Gov. Ralph DLG Torres was nearly speechless upon learning that TanHoldings Corp. and its charitable arm, the Tan Siu Lin Foundation, have pledged to donate $1 million for the ongoing relief and recovery efforts of the CNMI from Super Typhoon Yutu. The amount will be divided among several non-government organizations that are assisting the victims of the devastating storm.
TanHoldings president Jerry Tan announced Monday that their family and their company’s charitable arm had committed to give $300,000 to the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, and $200,000 each to the American Red Cross-NMI Chapter, and CNMI Mass Care. They would evaluate which organization would receive the remaining $300,000.
Torres, who appeared overcome and slightly teary-eyed upon learning of the donation, said he is floored by the Tan family’s help.
“We have companies that donated $100,000 or $200,000, but this [$1 million] is beyond words,” he said. “So, again thank you to the whole family, the people, and the company. They are [helping] the people who are greatly in need. …Jerry, our people will be forever grateful for the Tan family.”
He added that companies usually reach out to the community as part of their corporate social responsibility but the Tan family goes beyond that with its generous contribution. “Jerry can live anywhere in the world but he chose to be here on Saipan. He made the CNMI his home and you could see his love of our people here. On behalf of the people of the CNMI, thank you. I don’t even know what to say. We’ve been hit so many times in the last three years. This company and this family never fail to contribute to the community.”
Torres said the beneficiary organizations would use the money for the people who need it most. “Every bottle and blanket goes a long way, and $1 million is going to go a long way. I know the Red Cross, CARE, and all the organizations would put that to the right people and the right homes who truly need it.”
“We have a long way to go. For the Red Cross, the NGOs, and the [Federal Emergency Management Agency], thank you for not giving up on us. Even after Typhoon Soudelor, it took us two years to rebuild and it will take us a couple of years to rebuild after Yutu.”
“But I know one thing, aside from being resilient, we’re going to build a stronger CNMI. On behalf of the CNMI, thank you and it is truly a blessing to be here in the CNMI. I am blessed to call this home and I know all of you are,” Torres added.
Updating the family
Tan said he witnessed the devastation of Yutu firsthand. Seeing the damage himself plus the numbers given by the government and the American Red Cross, he was able to present a clearer picture to his family about the CNMI’s situation. He was in Hong Kong last Friday to talk to his father and the rest of the family.
“The CNMI is my home. I grew up in Guam and Saipan so I also had experienced typhoons. I was not here during Typhoon Soudelor but I was here during Yutu. The very next day, I drove down, parked my car, and walked into Chalan Kanoa. Just a couple of blocks away, I couldn’t believe my eyes. So, from Day 1 we need a lot of help and we have the Red Cross, FEMA, and other organizations here.”
“Many of my friends ask me to tell them what has happened and I feel so bad because the last few weeks, the words that I used is ‘catastrophic,’ ‘massive,’ and ‘devastation’. Words that we don’t want to use but I have to use all of them, repeatedly in order to describe to our friends what happened to Saipan and Tinian.”
He added that seeing the level of devastation was heartbreaking. “So, it was not difficult for me to ask my family and the foundation to help. Like I said, this is our home.”
Tan said he flew to Hong Kong last Friday to meet his family. “I flew to Hong Kong and gave my presentation to my dad. Just to let him know what happened. We also have a better understanding when the governor and Red Cross gave us numbers on the extent of the damage.”
“When I asked my dad for $1 million, I thought I have to spend 30 minutes to convince him. It took him five seconds. He said ‘do it’. So, I am very happy. I left right away, before he changes his mind,” added Tan in a lighthearted moment that drew laughs from the crowd that witnessed Monday’s event at the Kanoa Resort’s lobby.
“He told me to stay for lunch. So, for $1 million I’ll stay as long as he doesn’t change his mind. I updated the family and they also gave their support. There are many good people here on the island. Everybody is doing their share and TanHoldings, we’re doing our share. We’re happy to see many of our partners and our community once again deal with the aftermath. In the end, we’ll be okay because we’re Marianas strong.”