house built by Balikatan will contain a farm that will provide enough food for the family. Through Gawad Kalinga Canada “we hope to make this village the centerpiece of a future Canadian themed agricultural/touristic/social enterprise hub in the general community. This will be one of 25 planned Centres for Social Enterprise, Innovation, and Agrarian Reform designed to raise 500,000 social entrepreneurs and farmer entrepreneurs, resulting in five million jobs by 2024.”

A little bit of seed money can go a long way; each new home built by Balikatan costs a mere $2,700 to build. With $15,000 already raised through the first event, Balikatan will be able to provide five new homes for families in need. Most of you reading this are most likely interested in helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan; Balikatan gives Montrealers the opportunity to do good while having fun – a win-win for all, and a step towards a rebuilt, sustainable Philippines.

Look out for Balikatan’s next event, a concert on December 14th at La Tulipe, with DJ Flores, R&B and pop artist Jason Ray, among other indie artists. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

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