Pray, do your part – ‘Running priest’ to ‘Yolanda’ survivors

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TACLOBAN City, June 14, 2015 -– “It is not enough that whenever problems come, we will pray to God to eliminate the problem,” Fr. Robert Reyes, also known as the “Running Priest” urged Yolanda survivors, adding that action on their part is also needed.

Fr. Robert Reyes (in blue, seated left) goes over salient points discussed in the urban poor's dialogue with Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez (right) about the feared eviction. (Photo: Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros)

“Let us not [test] God. God helps those who help themselves,” the priest said in an interview after Mayor Alfred Romualdez talked to hundreds of urban poor who held a rally at the city hall grounds.

“St Paul said: ‘Prayers are not enough; good works and prayers should go together,” Reyes further said in answer to the coastal barangay dwellers’ insistence to remain at the danger zone where their livelihood is located.

Action needed

“That is why our mantra is pray, study, and move,” he stressed, expounding that with “study goes communication.”

“But it is not enough to talk. The mayor will contribute his part and his people will have to continue his part and both have to do things for the good of Tacloban,” he urged.

Reyes, a champion of the poor and a strong supporter of the non-profit organization Urban Poor Associates, was in the city on Thursday June 11 to confirm reports about the city government’s plan to evict about 40 families in the storm surge-ravaged seaside Old Road Sagkahan area.

On his initiative, a dialogue was held between Romualdez and representatives of the urban poor who are strongly opposed to the transfer of the families to a transitional shelter in the uphill northern barangay.

Seaside homes

Following three hours of peaceful talk between the urban poor folks and the mayor, in the presence of Reyes and local news men, the pro-poor priest advised the Old Road Sagkahan urban poor representatives present to study, meet and discuss well their position on the issue and translate whatever they have discussed into clear terms.

As of now, there is yet a greater need for houses for those whose seaside homes were severely damaged by super typhoon Yolanda’s storm surge on Nov. 8, 2013.

With no available lots that the government could purchase near the seaside villages, transitional houses built at an uphill northern barangay.

In a rehabilitation forum organized last year by the city government, the United Nations – Habitat, which helped the city government map out a plan for a typhoon-resilient community in line with the thrust to “build back better and safer”, proposed expanding the city’s economic center closer to the said northern barangay.

This, however, will take more years as more infrastructures have yet to be put in place and public utilities such as stable water supply, electricity, and communication lines have to be installed.

Possible tsunami

The city government’s financial situation, according to city officials, is a major factor that left the city government with no other options than to move the survivors from the coastal barangays to the northern barangay where fishing is not a feasible livelihood.

The Pope Francis Center, where Caritas Philippines is building homes for Yolanda survivors, was once touted as part of the northern barangay, including Abucay.

This was until economic activities started to bloom in the said area over the years, especially after the city government put up a bus terminal in Abucay and a huge lot was marked out for a department store’s expansion supposedly in 2015.

Reyes, in an interview, reiterated Romualdez’ concern over the safety of the dwellers’ children which is the main reason the dwellers are being encouraged to transfer to safer grounds away from threat of another storm surge.

“As the mayor stated, they are not precluded from doing their livelihood if they are fishermen, they can continue, but please keep your children safe from future calamities such as tsunami which is bigger than a storm surge,” Reyes pointed out. (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros/CBCP News)

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