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Love in the time of ‘Yolanda’


FASHION designer-musician Kate Torralba plays requested tunes for donations to “Yolanda” survivors. PHOTO BY POCHOLO CONCEPCION

It’s a Saturday night at Craft Pub & Grill (The Fort Strip, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig), a week after Typhoon “Yolanda” messed up the country. Onstage, Kate Torralba, a fashion designer whose passion for music has led her to release her aptly titled debut CD, “Long Overdue,” is not playing songs from that album; rather, she’s obliging everyone in the crowd with any tune they’d like to hear—provided they donate any amount for the typhoon survivors.

The benefit gig, dubbed “Request-A-Thon,” is a hit, judging by the full-house audience and happy vibe. At 11 p.m. Torralba gladly announces somebody has given P1,000 for “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” She doesn’t know the lyrics to the song, but she proceeds to play the melody on her miniature keyboards while improvising the verses.

It’s actually a song that would be considered baduy in this kind of club, but the people seem to be enjoying it. It’s Torralba’s ingenuity that matters, her ability to replicate the tune’s original chords in just a few seconds.

And so we hear all sorts of songs—“Tattooed on My Mind,” “Bed of Roses,” “American Pie”—as the donations keep coming.

A good old friend from Malabon, Vic Martinez, is here tonight with his brother and two buddies from Ateneo. He has come home from New Jersey to attend the wake of his father. We share a few laughs and then he fishes out a few hundred pesos for his song request. “Ikaw na bahala,” he says.


We write “Carole King, Carly Simon or Fleetwood Mac” on a paper napkin and hand it to Torralba with the cash. She proceeds to play “It’s Too Late” as Martinez hums along.

Before saying goodbye he gets more money, a crisp $100 bill, and says, “Ikaw na uli bahala.” He actually wanted to hear something that was played at his wedding but can’t remember its title. We settle on Elton John.

“Wow, our first green money for the night!” Torralba exclaims, before playing “Your Song.”

The night wears on with more requests. The morning after, Torralba sends us a text message: “OMG I played for five hours and we raised P40k! I woke up aching all over pero this is the best kind of tiredness ever!”


On a Thursday night the SM Mall of Asia open grounds in Pasay City is teeming with thousands of young people, mostly in their 20s and 30s. They are dancing on the cold pavement, which is actually a parking lot and the scene of past big foreign concerts before the MOA Arena was built.

Tonight’s gig, bankrolled by Viber and dubbed “United Republiq: An Electronic Music Assembly for a Cause,” features local and international DJs, among them Nicky Romero from the Netherlands and Axwell from Sweden. Romero and Axwell, both highly ranked turntable artists worldwide, have decided to donate to Yolanda relief efforts their respective talent fees, which is reportedly worth P7 million.

Romero is treated like a king—the audience following his command in between the booming dance tracks. “I want you to raise your hands,” he says, and everyone obeys while the beats intensify.

He spices up his set with a mix of new wave (Eurythmics), reggae and his own remix of “I Need Your Love.”


The crowd swells by the time Axwell appears onstage at 1:30 a.m. The lyrics in his mixes somehow relate to the plight of devastated Visayas residents: “Feel the pressure … I don’t know how I survived … I don’t even know if I’m alive … Leave the world behind …”

Everybody is sweating as the beats get more wicked, sounding like a monstrous avalanche about to swallow us up. Many are drinking San Miguel Light Beer and having a good time at a party that would end on a great note: financial help for typhoon survivors.

As the crowd sings along to “Don’t You Worry Child,” we smile at the thought that love is in the air, especially at a bad time, in the aftermath of Yolanda.

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Tags: Axwell , Craft Pub & Grill , Kate Torralba , Lifestyle , Music , Nicky Romero , Philippines , Supertyphoon Yolanda , Yolanda Aid

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