Student uses celebrity status for typhoon relief

Jared Morgan

For singer, songwriter and CSUN business management major Michelle Andria, the night of Sept. 26 was bittersweet. On the lot of CBS studios, she was presented with an award acknowledging her as an outstanding entertainer at the 2009 Pamana Awards, an annual event recognizing Filipino artists.

“The claps were like thunder for me. It was just amazing,” said Andria.

After the awards ceremony, Andria went home and started to surf the Internet.

“On Facebook, YouTube — everybody is talking about typhoon Ondoy (as it’s known in the Philippines) or Ketsana,” she said.

Typhoon Ketsana poured 17.9 inches of rain on the Philippines capital city of Manila in the first 24 hours, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration.

Andria’s hometown of Marikina, where she still has relatives, is located in the same area, almost 10 miles from Manila.

“During the typhoon, I was told that the water rose so fast they didn’t expect it,” Andria said. “First it was on the knee, then it was on the waistline, then in a matter of minutes it was going so high, all the way up to the ceiling.”

Andria said her aunt’s one-story house was unexpectedly flooded in a matter of minutes, and her family swam through the makeshift exit they created by breaking through a wall, escaping to the roof of the house where they waited for rescue.

“My aunt, she had a heart attack (prior to the typhoon) and she’s been paralyzed…it was difficult,” Andria said. “She survived because she floated on an icebox.”

The rain fell so hard, pummeling the roofs of the neighborhood, that it hurt her aunt’s face, Andria said.

“And there I was, getting an award, eating good food, socializing with rich people dressed in expensive clothing,” Andria said. “Over there they have no clothes, they have no food.

“It’s a disastrous area, my childhood neighborhood is gone,” she said. “Where I grew up it was like Pleasantville. Everybody knew everybody, and now it’s gone—it’s a mud city.”

Trash and overturned cars litter the flooded and mud-stricken streets, said Andria.

“You wouldn’t think that people would live there now,” she said.

Andria’s house has become a temporary hub of relief efforts for Typhoon Ketsana victims.

“It’s become a drop off center for all my friends, all my brother’s friends, my mom’s buddies — everybody’s dropping off clothing and canned goods,” Andria said.

It involved a lot of work, Andria said, that couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“This has made me even more grateful for my house,” she said.

In addition to having been right in the middle of midterm exams, Andria was juggling a singing career.

She’s also been managing a vocal academy, Powerhouse Stars, which she started in 2005.

“It’s a place where (clients) not only learn how to sing, but they learn the disciplined lifestyle of a singer,” Andria said. “It’s like a little community where we all encourage one another because in Hollywood there’s so many broken dreams, broken hearts.”

Andria has a CD that’s due to drop sometime in December or January that was produced by Colby O’Donis, whose production credits include Lady GaGa and Akon.

Andria performed at a benefit show, called “Handog sa Bayan,” or a tribute to the Philippines, in Hollywood on Sunday, Oct. 11.