Bohol, Philippines: Concrete Help to the Earthquake victims

5 November 2013

For the past month, Philippines have been through a lot, including a 7.2 magnitude in some islands. The Youth for a United World did something for them with the support of the community. Here is an update:

“Seeing the devastating effects on the news during the aftermath of the earthquake in Bohol, I knew I wanted to do something concrete for the victims. I especially wanted to make these people feel the love of God in these moments, wherein they may feel that all hope is lost. I was very privileged to be given the chance to do so. At first, I was scared because of the aftershocks that occur once in a while, but I knew that these are small trials, compared to the suffering of the families who lost their homes and loved ones because of the calamity. With the support of the Focolare community, we went to Bohol with around 15 Youth for a United World and some adults from Manila and Cebu. Upon arrival, we immediately packed 200 bags containing mats, blankets and materials for making tents for them to live in. We heard that this is what they needed most. It was a very joyful atmosphere even though it was hard work because we knew we were doing it out of love. It took us several hours to finish, until midnight, and only had a few hours to rest.

We woke up early to get started because of the several hours it will take for us to get to our destination. We used land and water transportation because most of the roads were destroyed. Our destination is Sandigan Island, where help and relief operations seldom arrive. We brought with us a truckload of goods, containing 200 gallons of water, 200 packages prepared the night before, cookies and other things that they might need. But we were surprised that we had to pass through a narrow, steep path down a mountain to reach the boats that will bring us to the island. For me, this was the most difficult and tiring part of our adventure as we had to bring all these goods down this path. But to make things easier, we formed a line wherein we passed the things down this trail, until the truck is empty, and the boats were full. It was very tiring but you can hear each one saying “For You, Jesus”, as the process of bringing the goods continue. After which, we even had to push the boat because of the low tide!

We then had little rest with the two hour boat ride to the island, and then we were all set to love again. We went 6 kilometres inland to Barangay Canigaan and were welcomed by the residents. Here, they do not have water supply as the water pipes were destroyed in the earthquake. We saw their houses totally destroyed, and most of the residents living outside in tents, due to fear of aftershocks. It was a heart-breaking sight to see, but we told ourselves that we were there to love. The distribution of water and the packages had a very festive atmosphere. They were cheering as their neighbours received their share. They were very happy that we went through all the effort to go to them. We also conducted a stress debriefing programme for the children, wherein they drew the experiences they had during the earthquake. We had games with them, and they were very happy that even the mothers joined in. We also had a chance to listen to their experiences during the earthquake, and heard the sufferings they had to go through.

An old man recounted his story to us. He was fishing in the sea when the earthquake happened. He was terrified seeing the inland of his hometown really being shook. To make matters worse, he was alone and water was sprouting from the sea, causing fountains to form. He even saw a small island come out in the middle of the sea during the earthquake. He said it was a miracle from God that he survived the ordeal, even though he saw his home destroyed afterwards. I gave him a soft pillow after his story, and it was heart-warming to see him in tears because of this simple gesture. 

For me, it was difficult as I had to forego of a vacation in order to be there, and because of the language barrier, but I promised myself that I will not stop loving. However, all the sacrifices were worth it, seeing the smiles in these people’s faces. More than the goods we gave them, they gave me a realization that indeed, only the love of God remains even when everything else is destroyed. 

It will still be a long way to go until their lives go back to normal, but at least, for a little while, we brought some comfort to their community through the material things that they needed, and the joy that for a little while, they forgot what they are going through and felt the love that we were there to give.


Kat (YFUW Secretariat, Manila)”

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