Ecumenical ties in Philippines assist aid efforts

By Linda Bloom*

The 50th anniversary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines originally was planned as a jubilee celebration.

But the council, whose members include the United Methodist Church there, took a more somber tone Nov. 15 in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

“Instead of a grand celebration, we have transformed our commemoration into an act of solidarity with those who are suffering,”  said the Rev. Rex RB Reyes, Jr. in a statement.

As with previous disasters, United Methodists in the Philippines also are working ecumenically with other faith partners to respond to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as TyphoonYolanda. The United Nations estimates that more than 13 million people overall have been affected.

UMCOR update

Volunteers and staff of the United Methodist Committee on Relief loaded a cargo truck with bright yellow bags filled with relief goods Nov. 17, ready to begin a 26-hour trek to typhoon-stricken communities in the central Philippines.

The van will be part of a caravan of three UMCOR vehicles carrying the vital supplies, staff, and a handful of the dozens of volunteers who showed up at the UMCOR Philippines office to load the truck.

UMCOR has granted a total of more than $180,000 US to its field operations in the Philippines to provide both fast relief assistance and long-term recovery and rehabilitation aid. To date, online donations to UMCOR through International Disaster Response Advance #982450 have totaled $820,000.

Relationship with UCCP

The United Church of Christ in the Philippines, a 1948 union of various denominations including the former Philippine Methodist Church, is the largest Protestant denomination in Visayas, the area affected by the typhoon.

As an affiliated autonomous church with The United Methodist Church, the UCCP sends delegates to meetings of the United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body.

In a Nov. 14 conference call with representatives from various denominations in the U.S. and Canada, Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, UCCP’s top executive, said two major relief centers had been opened in Cebu City and Maasin as distribution points. He confirmed that many of their churches in the affected area had been destroyed.

“Tacloban remains the center of world media attention, but many areas are still unreached, especially on the West Visayas side,” he said. In Maasin, for example, “the food supply is getting scarce. There is massive hoarding. Even gasoline is getting scarce.”

On Nov. 17, when United Methodist Bishop Ciriaco Francisco preached at Cosmopolitan United Church in Melrose Park, Ill., concern arose over the number of UCCP congregations that had been affected by the typhoon. Some of the church’s members formerly belonged to that denomination, noted Aquilino “Pong” Javier Jr., a Cosmopolitan member and president of the National Federation of Asian-American United Methodists.

Francisco said he would continue to talk with the UCCP area bishop, Jaime Morilles, about general assistance for typhoon relief, Javier reported. The two bishops were seminary classmates.

NCCP and ACT Alliance

At the NCCP compound in Manila, volunteers “are working day and night to repack goods to be transported to the affected areas.” The council is distributing food and water in Samar, one of the areas hit by the typhoon.

Scores of volunteers stuffed bags and piled them onto a waiting truck just before the anniversary celebration.

The NCCP is a member of ACT Alliance, a global network of churches and related organizations engaged in humanitarian work. The ACT Philippine Forum includes the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Christian Aid, Lutheran World Relief, Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation and Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz.

ACT has set up a coordination center at the NCCP offices in Manila. The organization reported Nov. 15 that 10 members are delivering emergency food, shelter, water and sanitation facilities in the central Visayas region.

Bethany Hospital

Originally built by the Presbyterian Church, Bethany Hospital in Tacloban is owned and operated by the UCCP.

At Bethany, where chest-deep waters reached the hospital’s first flood, the supply of medicines was running low, the intensive care-unit “washed out” and patient care performed in makeshift fashion.

Marigza said Nov. 14 that the hospital basically had ceased to operate. Seawater entered the hospital, along with mud “and destroyed most of the equipment.” Patients were moved to another hospital or went home.

He was hoping for a delivery of cleaning equipment, such as axes, shovels and saws, so Bethany could at least erect an emergency space and a roof to begin to readmit patients.

‘Remarkable collaboration’

The Rev. Liberato Bautista, an executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said he expects a “remarkable collaboration” among the various partners for typhoon relief.

The NCCP has been very active in disaster relief and many United Methodist young people have signed up for volunteer teams, he noted.

Recovery from some of those other disasters, including flooding and an earthquake, are continuing. Bautista pointed out that his sister, who lives in Manila, had just finished repairs on her roof in October from the typhoon that hit the capital city in July.

“You’re talking of news now where people are saying the rehabilitation of the Visayas area will take years,” he pointed out. “That is the same thing they said in July when there was a massive flooding in Manila and northern Philippines.

”It’s really the entire country, if you’re talking about the last 12 months, that’s reeling from disasters.”

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.or contact her at (646) 369-3759 or[email protected].

Support UMCOR’s relief and recovery work in the Philippines by contributing to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450.


Like what you're reading?  United Methodist Communications is celebrating 80 years of ministry! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community.  Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Racism
The Rev. David Maldonado. Video image courtesy of IMU Latina (Iglesia Metodista Unida Latina) via YouTube by UM News.

Church must hear Hispanic/Latino voices

The lack of voices from Latin America represents a major gap in the global conversations occurring in The United Methodist Church.
Mission and Ministry
Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan (in red stole) and a team of United Methodists pray over generators for the Bicol Philippines Conference. The generators from United Methodist Communications are being loaned to churches to provide free charging to communities affected by a series of powerful typhoons in the Philippines. Photo by Jerome Mercado.

United Methodists rally to help typhoon survivors

From sheltering evacuees to raising money, gathering supplies and sharing generators, Filipino United Methodists and church partners are embracing those affected by recent storms.
Mission and Ministry
The heavy rains brought by Hurricane Eta caused major flooding, especially in the northern part of the Honduras. Tocoa was one of the areas affected by the floods and United Methodists are supporting the recovery of the affected communities. Photo courtesy of the United Methodist Mission.

United Methodists in Honduras face tragedy with solidarity

After Hurricane Eta brought devastation to Honduras, United Methodist churches mobilized to provide food, supplies and shelter.