Faculty, students organize Typhoon Relief Read-a-Thon to fundraise for Philippines

Knowing first-hand the destruction a typhoon can wreak, Dominique Cagalanan knew she needed to find a way to help, as soon as  heard about the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

“I spent years there with those people,” she said. “I know exactly what they’re going through, I know what those villages were before. I have to do something.”

Cagalanan, a visiting professor in the Geography department, whose research focuses on the Philippines, contacted the Red Cross to see if she could set up a fundraising event. The Red Cross had already reached out to the on-campus Filipino Student Association, and the three then collaborated to organize the Typhoon Relief Read-a-thon Thursday at the Rock.

“Of course the primary goal is to raise money to send to the Philippines, but we also wanted to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness of Filipino culture in general,” Cagalanan said.

The event featured an open mic allowing students, faculty and community members to take the stage, and ask their friends to make a financial pledge for every item they read. People could read poems and stories they wrote or read from a prepared collection of works by Filipino or Filipino-American authors.

Some students, like sophomore Rachel Berquist, decided to sing and play the guitar.

“I hope this event really builds awareness in a way that people can enjoy themselves and entertain themselves but still remember why this is important,” she said.

For Cagalanan, the desire to help is personal. She focuses her research on forest conservation and rural livelihood development and poverty alleviation in the Visayan region where the typhoon hit. While conducting research, she spent about three years living in the Philippines and met her husband during that time.

“I feel like they’ve adopted me into their culture, so I feel like a Filipina, even though I’m not,” she said.

This event is just one of many the Filipino Student Association has planned throughout the next few months to raise money to send through the American Red Cross Philippines, because the organization is familiar with the people and understands how to distribute the money, according to Filipino Student Association president M.B. Miranda.

FSA will be selling customized tank tops created by Give Tanks, with a customized logo on the front with the Filipino sun selling for $10 at the Winter Wonderland Canes Night Live event Friday. All proceeds will go to the Red Cross.

“To me personally, you see natural disasters all the time in different countries, and you always want to donate, you always want to help as much as you can, but there’s something different seeing it happen to your own people,” Miranda said.

For more information on fundraising opportunities and to make a donation, visit

December 5, 2013


Ashley Martinez

Ashley Martinez is a senior majoring in journalism and psychology, which have sharpened her people-watching skills. She has worked as a staff writer, copy editor, assistant editor and is now the Edge arts and entertainment editor at The Miami Hurricane. She serves as the president of UM's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Her work has been featured in The Hurricane, Distraction Magazine, The Communique, Gables Home Page and The Miami Herald. When she's not working on a story, she loves going to the theatre and singing show tunes.

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