Social Apostolate


Nov 23, 2013 | [post_view] Views


NOV. 23, 2013– One of our SSS-priests, Fr. Kenny, with the Archdiocese caravan, went to Leyte to deliver relief goods between November 17 to 22. He had a chance to visit our community at Tigbao, Tacloban City which administers the Blessed Sacrament Parish. The Religious Sisters of Mercy (RSM), who also have a community at the center of Tacloban City were with Fr. Kenny and the Archdioce’s caravan.  Upon Fr. Kenny’s return here at Cagayan de Oro on Nov. 23, he started to recall his experiences.

The Blessed Sacrament Parish Church, which is administered by the SSS-Tacloban Community was dilapidated. Roofs were gone exposing the steel frame system with entangled electrical wirings. The Parish Church was forcefully ravaged by the storm Yolanda (typhoon Haiyan), the worst in the entire written human history. For now, a temporary tarpaulin plastic sheet,  not big enough to cover the entire roof and covers only their common area , shelters them underneath.

Looking around, you can see immediately that the entire neighborhood was devastated. Many parishioners, including Nanay Sarah and her sister, were trapped and drowned inside their bungalow-type houses due to storm surge. The storm surge rose up to more than three-story-high-building and has killed so many people. Some villagers from the higher ground were forced to go down for fear of landslide; but they failed to anticipate the magnanimity of the storm surge. Like Nanay Sarah and her sister, they died also from the sudden rising of the ocean waters.

During the height of the typhoon Yolanda, most parishioners stayed inside the Blessed Sacrament Parish Church. After some few days, they decided to go back to their respective places. The people started to scavenged some materials from the debris to build their temporary shanties.

You can still see ‘body bags’ containing  victims’ rotting cadavers all over the place. They are still waiting on the street to be hauled and be buried. Almost everywhere, you can smell death. Many are still missing and the Philippine government already tasked the local governments to do the retrieval operations.

It is already two weeks now… food and safe-drinking water are too limited. People here were thankful for it is raining most of of the time. Many people collect rainwater to wash their clothes and to take their bath. Some, like in our community, are still lucky to have a water-well where they collect their potable drinking water.

Diseases are now starting to affect the people, especially, children. People are now getting weaker and more prone to illness since they seldom eat. They are now malnourished.

Fr. Kenny recounted that other Parishes already took their own initiatives to save the living from further contamination. A coastal Parish Church in Tanauan, Leyte, approximately eighteen (18) kilometers south of Tacloban City[1], already buried their retrieved deceased parishioners  in a makeshift mass grave in a vacant lot in front of their Parish Church. Upon passing there, Fr. Kenny had a chance to chat with some of the Philippine Army Soldiers, they told him that after the retrieval operations for the dead bodies, people were still reporting decaying bodies. One of the soldiers also told him, “the smell of the rotting human body is very distinct from animal carcasses. We believe that there were still left uncollected among the mangroves there at the creek because they were covered by typhoons debris.” On other cases due to dire need,  Fr. Kenny also got a report that he was saddened to hear that there was a community who preferred to burn the collected dead bodies instead of burying them because they were too many and were already decomposing, “kumpol-kumpol sila kasi, sobrang dami at nabubulok na talaga…(they were too many and already decomposing).” Aside from dead human bodies, dead carcasses of animals– goats, cows, were still uncollected.

In Tacloban, survival becomes an ordinary way of life. To get food, most of the people from Tigbao, Leyte would walk for six hours to head to what they call ‘downtown-area’  just to find any on-going relief operations. They were hoping to find food; but most of the time, the supply was not enough for all of them. Others cannot go because they are sick, too old to walk that far, and many are children. In our area, people were considerate. They understand the situation and do their own sacrifices. Many, among them, still share their relief goods to those who were not given and to those who cannot go to the relief operation sites. Fr. Kenny observed that upon their arrival, the people starts to smile, “they are strong spirited people… they are starting to recover no matter how hard.”

Commerce is starting to sprout like mushrooms once again. Street vendors are importing goods from other Visayan islands. Due to scarcity of supply, basic commodities’ prices were too high. A loaf of bread is Php70 per piece, ordinary fish from Catbalogan is more than Php200 per kilo, medium-sized chickens were sold per piece and reached upto Php200 per piece. Despite the government announced that they were in the state calamity, prices still soars to the sky.

In line with the previous reports, it is true that there were incidents of looting– nothing was left already at the Robinsons’ Mall; even an ATM Machine was ransacked and an old lady with her minions was noticed to have taken a good amount  of money. Harsh situation like this does not happen all the time.

Upon talking to some residents, they complained that “distribution of relief goods was worsen by too obvious political rivalries between politicians; there were disputes down to the Barangay level.” Many incumbent Barangay Chairmen were complained by their constituents because they were too biased in distributing goods, ‘they only give to their supporters.’

Tacloban City is under Martial Law. The airport, now managed by the US army, is now in its 24-hour operations serving commercial and relief operations flights. There is a curfew, nobody can stay outside beyond 8pm. Most of the runway of the main roads were already cleared, the debris were pushed to its sides. There were caravans of relief operations but it is still observable that many far-flung areas were not yet reached by any relief operations and medical missions. Fr. Kenny with the Archdiocese of Cagayan were the first respondents to the calamity victims of Blessed Sacrament Parish at Tigbao, Tacloban City. Fr. Muriel Uy, the Parish Priest; Fr. Grogi de Guzman, the SSS-Tacloban Community Superior, Fr. Adrian Ladines, the SSS-Tacloban Community Treasurer and Br. Joseph Casiao, SSS-Scholastic on Exposure, were very grateful.

Fr. Kenny always recall the bright sides of his experience going to Tacloban, Leyte. Along their way, they met and befriended other missionaries. He remember, “…before taking the barge from Surigao to Leyte, my heart was overwhelmed by a very long line of trucks carrying relief goods for the victims of typhoon. We met a group from Malaybalay, Bukidnon, they too, brought with them trucks containing tons of relief goods. Besides, they also brought medical volunteers– doctors, nurses and health workers… ready to serve Tacloban Area in their one week medical mission and relief operation. What inspires me is the Filipino Spirit. ‘Basta Filipino, tutulong at tutulong kahit sa maliit na paraan (You can always expect a Filipino to help even in small matters)…  the people were very thankful to all generous people who donated for them… most were even crying. ‘Bahala na raw ang Diyos na magsukli sa kabutihan ninyong lahat (May God bless all of you for all your goodness).”

Before Fr. Kenny went back to Cagayan de Oro, he has seen some public used jeepneys already starting to go back to their usual journey. There is no electricity yet; but private electricity cooperatives have already started to install electrical posts and has been targeting that this December, people would have a bright Christmas.

Many volunteer-foreigners described Tacloban as litterally  “FLATTEN.”  Fr. Kenny described the city as “GROUND ZERO”– they would start from scratch all over again.

“Wala nang mayaman at mahirap ngayon sa Tacloban City (There’s no more distinction, as of now, between the rich and the poor in the society in Tacloban City) everybody is in need of help.” Assessing all these, upon seeing the real and actual situation, Fr. Kenny is very hopeful that many organizations would tap the help of the parishes within Tacloban. If we want to know the needs and the actual data of those who are in need, we can always ask the Parish Priests, thay can supply us the facts and the data we need…more than that, they know how to strategically reach the most needy of all–those who are sick, old, children,  abandoned, helpless, pregnant… all those who are in need of special attention and those who need to be given priority.

Fr. Kenny left Tacloban City with a heavy heart. Leaving his brother-priests in such a remorse state is so painful for they will suffer with the people. But, he see a rainbow of hope in the situation. “I am so very happy that the SSS-Tacloban Community is still celebrating daily masses in our dilapidated Church… for me that is more important.”

Fr. Kenny made an appeal, “OUR SSS-COMMUNITY IN TIGBAO, TACLOBAN IS IN DIRE NEED OF OUR HELP. Let us be generous as always. Let our Filipino Spirit lead us to generously share whatever we can share… the love that we offer will make our gifts to them more special that anything else.”

In behalf of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament,  Fr.Kenny, SSS and the SSS-Cagayan de Oro Community express their sincerest appreciation to the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro in coordination with Fr. Nathan, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro’s Social Action Service’s Coordinator and the Religious Sisters of Mercy (RSM). Through them, the first phase of the relief operations of the two parishes administered by the SSS-Tacloban Community: Santuario Eucaristico-Sacred Heart Parish (Santuario Eucaristico) and Nuestra Señora Virgen Del Rosario (NSVDR) materialized. The Archdiocese of Cagayan has alloted us ample space to put our goods in their delivery trucks alongside with their repacked items ready for distribution in different far-flung areas of  Tacloban City.

Santuario Eucaristico and NSVDR are still welcoming monetary donations to purchase goods for repacking. The two parishes already adopted the Blessed Sacrament Parish at Tigbao, Tacloban City which is also administered by SSS Fathers and Brothers. The Blessed Sacrament Parish used to have nine (chapels) before, but all them were destroyed. There are a total of 4,000 families inhabiting the parish, 60 person were already confirmed dead and many are still missing.

The Blessed Sacrament Parish is administered by SSS-Priests and a Brother: Fr. Muriel Uy, the Parish Priest; Fr. Grogi de Guzman, the SSS-Tacloban Community Superior, Fr. Adrian Ladines, the SSS-Tacloban Community Treasurer and Br. Joseph Casiao, SSS-Scholastic on Exposure.

The SSS-Cagayan de Oro Community who administers both Santuario Eucaristico and NSVDR is composed of: Fr. Arnel Martinez, SSS, Community Superior and Administrator of NSVDR; Fr. Joel Lasutaz, SSS, Santuario Eucaristico Priest;  Fr. Kenny Parlingayan, SSS, Community Treasurer; Fr. Marlon Reyes, SSS, Associate Parish Priest; Fr. Lennen Deciar, Associatate Priest; Rev. Wel-Wel Maamo, SSS, SSS-Deacon; and Br. Dennis Marquez, SSS, SSS-Scholastic on Exposure and Community Secretary.

Rev. Fr. Apolinario ‘Poli’ Ty, SSS is the Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament-Province of Our Lady of the Assumption (SSS-POLA).

Br. Dennis Marquez, SSS