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Typhoon Bopha survivors reach out to Typhoon Haiyan victims

Bibles and Marian portraits distributed in Leyte province

Keith Bacongco, Biliran

December 3, 2013

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Victims of the super typhoon Haiyan continue to rebuild their lives as food and other aid begins to flow more steadily into Tacloban and other affected areas, but these communities are now receiving spiritual nourishment from those who know well the challenges they face in putting their lives and faith back together.

Calling it a “spiritual journey”, 22 survivors of Typhoon Bopha – which struck Mindanao on November 25 last year and killed nearly 2,000 people – traveled the 600 km from New Bataan town in Compostela Valley province to the devastated island of Biliran in southern Leyte province to show their solidarity and delivery items designed to bolster their fellow sufferers’ faith. 

They brought with them bibles and portraits of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Parish priest Father Edgar Tuling of New Bataan told that typhoon survivors need “food for the soul” as well and that the physiological need for food must be coupled with spirituality.

“The Bible plus food equals joy,” the priest said.

Biliran town is 64 kms north of Ormoc City and about 110 kms northwest of Tacloban City.

Eming Cantila, one of the Bopha survivors who made the journey, said he wanted to convey the message to Haiyan survivors that “they should not lose hope”.

Cantila survived a flash flood that nearly obliterated the village of Andap in New Bataan on December 4 last year. At least 400 people from the village died, while 300 more remain unaccounted for.

Estrella Bogayong, a member of the Basic Ecclesial community in Biliran, says the visit by fellow disaster survivors has provided a surprising and much needed comfort. 

Fr Edelino Soyong of Biliran town has urged his parishioners to continue in their faith despite the horrors of recent weeks.

“Just like a rose or any tree, when its twigs are cut, it will still grow,” he said during a recent Mass in the town’s roofless cathedral, which also lost its façade to the typhoon.

Father Tuling said a prime motivation for the journey to Bilaran for spiritual aid was out of respect for Captain Oscar Corpin of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion, who was born in Bilaran and was instrumental in rescue operations during Typhoon Bopha.

Charito Arancon, a mother of two from New Bataan, said the need for assistance remains considerable after Haiyan.

“The extent of the damage was overwhelming. It seems that New Bataan is still a little bit luck compared to what happened in Leyte,” said Arancon, five of whose family members are still missing.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council today reported that the total number of fatalities from Haiyan has risen to 5,680.

In the announcement, the Council further stated that Haiyan left 26,233 injured and 1,779 missing.

More than 11 million people in 12,075 villages were affected by the typhoon. Four million have been displaced and another 125,000 still living in 426 evacuation centers.

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