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This Virtual Banquet Raised P86 Million for the the Philippines' Ultra Poor

There were 1,000 guests from around the world.
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Several years ago, my mother and I headed to Iloilo to visit some of the ultra-poor communities of the Philippines, families surviving on less than 25 pesos a day.

It was part of the transformation program of International Care Ministries that has changed the lives of 1.3 million Filipinos. Instead of merely being given doleouts, family members are taught nutrition, basic finances, and how to provide a good home environment for their children.

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As volunteers for the day, Mom taught Nutrition, while I explained the concept of saving. Afterward, they elected officers for their own savings group, and the winners were tickled pink to have been chosen from among the peers for leadership roles. (150,000 Filipinos are currently enrolled in ICM’s savings groups.)

Later, many of the community members joyfully welcomed us to their humble homes, most of them one-room structures with dirt floors. They showed us their business-in-a-box setups, from which they started cheese puto or banana turon businesses. They led us around their little gardens where they had planted seeds provided by ICM that had grown into healthy vegetables to feed their families.

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As we said goodbye, they handed us bags of green mangoes they had picked from their trees. They had so little to eat, and yet they still generously offered us whatever bounty they had. We attempted to decline, but they insisted, and we humbly accepted their gifts.

Last Saturday, I attended my fifth ICM banquet as the guest of Daphne Kuok, who has persistently invited me year after year, the first invitation even before I had actually met her. The dinner has grown year after year for the last 25 years. The last one I attended had about 700 people at the Hong Kong Convention Center, mostly expatriates from around the world based in Hong Kong, and a smattering of people who had flown in from the Philippines.

This banquet was the very first virtual one, with over 1,000 people registered from 17 countries around the world. There were about 54 "tables" of viewers from Hong Kong, 16 of them watching from home, and 31 tables at the Aberdeen Marina Club. There were 32 virtual tables in Manila with about 300 virtual guests. A day earlier, woven banig baskets with packed meals from Apartment 1B had been sent to our homes, which we reheated and plated for the banquet.

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We were assigned to the "table" of Vice President Leni Robredo and her three daughters, Aika, Tricia, and Jillian. Robredo had graciously donated her participation in a 30-minute weekend Zoom call, to be included in ICM’s annual silent auction.

Two years ago, a lunch with the Vice President catered by Margarita Fores went for HK$175,000. That amount helped transform the lives of 2,100 children. 

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The usual hotel stays and European vacations were missing from this year's silent auction, which still featured artwork generously donated by Filipino artists and handcrafted jewelry pieces by different artisans.       

According to ICM chairman David Sutherland, this year's virtual banquet raised a staggering HK$13.3 million (P86 million), higher than last year’s $HK13 million, which had included table sales and a live auction that were not held this year. 

Sutherland stressed the banquet only raises 20 percent of the funds needed to meet ICM's annual budget of HK$62 million, with the remainder of the funds raised through other efforts the rest of the year. Before Sutherland joined ICM full-time, he was CFO of Morgan Stanley Asia Pacific.

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The Moment of Giving that is the highlight of every banquet was as moving and memorable as it was year after year. Anonymous donors from around the world stepped up for the opportunity to change lives in the Philippines. ICM team members watching the banquet’s program from remote areas around the Philippines cheered as the numbers racked up on the screen, line by line. Excluding matching donations, ICM raised HK$7.6 million in that segment hosted by Kristine Duininck, the charismatic U.S. national champion auctioneer who was at home in Minnesota in the early hours of the morning. She and her family have been to the Philippines many times so she knew exactly whom she was passionately raising money for, whose lives she was helping transform.

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Click here to see the numbers of Filipinos and the communities helped by ICM from 2015 to 2020.

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About The Author
Yvette Fernandez
Yvette Fernandez is the editor in chief of Esquire Philippines.
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