By Gladys Mangiduyos
Bearing relief supplies and hope, seven United Methodist young adults in the Philippines traveled 255 kilometers over the weekend to reach Typhoon Haiyan survivors in Leyte.
Abelardo Alviola, president of Visayas Phils Annual (regional) Conference United Methodist Youth Fellowship, led the team, which rode by bus from Negros Oriental to Cebu and then by boat to Leyte Saturday, a 12-hour journey. After that 12-hour journey, they trekked on foot to Ormoc.
Alviola left the group behind to sort relief supplies as he traveled to Tacloban on his own. It hurt, he said in a telephone interview, to see how the city, which he used to visit because of its amazing scenery, now looked like a dump site.
But he felt better when he attended Sunday worship in the house where the Rev. Iris Picardal-Parana and family are staying with a dozen adults and children. “I ended up preaching the good news, and that was a rare opportunity,” he said.
His message to the group, which included some neighbors who are not church members, focused on Jesus calming the violent storm.
The survivors are resilient, he said. “You will not see hopelessness in their eyes, they have shown vibrant faith in God,” Alviola said. “They gave a real message of hope.”
They were among those who sought solace in Sunday worship. While more aid began to reach the areas affected by the Nov. 8 typhoon, an estimated 4 million are homeless. Nearly half a million houses were damaged by the storm, half of them destroyed, according to the United Nations.
Ormoc City, the second largest city in Leyte Province, has been overshadowed by the Tacloban disaster but also sustained severe devastation.
The young adult team delivered relief goods to Holy Mountain United Methodist Church in Ormoc City and visited Palunpon mission church with the Rev Bayani Alkuino and the Rev. Dave Cosmiano and their families.
Roofs on both the Isabel United Methodist Church and Holy Mountain in Ormoc City were blown away. Sunday worship there, Alviola learned from his team, was worship under the heavy downpour. They were all drenched, unmindful of the heavy rain, as Alkuino, the administrative pastor, led the service.
“With all the enormous devastation the survivors had, their spirits are never crushed,” he said. “They hold on together.”
Still, the situation is difficult, compelling some young people to join in the looting. “They really need help,” Alviola explained. “They were only given relief goods once since the typhoon hit them.”
Sanitation also is a basic need with a fear of the outbreak of any illness as an aftermath of typhoon. Picardal-Perana and her 2-year old son have a cough and cold, he said, but she managed to secure a free consultation by joining a long queue in a Roman Catholic hospital with German volunteer doctors.
“They have to buy mineral water for small children from the water station,” Alviola reported. “If they can’t buy, they will have to boil water from force pump. They use the dried logs for cooking when they run out of gas.’
Other team members were Sarah Lachenmayer, John Israel Euraoba, Joaquin Gajo, and Reynold Macatunog, the team organizer, from Negros Oriental, and Irene and Grace Rumagos from Cebu.
*Mangiduyos is a deaconess in the United Methodist Philippines Central Conference and a professor at Wesleyan University-Philippines in Cabanatuan City. News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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