Life’s Lessons from The Coach: Palawan Mission Update
by Joseph Tesoro, CFC Family Ministries Director
I felt a lot of uncertainty going to Coron, Palawan since there was not much news about the situation there. As the plane descended on the island, I saw the serious devastation that Typhoon Yolanda caused Coron. The once lush green scenery has been covered with fallen tree trunks, brown leaves and destroyed houses. I discovered that the people of Busuanga not only lost their homes but their livelihood as well, as they depended on fishing.
I immediately went to the parish in the city to establish contact with the local CFCFFL leadership and the parish priest. On the way there, I saw more destroyed houses and establishments throughout the whole town. What surprised me as I entered the parish compound was the amount of people volunteering to help. I got a glimpse of what CHURCH really is. Students, teachers, priests, lay church leaders, members of lay organizations like CFCFFL, government employees and even kids were present – all repacking donated goods from all over the Philippines. As the sun began to set, darkness enveloped the whole town since there was no electricity yet. Electricity will apparently be restored by December.
The second day was even more exciting. After helping out the other parish volunteers in carrying sacks of relief goods, I rode on top of a truck filled with relief goods and jugs of water. Our mission was to bring 120 sacks of relief goods to four towns. I was on top of the truck with our CFCFFL leader in Coron, Kuya Francis, and other student volunteers from Palawan State University. Inside the truck were volunteer church workers of mixed ages, some were as old as 77 years of age.
It was a very challenging ride, with the very hot weather, and a scary experience too, as we had to pass rough roads and narrow paths beside a cliff. But it was all worth it. At the sight of faces who broke into smiles when they saw us arrive with relief goods, all my exhaustion was gone. People were very polite, grateful and orderly in conduct. They formed and stayed on their line! What was also worth nothing was how in every town we went, it was in the compound of the chapels where the relief goods were being received and distributed, though the chapels were also devastated. Catholics, Protestants and members of different religious sects were given packs of goods. There was even an incident where a member of Iglesia ni Cristo was shy to fall in line because he thought it was only for Catholics. Everyone who needed helped received relief aid that day, regardless of religious affiliation. We ended our relief efforts by night time, at around 9:oo pm. It was very tiring but very fulfilling too.
On my last day in the area, I met a priest who was the parish priest of the former leper colony in Culion, Palawan. We talked about how else we can help them as many houses were devastated in their island as well.
Definitely a lot has yet to be done in Coron. Much help is still needed. More than the relief efforts, we can help in rebuilding their chapels. Their chapels are the beacon of hope in their communities, and the place where the people gather and share their faith. We can also help by giving them back their sources of livelihood by rebuilding the bancas they use for fishing. People in Coron are very resilient, as most Filipinos are. We now have a great opportunity to be CHURCH and become a brother and a sister to all of them. Let us also help Coron. Bangon Pilipinas!