Philippines youth respond to fire victims

Jazel Resurreccion Lustre, a volunteer teacher in Bulacan province, helps a child from the Longos neighborhood, which was devastated by fire. The September blaze destroyed 28 of 108 homes in the impoverished community. Photo courtesy of Fort Nicolas. 

Jazel Resurreccion Lustre, a volunteer teacher in Bulacan province, helps a child from the Longos neighborhood, which was devastated by fire. The September blaze destroyed 28 of 108 homes in the impoverished community. Photo by Emily Sison.

United Methodist youth in Bulacan province rallied to help an impoverished community recover from a devastating fire.

A poor neighborhood in the suburban town of Pulilan was already struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic when a fire destroyed 28 of the community’s 108 houses in early September. The town is in Bulacan province, in the Central Luzon region.

Larren Jo "LJ" Basilio, the national president of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship, was in an online discussion with a Bulacan-based volunteer teacher, Jazel Resurreccion Lustre. They were working on plans to produce videos for online learning when Lustre noticed smoke and dust.

Basilio was then at Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc., where he works as the coordinator of the Alternative Learning System program. The foundation is the social development arm of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines.

While chatting, Lustre noticed smoke and dust were blurring the screen of her smartphone.

"Is there a fire nearby?" she asked. After learning a fire was raging in the dumpsite area called “Looban” in Barangay (Village) Longos, Lustre said her heart sank.

Most of the Alternative Learning System’s high school scholars as well as children in the foundation’s Supervised Neighborhood Play program live in Looban.

The students’ families survive by sifting through what others have discarded and selling whatever they can salvage.

"Go there right away and see what you can do to help our students and their families," Basilio told Lustre. Lustre hurried to the location and snapped several photos that she posted on social media.

She witnessed panicking residents trying to salvage whatever they could from their burning shelters, made of plywood and thin, galvanized iron roofs. They were only able to carry a few clothes, their treasured small television sets, and whatever they could pick up along the way as they tried to save themselves, she said.

  Residents of the Longos barangay, or neighborhood, watch as smoke billows over their neighborhood. A September fire destroyed 28 of 108 homes in the impoverished community in Bulacan province. Photo courtesy of Fort Nicolas. 
Residents of the Longos barangay, or neighborhood, watch as smoke billows over their neighborhood. A September fire destroyed 28 of 108 homes in the impoverished community in Bulacan province.

Photo by Jazel Resureccion Lustre.

“The fire left almost nothing,” said resident Archie Miralles, as he sifted through the burnt ruins of his home, trying to find something that could still be of use to him and his family.

Basilio mobilized the United Methodist youth groups in the province. He first informed Felly Rose Policarpio, the president of the Bulacan Philippines Annual Conference.

“Perhaps it was a divine intervention that tonight is the regular care group of BulPAC UMYF,” Policarpio remarked, referring to the Bulacan Conference’s youth fellowship.

The four youth fellowship group district presidents of the annual conference – Dorothy Angeles, Joyce Ann Pajatol, Shiela Ann Ramos and Christine Faith Manlapig – were at the meeting.

The fellowship members began campaigning for relief goods. The next day, a 26-seat jeepney arrived at Looban loaded with milk, diapers, canned goods, clothes and toiletries donated by fellowship members from local churches.

The United Methodist young people also talked with and prayed for the residents of Barangay Longos, especially the fire victims.

Policarpio and the fellowship’s district officers said the foundation’s theater group, Teatro Kapatiran, helped them see the poverty situation in the Philippine society when it presented a play during the 3rd National Youth Council Meeting of the youth fellowship last year. The play depicted the realities in all three areas the foundation is serving — the Manila North Cemetery and Tondo District in Manila and Looban dumpsite in Bulacan.

“The performance was an eye-opener,” Policarpio said. “It sowed a desire in our hearts to share what we have with the people who lost their homes in the middle of a pandemic.”

On the Bulacan Conference youth fellowship Facebook page, conference youth leaders posted: “Let’s continue to spread the love of Jesus Christ through helping our neighbors in times of need.”

Other United Methodist churches in the province, particularly Living Water United Methodist Church, the local government units, civic groups and private businesses also donated foods, clothes, diapers, sanitary goods and cash for the fire victims.

Nicolas is a correspondent based in the Philippines.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, [email protected] or 615-742-5470. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! 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-SUBSCRIPTION
Mission and Ministry
United Methodist Church of Bound Brook, in Bound Brook, N.J., is dealing with Hurricane Ida flood damage, including to its thrift shop. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Chuck Coblentz.

United Methodist connection kicks in after Ida

Church damage reports mount in Louisiana and Northeast, but spared areas are helping, including a $100,000 donation from the Alabama-West Florida Conference to the Louisiana Conference.
Disaster Relief
The Tribute in Light is an art installation created in remembrance of those who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. It consists of 88 vertical searchlights arranged in two columns to represent the twin towers that came down in the attack. On clear nights, the lights can be seen over 60 miles away. Photo courtesy of the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

Finding light in the darkness of 9/11

United Methodists rose to the challenge of caring for survivors of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but many of these helpers needed support afterward for their own trauma.
Mission and Ministry
Mellan Nyagato (left) poses with her siblings in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Africa University junior is coping with her father’s death from COVID-19 while studying online with her sisters. Photo courtesy of Mellan Nyagato.

AU student copes with father’s death from COVID-19

Studying online with two younger siblings, Mellan Nyagato battles grief and worries about the future.