Roger Modesta and his five year old daughter, Lorraine, sit in their new house, made possible through the UMCOR rebuilding project. Their home in Calogcog, a barangay (community) of the Philippine municipality of Tanauan in Leyte Province, was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. Photo: Melissa Hinnen.
By Melissa Hinnen*
August 19, 2014—Purposeful work is everywhere in Barangay (neighborhood) Calogcog, in the municipality of Tanauan, Philippines. After Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, tore through the region, more than 200 homes were destroyed in this community alone. Nine months later, people are hard at work maintaining temporary shelters and cleaning up debris until new homes can be completed.
Thanks to United Methodists and others who supported the response by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the more than 218 households in Calogcog that have requested help will receive new homes.
While the cleanup and repairs serve a practical purpose, many say it also helps them temporarily take their minds off their grief. Everyone in the area has a heartbreaking story of loss. In Calogcog, 200 bodies were recovered and identified, but many more are still missing.
According to Nancy Michael, who teaches fourth grade at the Calogcog Elementary School, 70 people—many of them children—took shelter in the school during Yolanda. Only 27 survived.
Cornelia Corilla, 85, tells a similar story. When Typhoon Yolanda came, she and other family members sheltered in her daughter’s home, where they always went during storms. Of the 21 people in the home, only her son, grandson, and great granddaughter, who had gone to the roof, survived.
Corilla survived by holding onto the bed when a tidal wave filled the home. “I am the oldest,” she wept. “Why did I survive?”
Building Back Better
Tanauan’s chief engineer, Raul Soliva, wears a shirt that says, “Every Day is a Better Day in Tanauan.” UMCOR is committed to working with him and the Calogcog community to “build back better.”
Each home is being customized to accommodate the lot and the size of the family. The new houses are designed not only to resist typhoon-strength winds but, also, have high-sided roofs that can be accessed from inside the house.
UMCOR housing program officer Malaya Conejos is working with families to identify needs and the amount that they can contribute to the construction. All families are asked to contribute by removing debris and, if possible, to the cost of hiring local, skilled construction workers. Those with additional means supplement the construction costs of their neighbors who cannot contribute financially.
With tears in his eyes, Julius Modesto, 27, whose home was destroyed and whose three aunts died in the typhoon, said five of his family members have been volunteering. According to Modesto, the way the community has come together eases some of the pain.
While grief is still very present, he said, “Now we are happy because we are going to have new houses.”
Blessing the First House
As the community gathered to celebrate at the ribbon-cutting of the first completed house, church leaders, including United Methodist District Superintendent Dave Cosmiano, who blessed the house, and Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco, who leads Davao Episcopal Area, offered words of prayer and encouragement.
“This rebuilding is a manifestation of prayers and support from around the world,” Bishop Francisco said. “We are bound together in the love of Jesus, even in calamity. We are thankful that God shows his faithfulness to us time and time again.”
As Roger Modesto entered his new home, he offered a joyful smile and thanked UMCOR, saying, “This house is for my children and grandchildren. I ask God for continued blessings.”
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*Melissa Hinnen is the director of Content and Public Information for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.