When the United Methodist Committee on Relief delivered food packages Nov. 20 to six storm-ravaged communities in Dagami, the Philippines, it was the first substantial emergency relief aid there since Typhoon Haiyan struck nearly two weeks earlier.
Linda Unger, a senior writer for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and Mike DuBose, a photographer for United Methodist Communications, were there to tell the story.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Lucia Millona, a small, slight woman who is the only support for her small child. “Our house was destroyed and we have no clothes,” she said. “This is the first help we’ve received.”
Although Dagami, about 20 miles from Tacloban, turns away from the coast, residents still suffered typhoon winds and flooding from overflowing rivers that destroyed crops, homes, businesses and livelihoods.
This was UMCOR’s second food distribution in two days, part of a truckload of 1,500 food packages that UMCOR staff and volunteers assembled in Manila, the capital, and drove over the course of 36 hours to Haiyan-impacted communities in Leyte Province.
The first was to residents of Barangay Naganaga, a struggling and impoverished community in Tacloban, one of the areas hardest hit by the Nov. 8 typhoon, known locally as Yolanda.
Ciony Ayo-Eduarte, head of mission of UMCOR Philippines, and the Rev. Jack Amick, UMCOR ‘s executive for international disaster response, led the convoy to Naganaga, where food assistance had only begun to trickle in the day before, 10 days after the typhoon.
“We thought it was the end of the world,” said Erlinda Andal, 30, as she waited for a food package. She, her husband, and their four children ages 7, 8, 9, and 12, had climbed to the roof of their modest home for safety as the storm surge rose. “The water kept going up and up,” she said. “It was up to our chests.”
Andal, a manicurist, said she and her husband, a carpenter, were thankful for the assistance. “It will be a very big help for our family,” she said.
Through its presence and prayers, the United Methodist team tried to respond to the hurt as well as the hunger.
When Edita Tante picked up the bright yellow bag that contained enough rice, oil, beans, coffee, and other staples to last her family about a week, an UMCOR volunteer, Archelaus Joseph Laudes, offered to carry it for her back to her shanty.
It was only on arriving there that Edita Tante, who survived the storm with her husband, Margarito, tearfully revealed that four of their grandchildren had not. Laudes, a student pastor who is finishing his studies at Union Theological Seminary in Cavite, listened to Tante’s story and offered a prayer of strength and hope.
Many volunteers, mainly Filipino university and seminary students, spent two days making food packages filled with rice, oil, salt, brown sugar, mongo beans (a versatile lentil), sardines, cooking oil, and coffee for the typhoon survivors.
“Thanks to the generous outpouring of United Methodists, this is just the first of several shipments UMCOR anticipates making to assist the survivors,” Amick said.
“Rebuilding will take years,” he said. “We will move forward with the Filipino people, counting on God’s grace and the support of United Methodists and people of goodwill everywhere.”