Report on Trip to Tacloban and Tanauan, Leyte, Philippines
By Brent H. Burdick, OMS Missionary
This report is intended to inform interested parties about the ministry that has taken place in the Philippines as a result of donations given. We are so grateful for all that has been done to enable the people of the Philippines to begin their recovery after the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013.
Background information: The restoration and relief efforts are coordinated by One Mission Society, of which I have been a member for 23 years. My wife, Kim and I served in the Philippines for 20 years from 1991-2011. Our ministry took place primarily in and around Metro Manila, and in central and northern Luzon. We had no ministry in the central Philippines. OMS established a national church, called Faith Evangelical Church of the Philippines, Inc., (FECPI) composed of 10 organized churches and 20 churches being planted; and a Bible college, (Faith Bible College or FBC) After Typhoon Haiyan hit the central Philippines last November, FECPI, in partnership with OMS, decided to send a team there for relief and restoration efforts, with the goal of eventually also planting churches. The team that was sent was composed of Pastor Willy Galzote and his wife, Vicky. Pastor Willy and Vicky are in their mid-50s. They willingly gave up pastoring in their hometown in order to serve the people of Tacloban and Tanauan, Philippines, on November 8. The capital city of Leyte province, Tacloban City, was hit hard by the typhoon. Typhoon Haiyan had the highest recorded winds of any typhoon ever to make landfall. It also had a storm surge of almost 30 feet in some areas. Tacloban was not hit directly by the eye of the storm. Tanauan, about 12 miles south of Tacloban City, was. A member of Faith Fellowship church, Tess Marcelino, is from Tanauan and had many relatives living in Tanauan. More than 100 members of her extended family/clan were killed by the storm. Total official estimates of the death toll from the storm are “6,000 dead with many missing.” From the destruction we saw six months after the typhoon hit, I would have to say those estimates are incorrect. It was probably more like 25 – 30,000 dead. The reason for the discrepancy is that if the death toll had reached more than 10,000 the UN would have taken over, and the Philippines government did not want this. Relief efforts are ongoing by some agencies, but most of the major ones have pulled out after initial weeks. There are reports of widespread corruption among local and national officials: some relief supplies rotting in warehouses, only 10 percent of financial aid given actually getting to the people, etc. The type of project OMS and FECPI are doing prevents this from happening and meets a real need. The project consists of helping affected families by helping them put a new roof on their homes. The families must sign up, prove their need of a new roof, rebuild the frame of their house, and provide nails for the roofing material. Once these criteria are met, they are given up to 12 pieces of 3’ x 10’ Galvanized iron sheets.
The visit: I flew to Tacloban on April 9 with Reverend Roehl Rivera, FECPI President, and Rev. Mar Ocampo, FECPI National Church Planting Director. When we landed in Tacloban everything was green. Much had re-grown after the typhoon six months ago, but the airport terminal was basically an open shelter without walls. We left the airport and rented a van to Pastor Willy and Vicky Galzote's house. Vicky fixed breakfast for us. Then while we were visiting together, a man named Dennis showed up at the door. He is the president of the Purok 6 (Greenhills) subdivision and had accepted the Lord a couple weeks ago. It is his subdivision where the team is installing all the roofs. We visited with Dennis for about four hours! He was so excited about his new-found faith and the difference it is making in his life! He's a fascinating guy. He is actually a teacher of business at a local university and has lots of community development plans. After a lunch of Pastor Willy's famous fried chicken, Dennis left and we rested since we had all been up since about 2 a.m. At about 4 p.m. a tricycle (motorcycle with a side car) driver came around and took us up to the area where Dennis lives and most of the contacts are. Wow. It was not what I expected. It is basically a squatter community on the side of the mountain in back of Tacloban. They took us around and we visited all the people who had been given GI sheets to fix their roofs. Pastor Willy and Dennis are doing a great job of this. I got lots of pictures and took some video. It is hard to imagine what these people have been through, but they seem happy, and God is really moving in their lives. Lots of little kids were running around and kept hanging on me. They were sweet. We walked around for an hour or so and met the people, talked about their typhoon experiences, prayed for them, etc. We left there then came back and had dinner, reflecting on what we'd seen. I went to bed after spending a fruitless hour trying to check email. Internet connections in Tacloban are spotty and undependable still. I was so tired with jetlag.
The next day we spent the morning visiting the hardware store of a man named Adan. He is a friend of Dennis' who has given a great rate to purchase all the tin roof sheeting for the project. He has quite a vision to help a lot of people through establishing piggery's. Too much to go into here, but it seems he and Dennis are great contacts for everything FECPI hopes to do. I wonder Who had a hand in that!?!
That afternoon, we went to Tanauan. It was sobering. Tanauan was hit by the eye of the hurricane. It is about 1 kilometer (6/10ths of a mile) inland from the ocean, 12 miles or so from Tacloban, and had 20-30 feet of tidal surge in some areas during the storm. We met two families who are relatives of Tess Marcelino, the member attends Faith Fellowship in Manila. The first family we met lived on the west side of the road, farther from the ocean. They had a house with cement walls and twenty people crammed into the back part of the kitchen during the storm. The roof blew away, and then the storm surge came. They said the water was horribly black and full of all kinds of debris. It was moving very fast and the cousin of Tess, a man in his late 50s named Rudy stood in the doorway to keep people from being washed out. The water here was about 10 feet high because the house was higher off the ground and farther from the ocean, so there was about 5-6 feet in the house. The cement walls nearly gave way with the force of the water and you could see how they nearly fell over because they were still leaning when we saw them. It was amazing that the people survived. Rudy said that in the next compound over many people died and the smell was horrible for a couple weeks until they got the bodies taken care of. We passed a Catholic church on the road where there was a mass grave of several hundred bodies. We will start a re-roofing project in this community soon. The people that are left have started rebuilding with the broken bits of wood and debris that they can find. They have not received much relief except from family members in Manila, which isn't much.
We next walked across to the east side of the road, closer to the ocean. Here, the devastation was complete. Where there had once been thousands of people living in houses, was now barely a few cement foundations. We met Eduardo, a man of about 40 who was also a cousin (probably 2nd or 3rd) who had lived through the storm, but his wife and four children all died. We stood where his house had once been and all cried as he told his story. His parents and several other relatives lived in the area and also died in the storm. Their houses were totally wiped away too. This was the area where the storm surge hit 20-30 feet, and the winds were nearly 300 miles per hour.
As we listened to Eduardo, we noticed a bunch of pretty purple and white flowers growing right in front of where his house had been. No one knew where they had come from, or what they were. I've never seen any like it in the Philippines. They had to have been put there by God as a sign of hope for Eduardo. Eduardo was a fisherman but lost everything in the storm. He lives in a makeshift shack up by the road with several other men who lost their families. We are going to try and help Eduardo with a boat and a livelihood project. You could tell he was still in denial and depressed. Pastor Willy will go back and talk to him and the others to help get a roofing project going for this area. I imagine they will need medical missions and other projects. We hope Faith Fellowship church in Manila will get involved with the Tanauan projects.
It didn't seem that much international aid had reached this area. Once in a while you would see a tarp with "UNHCR" or "Samaritan's Purse" blazoned on it as we drove by, but that was all. It will be years before some of these people fully recover. That's why I'm excited about the work that we are doing here. It will make a lot more long-term impact for the people than anything else. Pastor Willy and his wife are committed to at least three years in the Tacloban/Tanauan area. Already they have a once-a-week Bible study going with about 30 new believers attending! Several people have already accepted Christ. Pastor Willy and Vicky have begun to disciple these new believers. They will become the nucleus of the new church!
- 1.Pray for the new believers who are growing in their faith.
- 2.Pray for protection for Pastor Willy and Vicky as they serve in Tacloban and Tanauan.
- 3.Pray for God to open more doors and provide more opportunities to serve.
- 4.Pray for the victims who still need help and need to hear the Good News and have a personal relationship with Jesus.