Father Donardo “Dandi” Bermejo and his committed cadre of healthcare and aid workers in one of the poorest areas of the Philippines have been contending with the COVID-19 pandemic, deadly industrial pollution, and now nature’s wrath.
“We were beset by at least three typhoons one after the other the past three weeks,” he wrote in a Nov. 14 email. “The strongest was the last one, Ulysses or Vamco, which had a sustaining wind of 100 miles per hour.”
Fr. Dandi and the people in Manapla, where his Works of Charity Center and St. Joseph the Worker Clinic for the indigent sugarcane plantation workers of the Negros Occidental region is headquartered, are safe due to their central location.
“But we did experience lots and lots of rain and very, very strong winds,” stated Fr. Dandi, who served in the Jefferson City diocese for nine years and whose ministry receives support from The Missions of the Diocese of Jefferson City.
He noted that Vamco struck the main island of Luzon, in the northern part of the Philippines, causing about 75 known fatalities and many more people missing or injured.
The latest typhoon also caused widespread flooding, landslides, submerged houses, the destruction of dams and water resources, the crippling of power lines, and the devastation of agricultural lands, affecting around 100,000 farmers and people involved in the fishing industry.
The typhoon also forced about 390,000 people to seek shelter at evacuation centers, many of whom have yet to return to their homes.
Caritas Philippines and the president of Ateneo de Naga University sought aid from domestic and international sources in response to the devastation.
As the death toll rose, Pope Francis offered prayers for Filipinos affected by destruction and flooding.
His prayer at his Nov. 15 Angelus address at the Vatican came as Filipinos appealed for help and their bishops urged them to support each other in the worst flooding since 2009.
Within three weeks, the Philippines was hit by five storms.
“I express my solidarity with the poorest families who have been subjected to these calamities and my support to those who are trying to assist them,” Pope Francis said.
The same day, World Day of the Poor, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Manila archdiocesan administrator, said the calamities, which affected more than 2 million people in Luzon, called for people to help one another.
“We help not only with what is extra for us, but even with what we need, because others are more in need,” Bishop Pabillo said.
All the while, the fight continues in Fr. Dandi’s hometown to shut down a local distillery or compel its owners to address the sickening pollution they are causing to the air and drinking water.
Fr. Dandi asks for prayers as he and the people struggle with the pollution problems from the distillery, which are adversely affecting their health and wellbeing.
Catholic News Service contributed to this report.