UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Philippines: Succor in Stormy Season

UMCOR and partners respond to Typhoon Saola
UMCOR and GlobalMedic workers in Santa Cruz, Philippines, bring relief to communities affected by Typhoon Saola (also locally called Gener).
Ciony Eduarte, UMCOR Philippines

By David Tereshchuk *

The northern hemisphere's high summer is a time for much media focus on hurricanes and storms. Tropical Storm Isaac, with its destructive course through the southern United States, is just one example.

For the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), its partners, and its many generous supporters, August is also a time to pay attention, among the world's many humanitarian needs, to the recurrence of fierce weather in the Philippines.

The northern Pacific Ocean archipelago nation has a record of being battered by an inordinate number of storms or typhoons. This year has been no exception. Typhoon Saola (also known locally as Gener) tore into the region on August 1, met up with seasonal monsoon rains that were already soaking the country, and amplified them hugely.

The resulting torrential rains and storm surges forced local authorities to declare a state of emergency in nine provincial areas around the capital city, Manila. More than 270,000 people fled their homes, and emergency teams used rafts and makeshift boats to rescue people from the city's districts of poor and cramped housing.

UMCOR Philippines was able to provide food packages to families in communities from Novotas, north of the capital, down to Batangas, on the coast further south. Working with local partner institutions, including the Manila Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church and the Methodist-founded Harris Memorial College, UMCOR also got food to residents of the greater Metro Manila area, as well as Antipolo and Dambana.

In Santa Cruz, Laguna, UMCOR joined forces with international partner GlobalMedic, whose specialist team arrived in mid-August, to provide potable drinking water, meeting daily the needs of displaced families in 10 evacuation areas.   

The Saola/Gener emergency is, of course, far from the end of the story. Typhoon Tembin (or Igme) has also swirled up, lashing Taiwan before threatening Filipino fishing fleets.

And there was also Typhoon Bolaven (named Julian locally), which as a meteorological event dwarfed Tembin. And though it mainly skirted by the Philippines, it substantially enhanced the southwestern monsoon rains, especially for the nation's biggest island, Luzon. The annual pattern of typhoons building up—and then traveling erratically, sometimes mercifully—along more predictable courses, through the North Pacific Basin—is certainly being played out once more, fully and challengingly, for the Filipino people.

There is forward-looking preparation as well as immediate response. Playing its usual full part in the ACT Alliance (which in the Philippines also includes Lutheran World Relief, Christian Aid, National Council of Churches, and the just now forming ACT Philippines Forum), UMCOR Philippines is participating in training sessions for the "total ACT response" to emergencies. Ciony Eduarte, director of the UMCOR Philippines office, is one of the sessions' facilitators.

The need is evidently great, and the population clearly sees the benefit of such training to minimize the damaging effects of their extreme weather patterns. Says Eduarte: "Requests for more disaster risk-reduction training continue to pour in."

Your gift to Philippines Emergency, UMCOR Advance #240235, will support relief efforts in Filipino communities impacted by disasters such as this one.

*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to umcor.org.

Your gift to Philippines Emergency, UMCOR Advance #240235, will support relief efforts in Filipino communities impacted by disasters such as this one.