On 9 November 2013, Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest ever typhoon in record made landfall in Philippines; creating massive destruction as it made its way across the Visayas Islands. Although most of the people in its path were aware of the impending typhoon, the severity of the damage was overwhelming. The Diocesan Welfare and Disaster Relief Board made contact with the National Office of Episcopal Church in the Philippines on the first day of the disaster and initial information was that there was no Episcopal church in the path of the typhoon. Nearest to the path was a mission centre in Cebu under the Episcopal Diocese of Davao (EDD) which was later used as a relief preparation centre. The Diocesan Welfare and Disaster Relief Board then decided to partner with EDD to launch a disaster relief operation consisting of food and medical relief. The location of the relief was at Bantayan Island, situated north of Cebu which was 3 to 4 hours by road and 1 hour by ferry. It was reported by the municipal office that the area had suffered 95% damage with more than 6500 families displaced.
While the plans were firming up, immediate relief funds were given to support the purchasing of relief goods in Cebu City, which was not affected by the typhoon. The team from Diocese of Sabah was represented by 11 people – a priest, 6 doctors, an engineer and 3 supporting members to distribute the relief goods and as part of the medical team. The team gathered at Kota Kinabalu on 25 November to make final preparations in bringing over 500kg of medicine and later to join the team from Diocese of Davao at Cebu. Upon reaching Bantayan Island the next day, they could see widespread destruction by the typhoon. Every building structure suffered some form of damage and most had collapsed with only the pillars left standing, making it uninhabitable. Big trees were uprooted, some coconut trees and electrical poles were snapped into two. The power supply on the island was still down and expected to be restored in 4 months. Water rationing was in progress. There was an atmosphere of despair but not chaos. People were busy trying to restore normalcy and cleaning up was well in progress. Roads which were inaccessible had been cleared. For two days, the relief team went to two villages, to distribute relief buckets containing rice, canned food, noodles, mineral water, milk powder and soap to each family. 1500 families received the items. The medical team attended to over 800 persons on both days providing medical treatment to the sick and performed minor surgeries. The relief operations went smoothly and in a calm manner.
The relief team's intention was to bring the message of hope to the people of Bantayan. We thank God that many people from the administrators to the recipients of the relief were touched by the love of God, and they expressed the sincere appreciation. We also thank our senders and givers throughout the Diocese of Sabah, who prayed for the team and gave financial or material support.
- Dr Peter Thien
(Chairman of Diocesan Welfare and Disaster Board)