BILIRAN, Leyte – While most of the relief operations in typhoon- ravaged areas are delivering mostly food aid, survivors of super typhoon Bopha handed unique form of relief: a food for the spirituality.
Calling it as a “spiritual journey,” 22 typhoon survivors from New Bataan town of Compostela Valley province travelled at least 600 kilometers by land to this typhoon-devastated island to express solidarity and sympathy.
Some 250 families affected by supertyphoon Haiyan in Barangay Burabod of Biliran received food packs and clothing.
But what surprised them was the Cebuano version of the Holy Bible and framed artwork of Immaculate Heart of Mary.
But the contingent only brought 120 Holy Bibles and 20 framed artworks.
New Bataan parish priest Edgar Tuling told UCA News that the typhoon survivors do not only need the physical aid but “food for the souls” as well.
Tuling explained that physiological need for food of the survivors is coupled with the spiritual need.
“Bible plus food equals joy,” he added.
Eming Cantila, one of the survivors, said he conveyed his message of hope to the survivors of super typhoon Haiyan.
“I wanted to show to them that they should not lose hope,” said Cantila who survived the flashflood that almost wiped out Andap village on December 4 last year.
Heavy rains brought by super typhoon Bopha spawned a flashflood in New Bataan leaving least 400 persons were killed, most of them were from Andap village.
At least 300 others remain missing in New Bataan until today.
Food for spirituality
For Estrella Bogayong, an active member of the Basic Ecclesial community, receiving a Holy Bible is a big boost for their hope to rise from the devastation.
Bogayong,62, admitted that they were surprised to have received
a Holy Bible and the framed artwork apart from the food aid.
She added that each prayer cluster, which is composed of 10 persons, usually has one Holy Bible during prayer sessions.
“At least right now, some of us have our own Holy Bible at home. And we have something to read everyday,” Bogayong said.
For 20-year od Zaini Banit said she understands that typhoon survivors does not only need food aid.
But people also need spiritual relief. “This will give us more hope.”
Keeping the faith alive
Biliran town parish priest Edelino Soyong said he is glad that the survivors from New Bataan have come to visit his town.
In his homily on Friday morning’s mass, Soyong urged his parishioners to continue keeping the faith.
“Just like a rose or any tree, when its twigs are cut, it will still grow,” said the priest before his parishioners and New Bataan survivors who attended the mass inside their damaged cathedral.
Portions of the cathedral’s roof have been blown away and its ceiling was totally destroyed.
The façade of the church was also destroyed by Yolanda’s ferocious winds.
After the mass, Soyong told the group that their town prepared five days before Yolanda made a landfall in Guian, Samar.
“People prepared food but it eventually ran out about five days later. So your help is also timely because many are running low of food supply now,” he said.
The food pack contain three kilos of rice, six sachets of coffee and milk, six packs of noodles and six cans of Mega sardines.
Tuling said they chose Biliran because it is the hometown of Capt. Oscar Corpin of the 66th Infantry Battalion based in New Bataan.
Corpin, who was then a lieutenant last year, was the chief of the civil military operations of the battalion that led the rescue and relief operations in New Bataan.
“Now it’s our time to give back to the hometown of Capt. Corpin,” the priest said.
Biliran town is 64 kilometers north of Ormoc City and about 110 kilometers northwest of Tacloban City.
Charito Arancon, a mother of two from New Bataan town proper, said it is now their time to help those affected by the typhoon.
“The extent of the damage was overwhelming. It seems that New Bataan is still a little bit lucky compared to what happened in Leyte and other provinces,” said Arancon whose five relatives are still missing until today.
The New Bataan contingent headed to Tacloban City after the relief operations in Biliran.
On their way back to Surigao, they took the Tacloban-San Ricardo route, which passed worst-hit towns of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, and Dulag.