A powerful typhoon that struck the vulnerable region of the Philippines nine days before Christmas compounded the misery from COVID, industrial pollution and generations of appalling poverty in and around Manapla.
“We were hit very hard by the super typhoon RAI, which caused so much devastation and loss of lives, property and homes of thousands of people,” reported Father Donardo “Dandi” Bermejo.
Fr. Bermejo is founder and director of the Works of Charity Center and St. Joseph the Worker Charity Clinic for the indigent sugarcane plantation workers of the Negros Occidental region.
He spent 10 years ministering in the Jefferson City diocese before returning home to minister to some of the poorest people in his homeland.
Much of the support for the ministries he conducts comes from the people who contribute to the mission outreach of the Jefferson City diocese.
“Typhoon RAI was so powerful and catastrophic,” Fr. Dandi reported. “It brought torrential rains with packing winds up to 168 miles per hour. It pummeled us for nearly 10 long hours. It was so scary.”
More than 400 people died, with another 80 reported missing.
The storm knocked out electricity, access to water and internet services for more than a week.
In response, Fr. Dandi and his coworkers in ministry set about providing rice, food, water and other basic needs to many of the poorest victims.
“As soon as the super typhoon left the Philippines, we bought several sacks of rice and repacked them and distributed them to so many affected people,” he noted.
The afternoon of Christmas Day, the group distributed 70 pieces of galvanized iron to about 10 local families whose roofs had been ripped off their homes.
Doing so was especially urgent, because the rain continued to pour for weeks after the typhoon, he said.
“We also shared monetary contributions to so many in order to help them even a little bit repair their devastated houses, as well as providing medical assistance and medicines to those who were sick,” he said.
He and his coworkers helped transport people who were injured to the nearest hospital and did what they could to help with the hospital bills.
“It was so heartbreaking — and it still is,” the priest stated.
The destruction and suffering made for a nearly unbearable Christmas and New Year.
“But what I continue sharing with the people — and I don’t care whether they believe me or not — is the message that Christ is the Emmanuel Who was born to live and dwell with us,” Fr. Dandi stated.
“And because He dwells with us, there is hope!” he continued. “Because He lives with us, no matter how bad the situations we are in right now, everything will be okay.”
Fr. Dandi insists that because Jesus came to live with His people, “our lives, like His, will have a happy ending, and we will not end up being victims but victors, not just survivors but conquerors!”
On behalf of the people of Manapla, he deeply thanked all of the people of the Jefferson City diocese for their loving support for his and other ministries supported by the missions.
“We really appreciate it here especially in this time of loss, suffering and devastation,” he said. “Be assured always of our prayers for you.”