Toni Gonzaga arrived late at the press conference of ABS-CBN's reality show Pinoy Big Brother held today, September 30, at Plaza Ibarra, Timog Avenue, Quezon City.
Pinoy Big Brother will open its new season this Sunday, October 4.
The TV host-actress-singer resides in Taytay, Rizal—one of the badly affected areas ravaged by typhoon Ondoy during the weekend. In a recent report posted by the National Disaster Coordinating Council as of 3 p.m. today, casualties are estimated to have exceeded the 300 mark with some areas, particularly Pampanga and the Cordillera region, yet to be accounted for in the latest tally.
Although the floods have already subsided in some areas surrounding Taytay, the intensive relief operations conducted by both government and non-government organizations, plus the damage done by the disaster, left traffic routes in the entire province and neighboring cities crippled.
SAFE BUT STRANDED. Toni and her family were fortunate that the village where their house is located stands on much higher ground.
"But of course, pagbaba mo na ng village, paglabas mo na, 'yon na talaga 'yong sobrang baha... Stranded to death talaga, wala ka nang madaanan!" Toni told the entertainment press.
Toni still tried to report to work last Saturday, September 26, despite Ondoy's continuous onslaught. But like everyone else who tried to brave the bad weather, Toni proved to be no match to nature's fury as it submerged the metropolis to flood waters.
"But as soon as I got out of the village, the Ortigas area na pinakita 'yong Rosario where I everyday pass, talagang wala na. It was too late," Toni said with tinge of resignation in her voice.
She added, "At the same time, we also prepared since taga-Taytay ako and mga kababayan ko din naman ang nasalanta. Ninety percent kasi of Rizal was really damaged and 'yon, nagpapasalamat kami dahil kasama kami sa ten percent na hindi tinamaan."
The aftermath of Ondoy was vividly painted by Toni for the press to fully understand: "Last night when I passed, it was so dark na akala mo scene sa I Am Legend [Hollywood film starring Will Smith].No, the cars were scattered in the street, there are so many stuff in the street, sofa, mga used tires... Talagang abandoned talaga."
EFFORTS TO HELP. Toni is an active member of the Taytay community, having served as Barangay Kagawad for five years before she became a certified celebrity.
With hundreds of Taytay residents displaced and their livelihood totally wiped out, the Gonzagas along with their neighbors who escaped the flood immediately initiated a drive to help those in dire need of assistance.
"Since nasa Taytay na rin naman ako, kami [Toni's family] na ang nag-organize ng sarili naming mga tulong, like collecting and packing relief goods. My mom is still organizing some help efforts na pantulong dun sa mga staff naman ng E Live na naapektuhan. So, kami, sa sarili naming paraan sa Taytay, gumagawa kami ng paraan,"
Toni is one of the regular hosts of E Live, along with Mariel Rodriguez, Bianca Gonzales, and Luis Manzano.
Despite the tragedy, Toni said that the incident reignited the Pinoy's highly-admired bayanihan spirit.
"Hindi ka kailangang maging pulitiko, hindi ka kailangang maging miyembro ng anumang association para makatulong. On your own special way, puwede. Sarili mong paraan, puwede kang tumulong sa mga kababayan mo."
Toni also touched on the subject of global warming and its catastrophic effects to mankind as shown by the recent calamity.
"I think it's about time na maging aware tayo sa kapaligiran natin," reasoned Toni. "Kasi tayo din naman siguro ang dahilan kung bakit nagkakaganito, kung bakit tayo binabaha dahil sa ating kapabayaan. Siguro ginigising lang tayo na maging aware at mas mahalin ang ating mundo at kapaligiran."