‘Halo-halo’ takes Peninsula world by storm
The target was to raise $500,000 to help the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” that hit the Philippines hard on Nov. 8, 2013.
The Peninsula Hotels, however, was able to collect more, making the Yolanda campaign the biggest fundraising event so far of the luxury hotel group, according to The Peninsula Manila general manager Sonja F. Vodusek.
Vodusek spearheaded the program, spurred by the desire to contribute to the massive effort to bring the Yolanda-hit areas and residents back on their feet.
The fundraising campaign was called “Hope for the Philippines.” Through this program, guests in all nine Peninsula hotels—Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Bangkok and Manila—were offered a special menu of Filipino favorites from Nov. 22, 2013 to Jan. 31 this year, the proceeds of which would go to rebuild homes and communities in the typhoon-hit areas.
The star of the menu was the halo-halo and the Philippine-themed “Tea of Hope,” which proved to be big hits with the guests, as well as the staff members of the different properties.
Halo-halo was chosen as it is considered iconic and emblematic of the Philippines. It is also fun, festive and easy to replicate in all kitchens.
In Bangkok, for example, the employees had a halo-halo appreciation day, during which the employees made and then bought their own halo-halo, which featured ingredients flown in from the Philippines.
In Hong Kong, the chilly weather did not help sell a lot of halo-halo, but the Philippine Tea of Hope was a huge success. Over 200 of the three-tiered tea sets were sold. The sets contained bistek Tagalog tortilla wrap, chicken empanada, egg salad and smoked salmon sandwich, pan de sal with pulled pork adobo and slaw, Baguio vegetable spring roll, traditional Pinoy leche flan, coconut dome, caramelized banana cashew tart, mango opera cake, coconut cookies and mango scones with calamansi curd.
“It was a very Pinoy twist to the campaign, a way of branding the Philippines in another way,” Vodusek says.
The “Hope for the Philippines” also comprised of a donation for each guest stay and the “Trees of Hope” in each hotel.
The Peninsula Hong Kong ended up with the biggest contribution at $181,517, followed by The Peninsula Manila at $173,961.81, and The Peninsula Tokyo at $102,263.77.
The campaign also marked the first time that the halo-halo was offered in all nine Peninsula hotels at the same time.
The “Hope for the Philippines” campaign kicked off on Nov. 15, 2013 in the Philippines and Nov. 22 in the other properties. It concluded on Jan. 31, giving The Peninsula Manila the funds it needed to proceed with the plan to put up a Peninsula village in the Visayas, in partnership with Gawad Kalinga.
Gawad Kalinga was founded in 2003, and The Peninsula Manila has been working with the group since 2008.
According to Vodusek, guests around the world and the Peninsula management passionately responded to the call to help in the “Yolanda” rehabilitation because Filipinos “touch everybody.”
“Filipinos are all over. From the medical care personnel to the professionals and domestic help, somebody has been touched by a Filipino,” says Vodusek, who has been working with Filipinos throughout her career. “That is why the generosity has been overwhelming.”
The Hope for Japan, which was launched after a series of disasters hit that country, was the first group-wide effort where some $500,000 was raised.
When Vodusek and her team proposed that a similar campaign be implemented for the Philippines, the group board did not hesitate and threw its full support behind the program.
Foremost on everyone’s minds, she says, was how to help, which was why the campaign was embraced wholeheartedly.
The next stage is for the team to go to the stricken areas and identify exactly where the Peninsula village will be set up.
“Once we get all the figures, we will work with the Gawad Kalinga team and discuss options on where to build. We want to make sure that the site for the Peninsula Manila Village is clear,” Vodusek says. “Our long-term vision is to put up a school there, and have a farm, just to keep that sustainability.”
Thus, Vodusek says, The Peninsula Manila will gear all of its fundraising activities toward financing the village. These include the Pink Month in October that seeks to raise breast cancer awareness, and the Christmas programs.
Vodusek adds that The Peninsula Manila will not just provide cold cash to establish the Peninsula village. What is more important, she says, is for the spirit of charity to live in the hearts of the employees and express this by being intimately involved in the outreach programs.
“Charity begins at home,” Vodusek says, “We plan to fly our employees over there so that there will be a buy-in to the program. We have done other programs, but never on this scale.”
Employees will be involved with the local government units, and hotel management and staff will be involved in the actual building of the houses. The Peninsula Manila group is even looking at the possibility of being involved in livelihood projects and starting a college scholarship fund at a local university.
Vodusek is confident that the employees will heartily respond to the challenge to be involved considering that volunteerism and social responsibility are in the genes of the Peninsula group, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel chains.
“We want to be a good neighbor, and we have been involved in these programs even before corporate social responsibility became popular,” says Vodusek. “This is part of the culture, the DNA of the company.”
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