Disaster Response in the Philippines

When an unexpectedly strong and devastating monsoon flooded the capital recently, our staff in the Philippines feared for our church partners affected by rains and flooding.

philippines floods

We identified at least 22 church partners within the flooded area, four of which were most likely submerged in chest-deep waters. The four church partners affected were the Marikina Foursquare Gospel Student Center, Calvary Foursquare Church Student Center, Isla Student Center, and Coloong Child Development Center.

These are the same student centers that were severely hit by Typhoon Ketsana three years ago.

Due to heavy rains and flooding, our local field office was closed for a few days, yet partnership facilitators for Metro Manila were on the field checking on our partner churches and ready to offer any kind of help.

As the team assessed the situation, made a few phone calls and conducted personal visits to these areas, they were surprised and “delightfully disappointed” at what they discovered –- all affected church partners handled the situation very well and were not in need of any urgent intervention other than some Complementary Interventions funding.

They knew what to do and did what had to be done on their own.

Ponciano, the Complementary Interventions administrator shares,

“The response and relief came quickly. Our church partners organized themselves very well; they knew what to do. It didn’t take them more than a week to provide relief to the affected families.”

Marikina Foursquare Gospel Student Center is located in Marikina City, one of the most flood-prone cities in the metropolis. It is also located over a fault line. This student center was the worst hit during Typhoon Ketsana and it wasn’t any different with the recent flooding.

Young Philippines Compassion worker standing in a destroyed street after Typhoon Ketsana

Joy, Marikina’s student center director tells us,

“I could not sleep. It was already raining hard in Marikina and I sensed that something bad was going to happen. As I left that evening I already prayed, ‘Lord, what is this? Not again [pertaining to Typhoon Ketsana].”

There was no typhoon but it was raining hard and flood waters were rising. The majority of the population were questioning why.

Erlinda, director of Calvary Foursquare Church Student Center adds,

“In the midst of the flood, I saw faces of sadness and despair, futility and hopelessness. It was as if they were saying, ‘Not again!’ but yes, it happened again.”

The flooding was very much like Typhoon Ketsana, but this time the churches and families were ready.

Joy explains,

“I couldn’t sleep because I knew I already had to do something. At 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday, I began a text brigade. I texted the mothers [of sponsored children] and told them to evacuate to the church. It’s open for them anytime.

Then I went very early to church and saw many of our children and their families there already. Some texted that they were safe at evacuation centers.”

One of our church partners, Jesus Christ Lord of the Ages Ministries, has a three-story building. For a few days, the third floor was used as evacuation center for most sponsored children and their families.

philippines floods

After several days most of the families had gone back home to clean their muddied homes, do some laundry, and see what the flood took away. Country Director, Noel Pabiona visited some of the families in Marikina.

He met Cecile, who’s child was almost decapitated when they were fleeing from the flood.

“Yesterday, my son almost died because of an iron sheet roof that was sticking out. We were on the rescue boat and the floodwater was as high as the roofs. It was dark and there were wires and stuff all around. Plus, the people on the boat didn’t really know how to row properly and so we almost capsized.”

Marikina experienced three floods that week. For several times the rains stopped, the waters abated, then the rains poured again and the flood rose again three times.

philippines floods

A few blocks away, Noel met Flor, mother of twin sponsored children. Flor was washing clothes with her son and drying school materials. When asked what she learned from the flooding, Flor said,

“I learned that the church is always open for us. After a two-hour downpour last night, we evacuated again and stayed at the church building. Danica is still there now.

Thank you [sponsors] so much for helping my children. Without you and the staff of the student center, we don’t know what we’ll do.”

Noel also met one young man who just graduated from the sponsorship program. He wasn’t shy to say what he learned from the recent floods.

“I learned to be prepared always. We have set up ropes, plastic boats and other ways to be rescued and rescue others. It’s always time for ‘bayanihan’ when things like these happen.” –Reynan

(“Bayanihan” is a traditional practice of moving indigenous homes made from bamboo and nipa leaves. In the old days, neighbors would come together and lift a nipa hut on their shoulders, carrying it all the way to its new location. The term is now used to refer to Filipinos helping each other in times of need.)

From Marikina City, our staff went on to visit a few more church partners. Wherever they went, the team was delightfully disappointed yet again. Their help wasn’t needed. The churches have handled the situation well and only requested prayers and Complementary Interventions support.

philippines floods

Meanwhile, Isla Student Center Project and the Coloong Child Development Center discouraged the team from visiting them since floodwaters were waist high. They are located in an area that gets flooded even when rains are not so strong.

They explained that their churches had already set up plans for relief.

After a week, the monsoon was finally over. Except for Isla and Coloong, children returned to school and student centers began assessing damages. With the sun shining brightly, things are coming back to normal but not without the people learning a thing or two.

Joy sums it up,

“I learned two things from this. One, I should always be ready for whatever. Crises are like the coming of our Lord; no one knows when it might happen.

And two, I know from my experience after Typhoon Ketsana that the ministry and sponsors will help. They provided all that was needed, and we know they will help the children now in this time of need.”

0 Comments |Add a comment

    Add a Comment

    Read the ground rules for comments.