MANILA, Nov. 19, 2013—A Filipino priest taking ecclesiastical studies in Rome who came back to Tacloban after the killer typhoon reduced the city into ground zero is helping procure supplies to his archdiocese and people.
Fr. Erwin Balagapo, a priest from the Archdiocese of Palo has flown back to Tacloban City, Leyte today from Manila bringing eight generators, medicines and other things needed in the archdiocese.
“With access to C130 military plane, the priests in the archdiocese decided to send me back to Manila to look for generators, if possible, for walkie talkies and big tents, to ensure that we have power supply. We badly need this so that we can use our mobile phones and improve our communication lines and serve better our people,” Balagapo said.
Generators will not only provide the needed power supply but will also help the priests to communicate their status and establish communication, a great step to move on and start the process of healing.
“Power supply will also lighten the ‘dark; place in the evening especially during dinner time and thus start healing,” he added.
Recounting his experience on the day he arrived in Tacloban from Rome, Balagapo said he spent hours blessing the dead bodies that littered on the street.
“My brother had to convince me to leave the rest of them for the duration of the evening because of the curfew. I slept in our home. Thank God my family is intact. I was worried especially because my parents are not young anymore, they’re 78 years old. I had no news, neither from them nor from my archbishop for six days where we only watch the news through the internet when I was still in Rome. So, after consulting Archbishop Pedro Dean and Archbishop Jose Palma, my former archbishops in Palo, I decided to go back home,” he shared via an email interview.
Last Friday, Balagapo reported to Palo Archbishop John Du at the archbishop’s residence which he said is almost totally destroyed like the chapel which was turned into rubble.
“The archbishop at that time was in Ormoc City visiting the victims there. There are many families from nearby areas of the archbishop’s residence that have taken refuge until now. Then I visited our vicar-general and brother priests at the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral. From them I came to know that they already decided to dig mass graves for the dead. A nearby parish, San Joaquin, also in Palo, Leyte, did the same. There are also some families taking refuge in the cathedral,” he said.
Together with the archdiocesan oeconomous, Balagapo went to visit Msgr. Adan Apostol, the oldest priest in the archdiocese.
“We wanted to see him to be sure he’s okay. He was moved to tears when he saw us. From him we learned that he was almost drowned in his own room. Thanks to his brother, he survived. He requested us to give him more medicines for high blood and diabetes, and food for his brother, brother’s family and his neighbors,” he continued.
He then visited Sacred Heart Seminary and the St. John the Evangelist School of Theology, the retirement home of the clergy (Patmos) and the archdiocesan chancery, all in Palo, Leyte.
“They are in one big campus, around 24 hectares, just beside the Palo Bangon River and the sea. Some of the buildings are totally washed out like the seminary auditorium which is already on ground zero,” the priest recounted.
He said the rest of the area is being used as a temporary shelter for 500 families from nearby villages of Salvacion, Naga-Naga and San Jaoquin.
The priest is asking for donations because people in the affected areas are still waiting for goods like material food, spiritual, and psychological relief.
“Material food because they are hungry, spiritual because their faith in God our loving and merciful Father should be strengthened, and psychological because they are traumatized,” he said.
Despite despair and trauma, Balagapo noted the love and heroic virtuous acts happening everyday in the affected areas that can help rebuild what have been destroyed, physically, psychologically and spiritually. (Jandel Posion)