A devastating fire swept through the neighborhood of ‘Little Miss Israel’ on New Year’s day, destroying her home along with 150 others.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler
Representatives from Israel’s Embassy in the Philippines and the Jewish community made a second visit to the inner city neighborhood of Sta. Ana, Manila to donate goods after a devastating fire destroyed 150 homes, including that of six-year-old Angela Briana Alforque, who dressed up as Miss Israel for a United Nations Day celebration at her elementary school in October. The fire occurred on January 1 and residents are struggling to rebuild.
“Fire swept across our place from a nearby house in our barangay,” Belle Alforque, Angela’s aunt, told United with Israel (UWI). “Our house was totally burned.”
Belle lived in the now destroyed home with her brother, his wife and their four children, one of whom is Angela. “I trust God for this, I know He still has a good plan. Please pray,” she told UWI immediately following the fire.
Part of that plan came through the auspices of Israel’s Embassy in the Philippines.
“We were here last November 2019 for an outreach event in Sta. Ana Elementary School and to personally meet Angela,” Ambassador Rafael Harpaz said during his visit. “I was shocked when I heard about the fire. As I roam around your barangay [district] today to see the aftermath, I felt so much hope and inspiration. Today, we are here because we love Filipinos. We joined forces with the Jewish Community of the Philippines to give you some assistance. We want you to know that we care about you.”
Representatives of the embassy first visited the town after reading a UWI article that they say went viral. The article explained how Angela and her family love Israel so much that the kindergartner dressed up as the Israeli beauty queen Noy Ben Artzi at her school’s United Nation’s Day event. The embassy was so moved that they came to Angela’s school, where an assembly was held that included gift giving and a performance of the famous Israeli song, “Jerusalem of Gold” in Hebrew and in the Filipino language Tagalog by Angela and her aunt Belle.
“After knowing that Angela’s family is one of the victims of the recent fire in our barangay, they reached out immediately to visit us,” said District Chairman Jaime Co Jr. of the Israeli Embassy. “It’s very overwhelming that our small barangay is loved by Israel.”
The Israeli Embassy donated storage containers to protect whatever contents survived the fire as well as building materials and shopping certificates to buy supplies. The victims were also given clothes and toys by the Jewish community, represented by Executive Director Lee Blumenthal. Deputy Chief of Mission Yulia Rachinsky-Spivakov also attended.
Belle is quick to compliment her government’s help. “We are thankful that we have responsible officials at this time and we continually have helping hands to give relief,” she told UWI. “Chairman Jaime Co Jr. made efforts to secure the [burned] area and [also] coordinated the embassy visit. We also thank our Honorable and beloved City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso for his help. He has made a good program for us who are victims of the fire here in Pasigline, Sta. Ana, Manila. We are thankful for our government officials here in Manila who are doing their best for our welfare.”
The ever hopeful and grateful aunt told UWI, “During a Christmas celebration, I took a photo of a picture in my late father’s room of the Holy name of God written in Hebrew. I am so thankful for the wisdom that God gave me to do that, as all was burned in our house and nothing is left. I am so blessed that I have it in my file. You see, even in my fire, there is light and life.”
She added, “When my father was still alive, every evening he lit a candle for the Holy name of God and said prayers and song. Even when he was sick, my father never missed lighting a candle for God.”
Belle said that the photograph of the name of the “God of Israel” is her favorite possession.
Though they are “not a rich family, little by little we are doing our best to rebuild our home.” She doesn’t know how much longer it will take. “However, please let your United with Israel readers know that Angela and the rest of us are safe,” Belle said. “Just as God provided for the [biblical] Abraham and his household, I know He will help us too.”
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