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Philippines

Philippine city holds on to faith despite disasters

People's resilience and faith in God have become Ormoc's 'secret weapon' for survival

Ronald Reyes, Ormoc

Ronald Reyes, Ormoc

Updated: July 13, 2018 09:05 AM GMT
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Philippine city holds on to faith despite disasters

Dancers perform in the streets of Ormoc city in the central Philippines during the celebration of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. (Photo by Geoffrey Aparis)

 

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Residents of a small city in the central Philippines have been holding on to their faith to survive year after year of disasters hitting their community.

Lalaine Marcos, a mother of five in the city of Ormoc, said people have learned to put their trust in God and their leaders.

Lalaine, who publishes a local newspaper, has documented the rebirth of her community every time tragedy comes a-visiting.

Last month, the people of Ormoc busied themselves with activities to pay homage and give thanks to Saints Peter and Paul, the city's patron saints.

But even as the people held month-long celebrations, painful memories still haunt the community.

They remember the 6,000 people who lost their lives in a massive flood 27 years ago. 

In 2013, at least 33 people died when super typhoon Haiyan hit the region. Typhoons and earthquakes also claimed the lives of at least four people and injured 100 others in 2017.

During this year's feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, Monsignor Ramon Aguilos of Palo Archdiocese acknowledged the city's religious and political leaders "for their spiritual leadership and inspiration."

"Hats off to both the church and civic leaders for mounting such festivities," the priest said, even lauding the city's mayor, movie actor Richard Gomez, for his "efforts at making Ormoc sizzle with life."

With his wife, congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez, the mayor donated about US$2,000 to the church for the religious celebrations.

The political leaders also launched a "pineapple festival" as their "modest way" of paying tribute to their patron saints for the "countless blessings" the city received.

Food bazaars, sports competitions, a parade of lights, pageants and concerts were held.

Gomez said his city is giving priority to agriculture and the promotion of its pineapple industry to sustain the livelihood of farmers.

About 500 hectares of the city's land is used to grow pineapples, producing more than 100 tons every year.

The city of Ormoc, which has a population of 215,031, is dubbed one of the country's business-friendly cities for its vibrant economy.

The city has been declared the first drug-free city in the country despite being branded the region’s drug capital in the past. It was also declared the country’s safest city in 2017.

"It's just a matter of political will," said Gomez. "We are not a perfect city, but we try to eliminate criminality," said the actor-turned-politician.

The local government continues to distribute housing units to victims of typhoon Haiyan and has already placed relief goods in various areas in preparation for possible disasters.

Church and civic leaders agree that the people's resilience and faith in God have become their secret weapon for survival.

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