UPDATE: Missing Filipino pastor OK

MANILA (UMNS) — The Rev. Iris Picardal-Terana , a United Methodist pastor in Tacloban who was thought to be missing after Typhoon Haiyan has been in contact with Pastor Ruby Bongolan. In a text message, Pastor Iris said: “We are OK here in Leyte but our situation is difficult. I have not had contact with mom because I have no cell phone load. I was lucky to have been passed a load to be able to send this text message to you, after charging from a place far from where I am.” The text appears to have been sent at 6:31 p.m. Manila time, Nov. 14.

Watch for updates

Update: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013

MANILA (UMNS) — The Rev. Iris Picardal-Terana, a United Methodist pastor in Tacloban who was thought to be missing after Typhoon Haiyan reportedly has been in contact with a relative to say she is safe. The Rev. David Cosmiano, Eastern Visayas district superintendent, received a text alerting him to the situation but UMNS has not yet been able to verify the report.

By Gladys Mangiduyos*

MANILA (UMNS) — One of the two United Methodist pastors in Tacloban, a city in the Philippines virtually destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, is reportedly missing.

Church members have not been able to locate the Rev. Iris Picardal-Terana , her husband, Juneril, and their 2-year old son, said the Rev. David Cosmiano, district superintendent, in a Nov. 13 interview.

Cosmiano did learn, via text message, that the Rev. Lito Luana, who has Parkinson’s disease, and his wife both survived the storm, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, and are now in Ormoc City. Ormoc City also was severely hit and is not passable, he reported, with about 98 percent of the town destroyed.

As it crossed the Philippines Nov. 8, Typhoon Hiayan first made landfall in the Leyte Province, sending a wall of ocean water over Tacloban.

Cosmiano lives 110 kilometers from Tacloban in Guadalupe, an outlying area known as a barangay near Baybay, a port city on Leyte. His district includes Leyte, Samar, Bohol and Cebu and he also serves as administrative pastor of Light and Life United Methodist Church.

The only means of transportation is by motorcycle, which is how Cosmiano dispatched three people to Tacloban City Nov. 11: his daughter, Mary Phebe Grace, a nurse; and Celso Ensoy, Jr., and Prose Ivy Ensoy, who have relatives there. Because of the decomposing corpses littering the streets, they were not allowed to go to downtown and did not find the two pastors and their families, he said.

Survivors told them that most of the thousands of evacuees who took shelter in the Tacloban Astrodome, better known as the Tacloban City Convention Center, are missing. The old, the sick, and women and children had sought safety in the basement from the violent winds, unaware of the 15-foot storm surge that would engulf all of them, Cosmiano said.

The district superintendent has been in conversation with the United Methodist Committee on Relief through Ciony Ayo Eduarte, head of mission for UMCOR Philippines.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief announced a $97,000 grant Nov. 11 to provide emergency food, water and water purification tablets to 7,500 individuals (or 1,500 families) in Tacloban City and the Rev. Jack Amick of UMCOR has flown to the Philippines.

Urgent needs

Cosmiano said the most urgent needs are for food, water and shelter. ”There is no means of transportation and communication, no gasoline, no banks, no shipping services, no power,” he explained, adding he was grateful to be able to recharge his cell phone battery at a hospital with a generator. The nearest place to obtain supplies is Cebu, more than two hours by boat.

His church, which is located near Visayas State University, has a dormitory for students. The congregation is mostly students from different towns in Leyte Province. Five families, however, have lost their houses, he said.

“Still many towns are not yet accessible, and they have been hard hit also,” he noted.

Cosmiano, who also evacuated with his family into university housing, described Typhoon Yolanda as the strongest he has experienced. It felt as if they were inside a washing machine, he said. Any standing coconut trees look like matches with their heads removed, and all the uprooted coconut trees are like pick-up sticks.

“Let us keep our faith…hold on to it very tightly…never get separated from God, let us start anew, renew our relationship with the Mother Nature…” he said.

*Mangiduyos is a deaconess in the United Methodist Philippines Central Conference. News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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

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