The Newsroom Blog

Hope Amidst the Rubble

In the center of the Philippines, about an hour by plane ride from the capital of Manila, lies the charming island of Bohol. It is a paradise of old rustic churches, beaches and filled with wonderful people who would welcome visitors to their island with a smile and a warm demeanor.   However, the idyllic peace of Bohol was rudely interrupted on October 15 as an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale rocked the island causing massive damages to houses, buildings and public infrastructures. The quake killed more than 200 people and left thousands without food, water and shelter. The economic and public health costs of the earthquake were enormous. For many Boholanos, paradise meant nothing when misery, hunger and death were suddenly thrust into their lives.

bohol now 1

Help was soon on the way. Together with other organizations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through its foundation arm, LDS Charities, immediately began sending aid to the beleaguered residents of Bohol. Members from the neighboring island of Cebu donated their Friday night on October 25 to help pack more than 4000 food and hygiene kits. The Church also sent agents specializing in welfare to Tagbiliran City to coordinate relief efforts with the government and other agencies to ensure the delivery of relief goods. They found that interspersed with standing structures were collapsed buildings, broken roads and cordoned off rubble, changing the facade of the island.

The highlight of the relief program of the Church was a one day Mormon Helping Hands project on October 28. Led by Elder Neil Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, close to a thousand members of the Church spent their day cleaning rubble and other debris in seven sites across Maribojoc, Loon, Sagbayan and other heavily affected sites.

For Megan Bongato, a 19 year old college student, having the chance to help her fellow Boholanons was a chance she couldn’t pass up.  She woke up early on Monday, October 28, skipped breakfast and headed straight for the Tagbilaran Chapel of the Church together with her older brother and cousin. There, she got her bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands vest, got a seat, and listened intently to the orientation program. The plan was to divide the volunteers to 7 different sites to help clean up the rubble.

bohol now 3

After the orientation was over, she found herself riding a bus with 50 other volunteers bound for Sagbayan. Despite the singing of joyful Church hymns by her fellow volunteers, Megan was in a pensive mood. Her cousin’s family living near Sagbayan, was telling her stories of how people died during the earthquake. She couldn’t help but think of how it must have felt to have a lost a loved one or see your own home destroyed. The closer the bus got to Sagbayan, the more destruction she could see along the way. She offered a silent prayer for those who had been affected by the earthquake.

The very first things that Megan noticed once they got to Sagbayan were the collapsed houses and people living in tents. It looked like a war zone. After a small briefing by a local government official, Megan and her group were assigned to clear a road from debris. Squaring her shoulders, she worked tirelessly with her fellow volunteers in clearing the road. Their worked later led them to a badly damaged internet shop that they helped clean up, much to the delight of the owner. She later mused that working under the hot sun and talking to the locals buoyed her spirit. For Megan the return trip had a much different feel than the one coming in.

Ricardo Saballa plays two major roles in his life.  He is the head of his family of seven and the president for the Calape District (diocese) of the Church. For Ricardo, the October 15 earthquake made both roles harder to fulfill. On the day of the earthquake, Ricardo was plying his regular route as a tricycle driver in the town of Loon. The moment the earth stopped shaking, he rushed home quickly, afraid of what he might find. He was dismayed to find his house totally demolished but miraculously, all of his family members were safe and sound albeit sitting dejectedly by the road side. He later found out that 52 families of his congregation also had their homes completely destroyed. Now, not only does he have to worry about how to provide shelter for his family but those of his flock as well.

bohol now 2

On October 28, Mormon Helping Hands volunteers would find him living in a tent on the grounds of the Loon Meetinghouse together with two other families. Despite his less than ideal living conditions, Ricardo was all smiles as he welcomed his visitors which included Elder Andersen. After briefly speaking with the visitors he would later lead them to his house where they immediately sprung into action in clearing away the debris.

It has been two weeks since his house was destroyed by the earthquake and Ricardo is starting to feel hopeful about the future.  The food and hygiene kits that he received from the Church and other organizations have helped him and his family survive. His son in Cebu has promised to send monetary aid to help rebuild the house. He is also confident that his fellow members of the Church would follow the example of Christ by helping each other rebuild their homes.

Principal Dedicacion Saguran’s school in Barangay Sta. Cruz, Maribojoc was also visited by  Mormon Helping Hands volunteers. The volunteers helped clear the rubble as well as collected and organized  scattered school records. The volunteers were accompanied by a small squad of soldiers.


Principal Saguran’s school accommodates 500 elementary and kindergarten children. After the earthquake, she was dismayed to find that six of the seven buildings have been rendered unsafe. She is worried that due to the difficulty of reopening the school, some children will be transferred to other schools disrupting family and friendships. On top of that, her school is required to start classes again on November 4. They will be forced to use the field across the school as their classroom. The situation is even bleaker as one can see the ruined Maribojoc Church just beyond the field.  With no tents available, Principal Saguran is wondering if she and her teachers will be teaching the students under the heat of the sun. She appreciated the efforts of the volunteers but says much still remains to be done.

Browse the Blog

About The Blog: This blog is managed and written by staff of the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The information here is reliable and accurate but should not necessarily be viewed as official statements from the Church. The purpose of this blog is to provide journalists, bloggers, and the public with additional context and information regarding public issues involving the Church. For official news releases and statements from the Church, visit

Style Guide Note: When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.