Filipino Americans mobilize for Philippines disaster relief

By Brendan Flores, Regional Banking District Manager

Brendan Flores

Brendan Flores

Editor’s note: Brendan’s volunteer role as communications and finance director for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations—the umbrella for all U.S.-based Filipino American groups­—­put him at the center of coordinating Philippines disaster relief after Super Typhoon Haiyan.

The first time I heard about Typhoon Haiyan, I was visiting one of the 11 bank branches that I manage for Wells Fargo in and around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and had no idea that I or Wells Fargo would soon be involved in providing Philippines disaster relief.

Filipinos are used to typhoons and know how to prepare for them so I wasn’t too worried about my relatives. I was confident they’d be OK.

Then I got a call from a teammate asking if I had heard from any of them and if I knew they were safe. I immediately called my mother in Las Vegas and got nervous when she told me that she couldn’t reach anyone.

I turned on the news as soon as I got home. When I saw the chaos, I knew why my teammate had called. It quickly sunk in that this was no ordinary storm and that as the communications and finance director for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)—the umbrella organization for all U.S.-based Filipino American groups—my life was about to get busier.

Today, we know just how bad Haiyan (named Yolanda in the Philippines) was. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the storm:

  • Affected nearly 16 million people.
  • Killed more than 6,000 people.
  • Displaced more than 4 million.
  • Damaged or destroyed more than 1 million homes.

Not long after the storm came ashore Nov. 7, 2013, near Tacloban City, some 340 miles southeast of Manila, our senior leadership team at NaFFAA began holding daily conference calls and identifying needs from the hardest-hit areas and how Filipino Americans could help.

Those calls continue today, involving myself and 20 leaders across the U.S., Mariana Islands, and Guam. (The Philippines government designated our group as the official liaison for all relief support and donations.)

Rice and other relief supplies are loaded in Ormoc City for delivery to Haiyan victims in Tacloban.

Rice and other relief supplies are loaded in Ormoc City for delivery to Haiyan victims in Tacloban. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine American Society of Greater Dayton)

Fortunately, there are 4.2 million Filipino Americans and a lot of resources. A U.S. Census survey in 2004 found that Filipino Americans had the second-highest median family income among Asian Americans.

It was amazing how fast the Filipino American community mobilized to help friends, family, and countrymen get back on their feet. Appeals were filmed for local TV and radio stations, telethons for typhoon victims staffed, benefit concerts held, and relief supplies collected.

Meanwhile, efforts began immediately to ask the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to grant Temporary Protected Status to the Philippines under the Immigration and Nationality Act. As was done after the Haiti earthquake, this allows Filipinos to temporarily live with relatives in the U.S. during rebuilding.

Just from Texas alone, our member Filipino American groups have shipped more than 10,000 boxes of food, medicine, and relief goods that were donated by Texans. Additionally, Texas companies, civic groups, churches, and individuals donated nearly $1 million. We air-shipped the supplies to a warehouse in Cebu and transported them by boat to Tacloban.

My volunteer work with NaFFAA and career with Wells Fargo came together through Haiyan relief. Wells Fargo proved not just a willing ally, but also a leader demonstrating the kind of corporate social responsibility that successful disaster relief efforts depend on.

One of my first calls was to Alejandro Hernandez, head of International Social Responsibility at Wells Fargo, who quickly outlined the multifaceted response plan the company already had underway.

That plan featured:

  • Grants of $125,000 each to the American Red Cross and International Medical Corps for relief and recovery.
  • More than a month of fee waivers for money sent to friends and family in the Philippines using Wells Fargo’s ExpressSend® remittance service.
  • Similar fee waivers for use of out-of-network ATMs in the Philippines.
  • Wells Fargo ATMs set up to receive customer donations for Haiyan relief, which raised more than $750,000.

Traveling throughout my district of banking stores, I’ve been amazed and overwhelmed by the number of “thank yous” from team members, customers, and friends about Wells Fargo’s efforts in the Philippines.

Flores makes a late-night Haiyan relief call from his home office to an NaFFAA group member on the West Coast.

Flores makes a late-night Haiyan relief call from his home office to an NaFFAA group member on the West Coast.

It feels good to know that my community and company care so much about what’s happening and continue to work together to ensure that my friends, family, and countrymen in the Philippines get the help they need.

Many are still without electricity and clean water, and can’t work because their businesses are gone. While my relatives live farther inland, where damage was less severe, they still couldn’t work for several weeks after Haiyan’s landfall because of the power outages, damaged communication lines and towers, flooded roads, and unopened businesses.

It took almost five days for me to contact my relatives after Haiyan. It remains a stressful time for my mother, who likes to call her family regularly.

After a disaster like Typhoon Haiyan, there’s no quick fix, and recovery requires a long-term effort and plan. That’s why, in the first quarter of 2014, I’ll be traveling to the Philippines as part of a NaFFAA team (and as an ambassador of Wells Fargo) to assess long-term needs. Visit the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation website to learn more about how you can help.

With time and assistance from the international community and companies like Wells Fargo, I know the Philippines will recover and rebuild.

About Brendan

After Brendan joined Wells Fargo as a teller in Nevada in 2003, he quickly moved up the ranks to store manager and then headed east to Pennsylvania in 2010. He’s currently a district manager of 11 banking stores in central Pennsylvania. A resident of Harrisburg, Brendan holds an associate’s degree in business management from the University of Phoenix and is working toward a dual degree in business administration and business management. In addition to the NaFFAA board, he also is a board member of Leadership Harrisburg, a scholarship grantor for The Public Education Foundation of Las Vegas, and president of the Alumni Leadership Circle of the Academy of Finance.

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62 Responses to Filipino Americans mobilize for Philippines disaster relief

  1. Antonio Pelosi says:

    Truly inspirational. Brendan Flores, thank you for all you do in our communities !!

  2. Sarah Tonigan says:

    This article makes me SO proud to work for Wells Fargo. Brendan, thank you for the time you dedicate to this cause!

  3. Marilyn F says:

    We are very proud of your work and Wells Fargo’s contribution to the Filipino community. It gives all of us hope for the future.

  4. Ben-James Brown says:

    Awesome work Brendan! Thank you for being a community leader.

  5. Ed Navarra says:

    Brendan Flores is a young professional who is involved with his community. His dedication and perseverance in pursuing projects and programs over and above his work is commendable and an inspiration to his peers. As an American of Filipino ancestry, his compassion for his ancestral home is indeed heartwarming. Wells Fargo and NaFFAA are lucky to have him in our midst.

    Ed Navarra
    NaFFAA National Chair

    • Wayne Thompson Wayne Thompson says:

      Thanks, Ed, and for all the work NaFFAA and its member groups are doing to help Filipinos recover after the disaster. One other note to representatives from other nonprofits who submitted comments for consideration about their organizations, missions and desire to help. Those notes and contacts, including website and other links, have been forwarded on to Brendan/NaFFAA.

  6. Ryan Tejero says:

    Congratulations Brendan! Your contribution to NaFFAA and the Filipino American community has built a strong foundation on leading others to do what they can to help our fellow Filipinos back home. You are truly inspirational! More power to you and thank you for making us proud at NaFFAA!

  7. Giselle Rushford says:

    For all the years I’ve worked with Brendan in the community, he was as professional and dedicated then as he is today. Wells Fargo is fortunate to have him represent the company in the Asian Pacific American community. Brendan personalizes and humanizes the company to the community. I am proud to serve with him at NaFFAA.

    Giselle Rushford, NaFFAA Region 5

  8. Sead B says:

    This is truly an inspiring blog. Thank you Brendan, NaFFAA and Wells Fargo. Let’s hope for a fast rehabilitation in the Philippines. Keep up the great work.

  9. Mike B says:

    It is so inspiring to work for such a great company, and with such dedicated team members like Brendan Flores. Thank you for all that you do and for sharing this great blog.

    • Wayne Thompson Wayne Thompson says:

      Thanks, Mike. I love hearing about these kinds of efforts and the stories behind them and sharing them on the Wells Fargo Blog. Thanks again for reading and for making others aware of them as well!

  10. Rozita Lee says:

    CONGRATULATIONS BRENDAN!
    Your work with our Filipino community is exemplary. When you came with me to Washington, D.C. to visit Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Congressional leaders, I knew that you were going to continue advocating for our community.
    Thanks for your help with victims of the most dangerous typhoon of the century that hit the Philippines recently. They need help in rebuilding their spirits as well as their homes and businesses. Keep up the great work!
    -Mng Rozita

  11. Willie Dechavez says:

    NaFFAA is truly proud of your service to the community. Keep it up !!!

  12. Willie Dechavez says:

    NaFFAA is truly proud of your service to the community. Keep it up!!!

  13. Ceci F. says:

    You’re such an inspiration to so many. I’m positive your story will help create awareness. Thank you for all you do!

  14. Brian Formisano says:

    It’s wonderful to see the power and impact that can come to help folks in need, when individuals that care take the time to be leaders when called upon to do so.

    Well done Brendan.

  15. John Alfonso says:

    Great article! really a remarkable contribution! Thank you NaFFAA, Brendan and Wells Fargo for providing such immense generosity and encouragement to help those who have been affected by the storm. It’s astonishing to see the on going support! again, thank you very much!

  16. Gilbert M says:

    Brendan, I know you from your childhood days way back in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro and ever since, you keep on setting a good example to your friends and relatives. I am so glad that up to now, you are still doing the same but this time, setting an example to more people worldwide by helping and caring the people in dire need. I know Philippines and its people will rise up again the soonest from this disaster because of people like you. Mabuhay ka Brendan!!!

  17. Abegail Valerio says:

    It’s such a great honor for us Filipino to have these people who has a big heart to help the people in need, especially to this kind of disaster that happened few months ago. Mr. Brendan Flores you are such an inspiration, thank you for everything you did to help the people. Great Job again!

  18. Sharon Mendel says:

    Brendan Flores is a true leader and inspiration to all. Thank you for your great work in our communities here and in the Philippines. Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place!

  19. Roger M says:

    I know that Brendan’s current role as a District Manager is busy enough, but to take on more responsibility to help others in need is extraordinary. Great work!

    • Wayne Thompson Wayne Thompson says:

      That’s so true, Roger. And, as you know as a team member, Brendan is not alone. Volunteerism and other forms of community support are a key part of Wells Fargo’s Vision and Values (https://www.wellsfargo.com/invest_relations/vision_values). While 2013 figures aren’t available yet, in 2012 alone, team members reported more than 1.5 million volunteer hours in their communities–cleaning streams, reading in classrooms, building or repairing homes, delivering meals, spending time with senior adults, cooking meals for the homeless, and so much more.

  20. Natalie says:

    Not a surprise that Brendan rolled up his sleeves and went into action! He has a great heart.

  21. Marilyn Doromal says:

    Mabuhay Ka Brendan !!! My husband and I are planning to transfer one more account to WF.
    Couldn’t be prouder.
    Tita Marilyn

  22. Lorna Lardizabal Dietz says:

    Brendan, I am touched that you wrote about your personal experience about Typhoon Haiyan (aka Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) that wreaked Armageddon-type havoc in Central Philippines, the typhoon landing with equal ferocity at five landing places, with a diameter as large as the Gulf of Mexico. 12+ million people have been affected.

    Thank you for Wells Fargo’s efforts in helping out in the best ways they know how, especially the money remittance part.

    Like many Filipino Americans who bank with Wells Fargo, I am very satisfied with the excellent customer service that the bankers give me every time I walk into a bank’s door (my favorite is by Drumm and Market Streets, just across the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero). They continually educate me about my financial options. I am looking forward to getting knowing more about financial literacy through your bank’s efforts so that I can help resonate these lessons in a digital literacy training program that had its auspicious beginnings in San Francisco in 2007 for the community-based organization I am affiliated with. Actually, there are two national organizations that I am launching these digital literacy training programs in. Looking forward to helping more Filipinos in their “digital divide” world gain easy access to mobile banking methods. Will you help me out?

    • Wayne Thompson Wayne Thompson says:

      Thanks for the newsy note, Lorna, and your support of our financial education efforts in the community. I’ll share your suggestion and ask at the end with Brendan. Thanks again!

  23. Gwen Rees says:

    Since you first started at Wells Fargo, you’ve always had the drive and determination to make a difference. This truly shows how caring you are. You make each of us proud to be on the Wells Fargo team with you. Keep up the great work!

  24. Anecita Sancho says:

    Thank you Brendan for all that you do. You are truly an inspiration not only to our younger generation but to all of us. A huge thanks to Wells Fargo as well. What a great company to work for! I am speechless of Brendan and Wells Fargo’s efforts. From all of us (Leytenios), thank you very much Brendan, Wells Fargo and NaFFAA, God speed…..

  25. "Gonzo" says:

    Brandon, your genuine commitment to making a positive difference is commendable.

  26. Laura R says:

    Brendan you are such an inspiration to our Community and all of the Team Members at Wells Fargo. Your passion for the things you believe in is remarkable. Thank You for taking the time to help educate all of our Team Members further on the disaster that hit the Philippines. The Wells Fargo Family is very lucky to have such a caring, passionate, inspiring, innovative leader not only in Wells Fargo but in our Community. Thank You for all of your efforts in providing support to those needed in the Philippines.

  27. Ed Orpina says:

    Keep up the good work Brendan and great article!
    Thank you for posting to the blog, Wayne.

    Best,

    Ed Orpina

    • Wayne Thompson Wayne Thompson says:

      You’re welcome, Ed. As Brendan points out in his post, there’s still a lot of work left to do. I look forward to another update from Brendan after his visit to the Philippines with the NaFFAA team assessing the long-term needs and how they best can be met.

  28. Marina Z says:

    Brendan is an exemplary member of the society who is a true leader in business and community. It is always great to see him doing wonderful projects to give back to communities which helped to form him into an amazing person . He is definitely one of a kind individual who has positively affected lives of many people.

  29. Rian Gabor says:

    Thanks to Wells Fargo and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations for their combined effort in sending relief support and donations to Typhoon Haiyan survivors. Thanks Brendan for making this collaboration happen and for continuously inspiring others to always give back through volunteerism and community service. So proud of you!

  30. Marina Z says:

    Brendan is an exemplary leader in the business world as well as in the community affairs. He is one of the kind individual who gives back to those who are in need during the toughest situations without expecting anything in return. I am glad he is able to make a positive impact in people lives .

  31. Aaron Whitaker says:

    Brendan, you are such an inspiration to our community and team members at Wells Fargo. I’m sure your story will help create awareness. Thank you for your hard work and dedication.

  32. Kandice MacKenzie says:

    Your generosity is admirable for the time and effort you spend in addition to your career. Thank you for raising awareness to something that is so near and dear to you. You play your unique personality of being a socialite to the benefits of so many!

  33. Dinah Katindig says:

    Brendan, we are so proud of you and what you do. Every help eases the pain of our kababayans back in the Philippines. More power to you and Wells Fargo Bank.

  34. Dwayne Davison says:

    When times are tough, true Leaders bear the burden of inspiring and uplifting people in need. Thank you Brendan “Brothaman” Flores for leading the efforts for our Filipino family. God Bless you and the people of the Philippines. #dothemostgood

  35. Christine S. Pomeranz says:

    Brendan, Lorna Lardizabal Dietz forwarded your blog, which I read with great interest!

    Having been an ex-banker myself and recently having visited the ravaged areas of northern Cebu, I am inspired by your story and the responsibility that Wells Fargo is taking to meet the victims’ needs.

    As a teacher of International Finance in an organization (Department of International Trade and Marketing at Fashion Institute of Technology – see http://www.fitnyc.edu/itm) that is passionate about international corporate responsibility, your blog is just the kind of reading that our students will pore over with great interest.

    It is also something that we intend to share with philanthropists when we do our own special fund raising upstate in the New York later this year. While we have been giving to different organizations individually, there is nothing like bringing a community together for such a worthy cause.

    The people we met throughout our visit indeed showed how proud one can be to be part of this gifted and generous race / family / community.

    If you are ever in NYC, feel free to reach out to me.

    Cheers.

    Christine S. Pomeranz

  36. David MacKenzie says:

    Nice work, Brendan! Thank you for helping to connect Wells Fargo with the communities in which we serve. Great to see our company working with others to provide relief to those in need.

  37. Deb R says:

    Brendan you truly are a remarkable individual. Thank you for all that you do and showing so many what can be done with positivity and hard work. The community, Wells Fargo and the Philippines are lucky to have you!

  38. Seada Besic says:

    Brendan’s kindness and thoughtfulness continues to inspire me. His passion and willingness to help others is what makes him a great leader in everything he does.
    Thank you for your hard work!

  39. Barbara Romanoff says:

    Brendan, this is truly inspiring! Your family must be extremely proud of the hard work you are doing while volunteering your time.

  40. Julio Doromal says:

    Filipinos are known to be hardworking, dedicated, positive, and one of the most resilient races in the global community. Be it commerce and economy, the Philippines (without the monstrous destructions we are challenged now) holds one of the best practices joining the “booming Asia” business connection now called the “Sleeping Tiger” in Asia. Brendan’s initiative to reach out to Haiyan victims says it all. With Wells Fargo’s supportive hand, Brendan was so driven to serve the afflicted. His demeanor is surely an asset to Wells Fargo. Hope everyone at Wells Fargo emulates the kindness of this young man.

  41. Loi B. says:

    Thank you for having the heart and compassion to help and the foresight to plan ahead for the future.Thank you for helping effectively.Please let us know how we can contribute.

  42. Chris T says:

    Outstanding, Brendan!! Your devotion to the community is very admirable! Thank you for your dedication!

  43. Jojo Soriano says:

    Wow! Great article! Wells Fargo needs more people like you! Great to hear that there is a continual surge of support from all over the country, and through Wells Fargo.

  44. MIKE SCUDDER says:

    Brendan is truly an inspiration. It is wonderful hearing what a leader in the community for Wells Fargo is doing to help in a time of need. Thank you for being an advocate in not only our Phillipino community but also in ALL of our communities.

  45. Titus Brown says:

    Wow!!! Great job advocating for those who are truly in need of help. It’s amazing to see how far-reaching our efforts can be! Thank you for being a champion for diversity and leadership.

  46. Lei M says:

    Brendan, you are very much an inspiration. Thank you for your dedication and hard work.

  47. Charry Salome says:

    This is one great act for humanity. May your tribe increase. I can only be so proud of you, cousin. Mabuhay! :)

  48. Maryroland says:

    No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another. Maraming Salamat, Brendan Flores, and Wells Fargo! Mabuhay kayo!

  49. Gina I says:

    I have been a customer at Wells Fargo for over five years. Brendan helped me establish my accounts here in Las Vegas. I was thinking of switching banks after he moved to the east coast but I decided not to because he trained some amazing people here. I am grateful for Wells Fargo’s generosity for helping those in need. It is not surprising to see Brendan doing what he does best. He was a well known community leader in Las Vegas and now in the global community. We are proud of you and please come back to Las Vegas soon.

    • Wayne Thompson Wayne Thompson says:

      Thanks for the tribute to the power of people and service, Gina, and your comments about Brendan and Wells Fargo’s commitment to its communities and philanthropy–all of which are a central part of the vision and values that drive our company. As our CEO John Stumpf has said often, people don’t bank with banks, they bank with people. And if our communities aren’t successful, our business won’t be either. Working together, we can achieve so much.

  50. Roel F. Campos says:

    Admirable work Brendan! Well done!

  51. Matthew Martin says:

    You are a great example of what true leadership is!! It’s such a pleasure to be a part of your Capitol/York team, Brendan!!

  52. Zach Pretty says:

    It truly is inspiring to work for such a great company, and with such dedicated team members like my former boss, Brendan Flores. Thank you for all that you do and for sharing this great blog. Let’s hope for a fast rehabilitation in the Philippines. Keep up the great work!

  53. Tere says:

    Brendan you are truley inspirational. Thank you for the work you do in our communities and for the Philippines. You truley have an enigmatic personality and you put it to such good use both at work and outside of work.

  54. Nghia ho says:

    This is truley amazaing!! Brendan you are an amazing person!! Thank you for all the things that you have done.

  55. Tim B. says:

    Brendan is always trying to find time and energy to help others. He is selfless and this is yet another example of him reaching out and partnering with an excellent organization to make that a reality. Wells Fargo is a great company for allowing Brendan to do things to help others beyond his day to day leadership role. As your mentor, I continue to be proud of what you do every day!!

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