With couches, TV sets and flip-flops floating down the swollen Pasig and Marikina rivers, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began relief efforts in the basement and garage of the Church Area Office building in Quezon City.
Mormon Helping Hands volunteers dressed in jeans and sneakers as well as dresses, shirts and ties wait for the arrival of rice to be repackaged for delivery and articles for hygiene kits and diapers to be readied for distribution to those waiting in evacuation centers. Church volunteers came from nearby congregations as the first set of supplies arrived. Several of the Church’s large chapels are already being used to house up to 400 stranded people per chapel in Marikina and Laguna. Volunteers from Quezon City and Manila Stakes (dioceses) responded to the call for service and arrived wearing their bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests. Although some of their own homes were knee-deep, they came in to help.
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According to Manila news reports, the conditions are now worse than when Typhoon Ondoy hit the Philippines in 2009. In Ondoy, the water came much more quickly and more lives were taken sooner, but over the past eleven days of rain following Gener (international name:Saola), there has been more rainfall and worst flooding…and the death rate continues to rise. As of last night (August 8) 443 houses in Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces have been damaged and 1,246 totally destroyed with 6,609 partially damaged.
Many department managers in the Church Area Office are holding down the fort, answering phones, writing damage reports, involved in assessment and organizational issues not just for general relief efforts but to care for flood victims and suffering in their own congregations as well. They also serve as Bishops and Stake (diocese) presidents in their own neighborhoods.
Roni can’t get in to work for the Director of Temporal Affairs,Todd Tapp, because she lives in Antipolo City and the San Marcus Highway is down, damaged beyond immediate repair; Ryan in Human Resources can’t get to work because the public transportation he takes every day isn’t running. (He is busy assessing and trying to meet the needs within his own congregation since he can’t get to work); Kaye, the production department manager is at her mother’s home with her five-year-old son and pregnant herself, while awaiting phone calls from her husband who is waist deep in flood waters in their new home.
Many senior missionary couples left wet apartments to come to work to help those whose damage is greater, whose suffering is more immediate and tragic.
At the moment, Benson Misalucha, Church welfare director for the Philippines is at his desk, writing updates for the Church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City even as he directs assessment, organization and relief purchasing efforts here.
“This is still a time of assessment and organization,” he reported, ”because unlike Ondoy, the waters continue to rise and the flooding continues as it has over days now. Soon, when the roads are passable for the locally purchased items to arrive, we will begin the joint effort with TV5 Alagang Kapatid Foundation and our member volunteers to help our brothers and sisters affected in the disaster, particularly those from Laguna and Pampanga as well as those in NCR. We have seen more rain and higher flood waters than with Katrina in the United States and more damage than with Ondoy.” He continued, “But our Mormon Helping Hands volunteers within our congregations are ready at a moment’s notice to do what their vests imply: to use their hands to help bring relief.”
To be updated as further events transpire.