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Ecumenical ties in Philippines assist aid efforts

By Linda Bloom, UMCOR


NCCP volunteers loading supplies into a bag in front of a pile of relief supplies

NCCP volunteers in Manila prepare supplies for survivors of the typhoon. Photo by NCCP/ACT.

The 50th anniversary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) originally was planned as a jubilee celebration.

But the council took a more somber tone Nov. 15 in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

“Instead of a grand celebration, we have transformed our commemoration into an act of solidarity with those who are suffering,”  said the Rev. Rex RB Reyes, Jr. in a statement.

As with previous disasters, Presbyterians are working ecumenically with other faith partners to respond to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda. The initial funds from One Great Hour of Sharing funds from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) are helping the NCCP and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in their immediate response efforts.

The United Nations estimates that more than 13 million people overall have been affected. We know it will be a long road to recovery, and PDA will continue working with our partners to meet the long-term needs of those affected by the typhoon.

Relationship with UCCP

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) initiated mission work in the Philippines in 1899, followed by other U.S. mainline denominational missionaries. During the first 50 years, each mission group worked independently, building churches, schools, hospitals and social service centers. Then in 1948 the Protestant denominations in the Philippines came together to form the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).  UCCP is the largest Protestant denomination in Visayas, the area affected by the typhoon.

In a Nov. 14 conference call with representatives from various denominations in the U.S. and Canada, Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, UCCP’s top executive, said two major relief centers had been opened in Cebu City and Maasin as distribution points. He confirmed that many of their churches in the affected area had been destroyed.

“Tacloban remains the center of world media attention, but many areas are still unreached, especially on the West Visayas side,” he said. In Maasin, for example, “the food supply is getting scarce. There is massive hoarding. Even gasoline is getting scarce.”

NCCP and ACT Alliance

volunteers load a sack with suppliesAt the NCCP compound in Manila, volunteers “are working day and night to repack goods to be transported to the affected areas.” The council is distributing food and water in Samar, one of the areas hit by the typhoon.

Bags of relief supplies gathered through the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the ACT Alliance are ready for shipping to typhoon survivors.

The NCCP is a member of ACT Alliance, a global network of churches and related organizations engaged in humanitarian work. The ACT Philippine Forum includes the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Christian Aid, Lutheran World Relief, Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation and Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz.

ACT has set up a coordination center at the NCCP offices in Manila. The organization reported Nov. 15 that 10 members are delivering emergency food, shelter, water and sanitation facilities in the central Visayas region.

Bethany Hospital

Originally built by the Presbyterian Church, Bethany Hospital in Tacloban is owned and operated by the UCCP.

Marigza said Nov. 14 that the hospital basically had ceased to operate. Seawater entered the hospital, along with mud “and destroyed most of the equipment.” Patients were moved to another hospital or went home.

He was hoping for a delivery of cleaning equipment, such as axes, shovels and saws, so Bethany could at least erect an emergency space and a roof to begin to readmit patients.

 ‘Remarkable collaboration’

A pastor with the United Methodist Church, The Rev. Liberato Bautista, said he expects a “remarkable collaboration” among the various partners for typhoon relief. The NCCP has been very active in disaster relief. Recovery from some of those other disasters, including flooding and an earthquake, are continuing. Bautista pointed out that his sister, who lives in Manila, had just finished repairs on her roof in October from the typhoon that hit the capital city in July.

“You’re talking of news now where people are saying the rehabilitation of the Visayas area will take years,” he pointed out. “That is the same thing they said in July when there was a massive flooding in Manila and northern Philippines.

"It’s really the entire country, if you’re talking about the last 12 months, that’s reeling from disasters."


Information for this story by Linda Bloom is from UMCOR.  Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. UMCOR is one of the ACT Alliance implementing partners.

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