Kapit lang.

Some de-lata goods donated to victims of the typhoon had notes like “Kapit lang” (hold on), “Wag mawalan ng pag-asa” (don’t lose hope) and “Wag susuko” (don’t give up).

My first set of tears following Aling Yolanda’s aftermath in Central Philippines was when a dear friend pleaded for help on Facebook Nov. 11. He had been desperately trying to get information from all sources possible about his family in Dulag, Leyte. He writes, “I saw in the news how the typhoon destroyed the Palo Cathedral, a humongous structure. I wept. There is no way that our house can stand a chance.”

Even with open lines of communication, I pray every day for the safety of my family 5,000 miles away. I couldn’t even begin to imagine putting myself in Arjay’s shoes.

Maui had several fundraisers for the American Red Cross. The Kain Na! Kokua for the Philippines was a sold-out event Nov. 17. The event was originally intended for the victims of the earthquake that shook Bohol. A month in the planning, the organizers were compelled to extend the outreach to typhoon Yolanda victims.

Eighteen amazing chefs from all over Maui, led by Chef Jojo Vasquez of the Plantation House, got together and presented plates of modern and traditional Filipino dishes. It was a feast like no other.

I urge readers that the next time you have a chance to express mahalo to any of these chefs, please do:
· Anton Haines of Pacific O
· Christopher Galiciano of Four Seasons Resort
· Elizabeth McDonald of Mala Lahaina
· Evelyn of Ilocandia Grocery
· Gevin Utrillo of Japengo
· Jake Belmonte of Maui Culinary Academy
· James Simpliciano of Simplifresh
· Joey Macadangdang of Roy’s Kaanapali,
· Jojo Vasquez of The Plantation House
· Larry Badua of Badua’s Catering
· Mark Ellman of Mala and Honu Restaurants
· Mike Burman of the Ritz-Carlton
· Randy Cruz of Randy’s Catering
· Riko Bartolome of Asia-Vous
· Roger Setler of Four Seasons
· Sheldon Simeon of Mala Wailea
· Tante Urban of Tante’s Island Cuisine, and
· Tylun Pang of Fairmont Kea Lani

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Their masterpieces include renditions of binagoongan salmon, pusit guisado, made-to-order prawn crepes, pato (duck) sisig with fiery chili/adobo duck sonota, and kare-kare meatballs.

While flavors were competing on taste buds, the other notable aspect of the fundraiser was that the chefs were there not to outdo each other as expected from culinary cook-offs. All the chefs were there to serve food to guests who have donated for a great cause. They were there for unified mission and carried out a vision to lend out help.

The chefs and their staff – all volunteered their time and resources, to raise funds for our kababayans. A thank you is not enough.

Earlier that Sunday, the Binhi At Ani Community Center became a ‘drop off’ point for the public. Some volunteers were counting pennies. I heard reports that kids gave up their allowance and wait staff donated their collected tips.

Multiple vehicles drove in and out, and a local radio station was broadcasting the event live. A community does come together in time of need. It was heartwarming to say the least.

As for my friend Arjay, he later found out that his entire family survived. Material things have been destroyed and lost, but lives were spared. For many other families, that obviously wasn’t the case.

At press time, Arjay and a crew would have fed about 1,000 plus families on Leyte from donations he collected from his personal network. Personally, he was a sure way that I know my pennies would be converted in tummies. I admire his strength and perseverance to come face to face with the wrath that destroyed his hometown.

The rebuilding begins, and on Maui, we’ll hold on with the rest.

I have nothing else to say but kapit lang. We will all get through this.

To view some of the sample dishes and for more photos from the Kain Na! event, log on to kitzulueta.com.

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View photos from the sold-out Kain Na! Event:
Click on image