Philippines Christians Clung To Faith As Typhoon Rai Devastates Nation
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MANILA (Worthy News) – Filipino Christians clung to their faith on Christmas Day as the death toll of the Philippines’ super Typhoon Rai approached 400.
While many immediately died in last week’s destructive storm, some people passed away in its aftermath of dehydration due to a lack of clean drinking water and food supplies, said residents speaking to Worthy News.
The typhoon hit several heavily populated areas, including in Cebu province. “Christmas was always my most favorite time of year because of the happiness it brings to everyone,” said Merry-Joy Osman, a Christian aid worker. “But this is my saddest Christmas so far.”
The mother-of-one was among the thousands of people fleeing the Mandaue City region and other areas in Cebu. “My family and friends are making a conscious effort to gather this Christmas,” she told Worthy News.
“However, many people are struggling from the aftermath of this calamity. But thanks God I have the chance to celebrate with my family, especially with my kid Ashley,” Osman added.
She spoke as long lines of people were seen in front of bottled water and food sale points as well as at cash machines and petrol stations.
Many believers also attended church Christmas services, even those destroyed or heavily damaged by Typhoon Rai, locally known as Typhoon Odette, which left 400,000 homeless.
Priest Ricardo Virtudazo was standing in water at his typhoon-hit church in the southern Philippines town of Alegria, on Mindanao island, when delivering his Christmas Day Mass.
“What’s important is all of us are safe,” added Joy Parera, 31, who was attending the Christmas mass with her husband at San Isidro Labrador Parish church.
She was among dozens of worshipers whose wishes this year were for new roofs, food, and fine weather in regions wracked by the storm.
Authorities said hundreds died, and many more were injured when Typhoon Rai hit the country’s central and south-eastern islands with winds of about 195 kilometers per hour (120 miles per hour).
In the hard-hit central island province of Bohol, where many people died, and 75 percent of homes were destroyed, aid operations continued.
“I could buy canned food, and I am happy. I will give some to my neighbor who needs it most,” said Emely Laga, a devoted Christian church worker in Bohol’s Baclayon municipality
“Maybe I will visit my mother who lives in the mountain area. I feel so sad because last morning, I learned that her house was damaged,” she added.
“This time, it’s a very sad Christmas in me. Even now, I still feel trauma for that typhoon,” added Laga, who was injured when her foot was punctured by falling wood. The roof of Laga’s family home was seriously damaged.
But the married mother-of-two remains hopeful. “I see God is working. I was last in the line, but I still could purchase three water boxes. I also managed to purchase rice and canned goods. I was the last, but by God’s grace, they give me.”
Her faith in Christ is also shared by others struggling to survive after the worst typhoon to hit the Philippines this year. “Regardless of what happens, I am grateful for the lessons that this calamity brought. We should respect this planet God has given us, not abuse it,” stressed Osman, the Christian aid worker from Cebu.
“I saw through this tragedy that it is important to love and take care of ourselves and the people around us,” she noticed. “While life isn’t perfect, it can be a blessing if shared with those we love the most.”
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