Typhoon Haiyan ravaged a large part of central Philippines. Due to its distance from us here in Manila, a team of two, Levi and Henry, both from the affected region, were sent to Leyte to survey the area and help us plan how to go about the relief work. They initially went on Nov 18th to Cebu City in order to find prices of rice, canned goods etc as well as to find a truck to transport the relief goods to Leyte. A sister Baptist church in Leyte, (AFBC) helped them in the survey. Pastor Jovert, one of the pastors of this church, joined Levi and Henry and helped establish contact with churches there as well as local government units (barangays). After four days, Levi and Henry returned to Cubao to report to the relief coordinators and plan the distribution.
Based on their survey it was decided to buy most of the relief goods in Cebu, and repack the goods in Leyte. Levi and Henry left on the 25th to do the purchasing and arrange for the delivery of the goods. Cathy Gacutan, (CCM EAP Director) and nurse Joy Putal (CCM Staff) left on the evening of the next day to help administer anti-tetanus shots in Palo, Leyte where Reah (one of CCM’s Board members), is currently assigned. Cathy also surveyed other places in Palo and Tacloban. Pastor Mon Macapagal and his wife Bekha, together with Reddy Gonzales (CCM staff) followed on the evening of the 27th in time for the packing of goods in Abuyog the next day.
Everyone was shocked at the devastation they saw upon arrival in Tacloban. Pastor Mon and Bekha were there earlier in January of this year and their hearts were crushed by what they saw as compared to what it used to be. From Tacloban City all the way to Abuyog, (more than an hour’s drive), they saw the same thing over and over – the ruins of large and small houses, trucks, cars and other vehicles smashed into buildings, fallen coconut trees, posts, people living in tents, mass graveyards and most of all people begging along the highway. It was a sorrowful sight that would shatter anyone’s hope.
The team of seven from CRBC and CCM all arrived in Abuyog and started packing goods immediately before it got dark – since there was no electricity. They repacked 200 sacks of rice (50 kgs per sack), 20,000 cans of food, bottled water and lighters (for lighting fires) together with gospel tracts. All in all, this made 2000 relief packs. They were assisted by the members of the Abuyog church until it became dark.
Early the following morning, the relief goods were loaded onto the truck, which was generously loaned to us by one of the deacons of the church. The relief distribution started in Tacloban where almost 400 recipients were waiting. Our contact there was with a local pastor. Pastor Mon from Cubao then shared the gospel to the awaiting crowd. It was obvious that these people desperately needed the relief goods as they patiently waited for their turn.
The next stop was in Calogcog. Pastor Jovert, who joined us from Leyte, gathered the residents along the highway before Pastor Mon once again shared the gospel to them. This time, tickets were used in distributing the relief goods for 50 families. It was also in Calogcog that the relief team met the group of Americans from Texas whom CRBC has been assisting. They had just come from Samar where they installed water filters in different communities.
The Relief Team then proceeded to Dagami, a very remote area in the province where we had a contact called Pastor Roel. Pastor Mon again preached the gospel. People with their tickets patiently waited in line as 300 packs of relief goods were distributed. While this was going on, our American brethren set up two more water filter stations.
The following day was Abuyog, Leyte’s turn to receive relief goods. There was much devastation here again – destroyed homes, mostly without roofs, fallen trees and of course no electricity. Very early in the morning people flocked to the street where the church is located. After Pastor Mon’s preaching, an orderly distribution ensued with the use of tickets and priority numbers for 650 packs. However, after these were served, there were still about 300 people waiting patiently for a share of relief goods. The volunteers were seized with fear and apprehension as the crowd had started to become unruly. For a time, they decided to stop the distribution.
However, as they saw the desperation of the gathering, they were deeply moved. When one lady sprained her ankle in the crowd, they knew that these people had to be served quickly. The volunteers decided to repack packs for another place so they could give 300 more to the crowd. Our men asked them to kneel down and encouraged them to pray, after which there was an atmosphere of order and calmness. All those waiting were then served and the volunteers felt the hand of the Lord upon them as more than 950 relief packs were distributed. In the afternoon of that Saturday, the team set out for Baybay, Leyte where 120 packs of relief goods were also distributed.
After the Lord’s day, the volunteers started on the long journey to Samar, another province badly hit by the typhoon. A church in Tacloban received 50 packs while three other churches in Samar received about 250 packs.
Seeing the place where the storm surge had occurred was a very distressing sight for the volunteers. They felt that what they had done trying to meet the great needs was so insignificant, just a drop in the ocean. They wondered what more they could do. The whole province is in a state of calamity, such as they have never seen nor known before. The whole team were gripped with pity for the people they left.
The members of CRBC then met on Sunday afternoon, Dec 1st to discuss what still needs to be done. Together with the volunteers for Basey Samar, the Leyte relief volunteers all agreed that we still have to do much more to help in these two provinces, maybe to give more relief goods, but also this time tools and construction materials are needed for the victims. Foremost in our minds are how we can provide livelihood for these desperate people. Please pray for us as we explore how we might go about this.