Typhon Sendong and the Church’s Response of love and compassion

‘TYPHON SENDONG AND THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE OF LOVE AND COMPASSION’

No one in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan recalls ever having a typhoon pass by during their entire life.  Most of the typhoons that originates in the Pacific ocean passes through the Surigao strait, then to  eastern Visayas, and proceeds to Luzon.

During the early morning of Thursday, December 15, the Philippine Weather Bureau forecasted that a brewing low pressure from Pacific Ocean may turn into a storm. Late evening of  the same day, Pag-asa announced that  the low pressure  has turned into a tropical storm giving its name “Sendong” and forecasted that it will land in Davao Oriental and passes through Agusan Sur, Bukidnon, Misamis provinces and  Zamboanga del Norte. Pag-asa issued a signal number 1 for typhoon Sendong and warned of heavy rains on the affected provinces.

People were busy preparing for Christmas; no one was concern of typhoon Sendong, its only signal No. 1, and besides Pag-asa maybe wrong, no storm ever passes the forecasted track of the typhoon.

Typhoon Sendong brought heavy rains on its tracks starting late evening of Thursday, Dec. 15, and continued the whole day of Friday, Dec. 16. At 1:00 o’clock in the early morning of Saturday, Dec. 17, the heavy rains, strong winds, and rushing water from the mountains and higher grounds flooded both cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.  It was as if the cities were hit by an inland “tsunami.” Water rose to more than 10 feet within minutes especially along the riverside,  or coastal and low lying areas. The flash flood in some areas rose to as high as 30 feet.

Since it was 1;00 o’clock in the morning most of the people in both cities were asleep thus un-aware of the danger of the flood. Several villages or subdivisions were totally washed out within minutes, especially communities at the bank of the rivers. Bridges, houses and other infrastructures were destroyed. Debris from these buildings were sweep all out to the sea leaving huge areas devoid of all traces of habitation. Cars  were tossed like they were toys. People were clinging to trees. Children were place inside pails to keep them afloat. Families huddle on rooftops while others were separated by the strong water current. What made things worse were the hundreds rampaging logs that swept down the mountains and killed people and destroyed houses along its path.

Unimaginable devastation of properties and infrastructure and a rising toll of dead people met the people of both cities at daybreak.

There were a total of 51, 757 houses affected by the flood; of which 9,193 houses were totally destroyed, 42,564 houses were partially damaged.  54,618 families were affected, consisting of more than 500 thousand individuals. 1,490 persons were accounted dead, (737 Cagayan de Oro; 693 Iligan; 45- Bukidnon); 1,603 injured, and close to 800 still missing. In both Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities 45,000 displaced persons are in evacuation centers, while 266,000 persons stays outside temporary shelters, with a total of 311,000 persons being assisted daily. Very recently the National Disaster Committee estimated 33,000 families need to relocated to resettlement areas sponsored by the National Housing /authority, Pag-Ibig and the local government.

482 classrooms  from 60 schools were submerged with water destroying book, records and science materials thus affecting 26,000 pupils. The estimated cost of damaged to schools amount to P 114.00 million pesos.

It was also noted that for the first time in the history of Mindanao that an appeal was made urgently for casket and body bags as a priority in the relief needs. Until now, in many places there is no drinking water yet.  Diseases in evacuation center also becomes a problem.  About ten have already died of Leptospirosis, and 140 patients affected by this disease are in the hospital.

We have a United Methodist presence in both cities.  Twenty United Methodist families in Cagayan de Oro City were affected.  Two houses were completely washed out. The homes of the others were submerged in the floods and damaged. At the height of the flood our members have to climb to their roof tops to avoid being drowned. In Iligan ten United Methodist homes were affected and one whole family drowned: father, mother 2 children, a relative and helper.

Let me share some stories of faith of some of persons affected by typhoon sending:

 

Iligan City

Julia Echavez and her Family

      Little Julia, a smart 3-year girl, loved to listen to Bible stories and one of her favorites was the story of Noah and the Great Flood. A week before Typhoon Sendong, she would go to her maternal Lolo and ask him to tell her the story of Noah. Not once but repeatedly. Together, they would turn the pages of the storybook and look at the pictures.  She particularly liked the part that at the end of the flood, God sent a rainbow to show His love to all the people.

      At the height of Typhoon Sendong, past midnight of December 17, Julia, together with her Daddy Julius, Mommy Ivy and 11-month old sister Aniqa, was sleeping at her great grandmother’s house in Hinaplanon, Iligan City. It was weekend and they were visiting. Their two young house helps were also sleeping at the other room. 

       Without their knowing it, water from Hinaplanon river overflowed, broke loose and surged within seconds to the neighboring houses including theirs. Her Aunt Ivory, younger sister of her mom and living next door, came knocking at their house, waking them up but the water came up so fast there was no time for them to go out of the house. They were trapped, all seven of them. The water current was so strong, bringing debris and logs, pushing them inside the house and it rose and rose until it reached the ceiling and covered the entire house. They shouted for help, at first their voices were loud and clear yet panicking, until slowly they faded out, one by one. At daybreak, after the water had subsided, their bodies were found in the living room. The adults bore bruises and scars in their arms, hands, legs and faces, signs that they were trying their best to look for a way out and escape the wrath of the flood waters.

        After the flood, somewhere over the rainbow is Julia and her family, at peace and embraced in the love of God.

Marjorie*

        With her parents working in another city, 9-year old Marjorie was left at the care of her Lolo Joe and Lola Marlyn. Staying with them in their small shanty at Bayug Island is an aunt and two uncles. They live near the river banks, thus they are used to being “flooded,” that is, water getting inside their house from time to time.  However, that night of December 16, the rains did not stop, instead it became stronger accompanied by howling winds. They began putting their things on top of high cabinets and other furniture. But the water started to double up, it rose as fast as they could save their belongings from getting wet. The strong winds blew their roof top off. Their house started to collapse with the onslaught of water, mud, and logs. At once, everyone in the household started to look for something to hold on to. And without warning, the sudden surge of flood waters dismantled and carried their small shanty to the open sea and they got separated from each other.

        Marjorie’s father Edgar came home the following day from Cagayan de Oro City. His wife is still in Cebu City working as a domestic help. He crumbled with what he saw. Their house was no longer there. In fact, not one house was left standing on Bayug Island. Everything was wiped out.

      He looked and hoped to find his father, mother, brother, sister, her sister’s husband, and especially his young daughter, Marjorie, among the survivors in the evacuation centers. They were not there. He looked at the faces of hundreds of people walking aimlessly along the streets and the flood-ravaged areas. He still did not find them. He looked among the dead piled in the streets and in the funeral homes.  Nothing. His only hope was that the waves brought them to neighboring coastal areas and have survived the catastrophe.

       Indeed, a few days after the flood, a neighbor told him that he had seen Marjorie. Edgar rushed to Mindanao Sanitarium and Hospital, where his young daughter was confined.  Marjorie told his father that seconds before they were wept to the sea, her Uncle Fernil gave her a wooden slab, told her to hold on to it no matter what would happen and kissed her goodbye. That was the last time they saw each other. Marjorie held on that wooden slab and was carried by the waves to Kauswagan where a fisherman found her dehydrated and very weak, and was brought home to Iligan City where she had a heartbreaking reunion with her father. Edgar thanked God for the blessing of finding her daughter, and lifted to Him the other members of their family who, until now, are still missing.  (*not her real name)

 

Cagayan De Oro-

Bantilan Rey & Mary Ann Bantilan Families

          “That night when we were at home, sleeping we were awakened by the raging waters. We could not get out of the house..it was flooded everywhere. My dad went to Valencia City and we were left in the house, my mom, my son and myself. One of the barangay tanod just passed by our house with life saver…he helped us out of the house…in time before the house was swept  by the raging waters..and because of him, we were saved. If only that baranggay tanod  was late for just about five minutes, we would have been swept by the waters and are dead now…I would say, the Lord God loves us… because the Lord sent angels to help us out of the house in time.. I thank the Lord for giving us again another life…”  Mary Ann Bantilan

Miguel Family

          “I thank the Lord for giving me a husband who has been my superhero during the time of the typhoon Sendong. Our house was flooded and we got out of the house before it was too late to get out. I thank God that before the typhoon our house was tupsy-turvy all around, after the flood it was cleaned…since all have been cleaned by the flood…, we had one half sack of rice before the flood..and it was soaked in water..after the flood ..thank God ..it became 1 sack of rice…We’ll, lets celebrate and forget our worries with our flooded houses…but let us thank God for his goodness to us inspite of the flood….” Thank God… Lovely Resma-Miguel

Requinton Family

          “We survived the flood, by going to the two storey house near our home. We waited for 30 minutes for them to open the door of the house, and that 30 minutes  of waiting, I was able to pray to the Lord…Lord please let us live….we don’t want to die…not now Jesus…please.

It is heartbreaking to see everything that we have to be gone in just overnight…all the materials things that we have are gone…but then these are just material things, what is important is that we are alive…we are alive… and for this alone we are thankful to God.” Rose Requinton

Tagontongan Family

          “ I thank God for the blessing of this cash relief that you are extending to me. During the flood, I lost everything, I only saved myself and my son…yesterday, I went our evacuation center in hope of receiving 500.00 cash relief from ERAP, but i got so discouraged, i was late, the distribution was almost finished when I arrived.

Today, I did not expect to receive much much more…(Ma’am Ludy was crying when she was telling her story) I thank God for his faithfulness to me and my son…Thank you Pastor and to the people who have kind and generous hearts to extend their help to us” God is good! –  Ludy Tagontongan

 

Del Puerto Family

          “There is no poor or rich in face and times of calamities like this”..says Robert del Puerto Sr. The del Puerto family live in a subdivision at Balulang Cagayan de Oor where the floodwaters reached almost the ceiling of houses. They were not able to rescue anything inside their house. Bobby their only son was able to break the metal bars of their house, in time to get out of their house and go to their rooftop before the floodwaters drown them. Their house,car, clothes everything..are flooded..

During the Requinton Clan Reunion Pearly del Puerto said: “ It’s time to thank the Lord…,  we thank God for our life even when we are flooded let us be happy and thankful to the Lord..” –Pagerlita del Puerto

Cansino Family

That morning when I was in the ceiling of our 2 storey house I saw God’s miracle through several ways….it was blackout, but then the communication was not stopped, our cellphone kept on charging and we cannot explain this..The much encouraging support of friends and family members kept our hope and faith alive. Rudy Lucero texted us: “Just hold on, I texted all my friends so you are being prayed for …so hold on.. You will survive, I believe the Lord is with you… you will survive,  Iking.- the brother of my husband from Bacolod City, text “I called up Elsie and Egay in the states,  they are gathering as a church to pray for you..For Pastor Bong and Nilda Resma monitoring what we are doing and are praying for us.

After the flood, the coming in of food, clothes, financial assistance was overwhelming.

          Forty seven teachers and staff from our school Corpus Christi were flooded. Even if I am a victim, I cannot close my eyes to more needy flood victims, so whenever I see their need, I share to them and I receive even more blessings in return. Great is thy Faithfulness O Lord -Regina Cansino

There are other places too, that were affected but were not highlighted by the media. We have a record of reported death from the following places affected by typhoon Sendong: Bukidnon province 45,  in Negros Oriental and Dumaguete city 44 persons, Compostela Valley 5 persons, Lanao del Sur 4 persons and in Zamboanga del Norte 3 persons.

In Sta Cruz, (Misamis Oriental) where our church is beside the sea and the where Christmas Institute was being held, the activity was aborted because the sea water rose to hide tide, logs floated, 4 dead human bodies were seen floating and there were cows and other animals, too, that drowned. In San Francisco (Agusan Sur) the Christmas Institute was also aborted because water rose up to the waist line of delegates.  In Vintar (Bukidnon) The Christmas Institute continued in spite of the flood that went in the church.  The Visayas, particularly Dumaguete City, is also severely affected.

Typhoon Sendong is considered by several groups such as some politicians and Insurance companies as an ACT Of GOD. But many people including the victims perceived it as the result of the ACTION OF MAN. Some of the perceived causes of typhoon Sendong and its enourmous destruction are:

  1. Deforestration. We have destroyed our forest due to the in-effective implementation of the total log ban policy, and much more the exemption of the Autonomous region of Mindanao from the total log ban policy of the national government. Many of the destroyed houses in Iligan were smashed to pieces by newly cut logs from the mountains of Lanao province.
  2. Climate Change. The destruction of our forest and of our invironmental heritage has affected our climate. This may explain why these provinces of Davao, Bukidnon, Misamis and Zamboanga that has never experienced typhoons became the path of tropical Typhoon Sendong.
  3. No Pro-active Program of local government on flood control. An advocate of environmental protection has warned the local government of Cagayan de Oro of a possible disaster after studying the housing geographical area of the city. She was called an “Alarmist”. This explains the reason why building permit were issued to people and subdivision developers to build their homes in flood prone danger zones, including “Isla Delta, a sand bar in the middle of Cagayan de Oro river, one of the worse hit during the flash flood.
  4. No Effective Local Government Warning of coming disaster, such as flash flood. The flood came at 12:00 midnight when most of the residents are asleep. Many were caught inside their houses and could get from their rooms due to the rushing waters.

You can see the wide area that is affected. What I pictured to you is but a glimpse of what has transpired and is happening, focusing on our church constituents.  Members of our churches in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro have organized committees that do relief work. Methodist constituencies in the Davao Episcopal Area responded with loving hearts, sharing generously for the relief goods in the affected places, but the destruction was so huge that we are prayed and appealed for outside help for which we are very grateful for the loving, generous and prompt response from the Methodist people in the connection.

There are three phases of respond that are needed:

Phase I- Distribution of immediate relief goods, such as food, drinking

water, clothing, medicine  tent for shelter, casket and body bags for

burial. Phase I covers the first few weeks from the time of typhoon

Sendong.

Phase II– (a) Distribution of money in cash for them to buy their priority

needs at the evacuation centers, relocation areas, or at their former

place as they settle and start their new life. Due to the limited

amount of money we are giving priority to the Methodist

constituency

(b) Medical Mission in relocation areas to deal with diseases, such

as diarrhea, cold and cough, Malaria, Liptospirosis and other health

concerns. We need volunteer medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists

and social workers for the medical mission. Medicines will be a great

component of this mission to be dispense by the doctors.

(c) Trauma Counseling for the victims. “After losing their loved

ones and homes to monstrous flood and mudslides unleashed by

Tropical Storm “Sendong,” many survivors are having bouts of

depression, with some exhibiting suicidal tendencies.” In fact a

certain Roy Navarro stabbed himself and cut his throat in the

evacuation center last Jan. 6, upon knowing that his family was not

included among the first batch of those to be relocated.

All of our church workers in  the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de

Oro had undergone psycho-social intervention training and have

started interviewing and debriefing  victims in the evacuation,

relocation  centers and in their homes. So far “Stress defriefers from

the DSWD personnel and volunteers only interviewed 865

individuals, consisting of 544 adults and 321 children, inside seven

evacuation centers.”

We welcome professional counselors and social workers to help

us in this area.

Phase II is effectively needed during the first few months of

January, February, March , April and May of 2012,

Phase III– Rehabilitation: such as rebuilding of houses, farms, water

system, bridges, and Infra-structures that will help them start ther

new life. Rehabilitation may take about two to five years.

We welcome your help in any of the respond we have listed above under the three phases we have enumerated. You may contact us at, Telephone #: 63-82-2224474; Email Address: bishopdavao@yahoo.com;   or visit us at: Davao Methodist Mission Development Center, Davao Episcopal Area, 104 C.M. Recto Street, Davao City 8000, Philippines.

You may send donations to:

Name of Bank:  Bank of the Philippines Islands  (Davao Main Branch)

Address:  115 C. M. Recto Avenue,  Davao City  8000, Philippines

Account Name:  (Peso)  Philippines Central Conference-UMC-DEA

Account Number:  2081-0575-19

Account Name: (Dollar)  The United Methodist Church – Davao Episcopal Area

Account Number:  2084-0457-59

Swift Code:  BOPIPHMM

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