Amid Yolanda's devastation, companies cancel extravagant parties

PICC saw at least 5 reservations cancelled. means BUSINESS

MANILA – With almost a month before Christmas, Dexter Deyto should no longer be discussing with corporate clients this year’s party bookings at the SMX Convention Center.

By this time, the general manager of one of the top events venues should already be sealing deals for the following calendar year.

But since news of the devastation caused by Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ came to light, a growing number of corporate clients have been canceling their reservations, preferring to hold low-key yuletide celebrations instead.

"We have options that we offer them and if they signified they are cancelling because of the typhoon, we are considering it. It's on a case-to-case basis," Deyto said.

"Some are still surveying, discussing with management. There's no final word yet but there are still inquiries on how to go through the process," he said.

Likewise, the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) had to scratch off at least five corporate events scheduled for next month after the clients cancelled their reservations. The venue requires a 25 percent down payment, which is non-refundable.

Refund down payment

According to sources, some of these firms have suggested that the fee be donated to the typhoon survivors. The PICC management has yet to decide on the matter.

A company talked to has abandoned plans to hold a Christmas party altogether. However, a hotel in Makati is still requiring the firm to pay for 80 percent of the cost as stipulated in the contract.

For a growing number of Philippine companies, this year's yuletide celebration will be a far cry from the past practice of renting hotels, hiring the hottest performer, serving a buffet, and raffling out big-ticket prices.

Christmas is just around the corner, but the stench of death and the sense of loss that lingered after the worst typhoon hit the Philippines has dampened companies' appetite for lavish parties.

"It's not just a trend. It has become a tradition for companies especially when a calamity happens near Christmas," said Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, executive director of the Makati Business Club (MBC).

"Corporates do tend to shift their spending from lavish Christmas parties to giving to the victims of the calamities," he told

Channel savings to relief

As the death toll from Typhoon 'Yolanda' nears the five-thousand mark and hundreds of thousands more line up each day in places like Tacloban City to get their ration of rice, potable water and other bare necessities, Philippine companies will have to do with hosting a simple dinner, if not devoting a day to gather relief items for typhoon survivors.

Executives whom talked to said the budget or savings generated from these corporate events will instead be channeled to finance relief operations and rebuild the Visayas, which sustained losses not only from 'Yolanda', but also from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake weeks earlier.

"Christmas and corporate events have been used to raise more funds and gather more relief items," said JP Orbeta, Ayala Corp managing director and head of corporate resources group.

Aside from cancelling all external Christmas-related celebrations, the Aboitiz group will not push through with its annual “lechon” party for the Cebu media and the culminating activity for the Aboitiz Foundation's 25th anniversary.

"Aboitiz team members are also encouraged to donate company gifts such as Christmas packages to our ongoing relief operations in Visayas," an official said.

Perfecto wouldn't be surprised if at least a third of the more than 400 member companies of the MBC cancels or scales down their Christmas celebrations.

The MBC groups the country's biggest companies, some of which were the first to rise to the challenge of mobilizing aid for the typhoon survivors.

As this went online, the following companies have cancelled their parties for the holidays: Aboitiz group of companies, Ayala group of companies, GMA Network, GT Capital Holdings Inc, Holcim Philippines, Jollibee, Lopez group of companies, Lucio Tan Group, MVP group of companies, Philippine Stock Exchange, Phinma and San Miguel group of companies.

"There can be more and this is not just because of the CEOs. Sometimes, it is the employees themselves that push for it," Perfecto said.

With a report from Darwin G. Amojelar