Stars shine bright for SF Filipino community

The Funksters dance group performs spoken word at Beta Phi sororities' Starlight Show, a fundraiser for Books for Love at Jack Adams Hall at SF State in San Francisco, Calif., on Feb. 12. Edward Chow / staff photographer

On Feb. 11, SF State’s Beta Phi sorority hosted the Starlight Show – a dance, poetry and spoken word event – to help fundraise for a local non-profit, Books for Love.

The multi-faceted showcase, held in Jack Adams Hall on Friday, raised around $500 for Books for Love, an organization that donates children’s books to impoverished communities in the Philippines and Brazil.

This year, the money raised will go toward building a science laboratory at Palindan Elementary – the primary school in the Philippines that the organization assists.

Ysabella Malig, a member of Beta Phi and co-coordinator for the Starlight Show, said this was the third event of its kind in 10 years and because of this year’s success, she hopes they will be planned annually.

“Each time we come back, we always seem to make it better,” Malig said.

This year, the Starlight Show featured 17 student and Bay Area performers, drawing in roughly 150 attendees.

“Everything’s amazing,” said Will Cheks-Orji, 19, a member of Zeta Chi Epsilon fraternity, who came to the event to support the cause. “They have good performers.”

Along with monetary donations, the organizers of the event also collected book donations and ended up with 40 children’s books.

Emma Ortega, founder of Books for Love, started the organization after her 20-year-old son Love Gutierrez was killed while visiting the Philippines in 2001. After Gutierrez’s death, Ortega went back to her hometown where she was inspired to give back to her community in his honor.

With support from friends, family, Filipino-owned businesses and local libraries, Ortega was able to ship 2,700 books in her first attempt in 2001. The organization has since donated books and other supplies to 16 other schools in the area and assisted in the start of English and art classes for children in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Since the program began in San Francisco in 2001, Books for Love has helped build and establish the Palindan province’s first library and computer lab.

Ortega said standardized test scores have improved significantly since the organization began helping the school. Now, it is considered one of the most sought after K-6 grade school in the area.

With science now the organization’s focus, Ortega is hopeful that if the program becomes successful and its 300 students excel, they can then consider creating a music program.

“This organization is as if Love was still here,” Ortega said. “Love is in the room.”

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