By: EILEEN NAZARENO-BALLESTEROS
TACLOBAN CITY- In spite of its being victim as well of the world’s strongest typhoon ever recorded in history that which hit Eastern Visayas on November 8 last year, the archdiocese of Palo, under the stewardship of Archbishop John Du still took on its Christian duty of helping people in this time of extreme necessity.
Ninety-five percent of church edifices and rectories within the archdiocese were initially calculated to have suffered the brunt of the supertyphoon Yolanda’s catastrophic strength.
This is besides the destruction went through by the very residence of the archbishop nestled atop a hill in Barangay Arado in Palo, Leyte and the two seminaries also located in same municipality, as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Palo where the Papal Nuncio Guiseppe Pinto and Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle celebrated mass on December 24 and November 28 respectively.
Notwithstanding this hardship, the archdiocese never failed to extend assistance to the people who sought refuge in the local church regardless of their religious belief.
The two seminaries, namely St. John the Evangelist School of Theology and Sacred Heart Seminary, and the Chancery of the Archdiocese, though partly damaged by the typhoon, served as evacuation centers for hundreds of families whose homes were destroyed by the typhoon. As of now, no evacuee was left in these religious institutions as work resumed and classes are to restart this week.
As of this time, the Archdiocesan Disaster Response Committee is advancing to the next phase of its outreach to the victims of the supertyphoon Yolanda. The archbishop will help pre-identified victims have their new homes in due time.
Largely, the help reached victims from hard hit areas, that is, Tacloban City, Palo, Tolosa, Tanauan, Mayorga, Sta. Fe and Alangalang towns. Almost of these areas have confirmed deaths due to Yolanda.
Fr. Oscar Florencio, erstwhile head of the Archdiocesan Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Command Center before he decided to focus on his official concerns as rector of SJEST in Palo, said that the archdiocese will be constructing permanent houses for these victims.
He added that the church planned to donate a lot somewhere in Palo town for the resettlement of these carefully screened beneficiaries. The Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines and the Archdiocese of Manila will fund the undertaking.
Identifying the beneficiaries does not come easy for the archdiocese as many factors are being considered besides those specified by donors. The livelihood of the victims and the extent of damage suffered by their homes are also major concerns, according to Florencio.