Last May, veteran broadcast journalist Emme Tomimbang shared with MidWeek readers that it was her Rottweiler Rufus (pictured) who ultimately saved her life when she suffered a brain aneurysm and collapsed at home. Rufus, she said, had the foresight to wake Tomimbang and help her crawl to a phone to call for help.
This came at a point in Tomimbang’s life when she was engrossed with caring for husband Jim Burns, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. Rufus, according to Tomimbang, was like a caregiver to the couple, and inMidWeek‘s cover story, appeared alongside his parents in each photo.
Sadly, Rufus passed away a month ago, almost 11 years old at the time. “Because of him, I have a second life, and I have to live it in honor of him,” says Tomimbang.
“I miss him terribly,” she laments. “But I’m sure there’s another little Rufus running around, waiting to be adopted.”
Today, the couple is doing “good.” Survivorship, she says, is a lifelong commitment. Still, it hasn’t stopped her from returning to TV after an almost three-year hiatus. Her latest Emme’s Island Moments special, “Haiyan … After the Storm,” will air Thanksgiving Day on KGMB.
Inspiration for this project was personal. On the night Haiyan ravaged the Philippines, Tomimbang was being honored at Filipino Community Center. Though she was born in Hawaii, Tomimbang’s parents both came from the Visayas.
“I was particularly concerned about what was going on and worried that same night,” she says. “I promised myself I would help out with some kind of fundraiser down the road.”
And she did. In December, Tomimbang produced Aloha For Philippines Mahalo Concert, uniting performers Little Albert, Kristian Lei, Jasmine Trias and others whose families were from the same area. The night, which included a matching donation from Consuelo Foundation, raised $3.5 million.
The hour-long special documents Tomimbang’s travels to hardest-hit areas like Tacloban and Samar, and shows how the money raised during the concert is now being used.
Her experience working on the special is one Tomimbang says she is still grappling with. Though she says there is joy and hope in seeing the city rebuild itself, there also is sorrow for those who lost loved ones.
“I just was struck that, you know, as much as I can start over again, how difficult it will be for them emotionally for the rest of their lives,” she says.
But more importantly, Tomimbang witnessed the community’s resiliency and the willingness of countries throughout the world to extend support.
“I am very proud to present ‘Haiyan … After the Storm’ to let people know how the survivors are doing in the aftermath of one of the biggest storms to make landfall,” she says.
“(There are) so many lessons to learn here about life, natural disasters and how to persevere and move forward.”
“Haiyan … After the Storm” airs Thursday, Nov. 27, at 9 p.m. on KGMB. For more information, visit emmeinc.com.