Category 5 Super Typhoon Yolanda, also known as Haiyan, struck the central part of the Philippine islands on Friday, Nov. 8, killing an estimated 10,000 people and leaving survivors with tumbled-down homes, schools and buildings. While some nations and different organizations had already started relief efforts for the typhoon victims, the BYU-Hawaii Philippine Chapter is also planning to do a fundraising event to help as well.
After the weekend on Nov. 11, some students and alumni from the Philippines gathered together in the GCB lounge to discuss ideas to help out typhoon victims. Some of the attendees talked about providing long-term services like helping to rebuild ruined houses in the affected areas. Some things they planned on doing to raise funds were to put on a benefit concert and sell lunch plates to support a medical mission being organized by BYUH alumni. If approved by BYUH President’s Council, the fundraisers would be advertised through videos and posters.
Filipino students shared their feelings about the disaster. “I have been to the temple praying for those affected families and communities especially the missionaries serving there. I saw several videos and read the news. It is heart breaking seeing my beloved country wrenched by the catastrophe,” said Chona Galletes, a senior in business management/human resource.
In the blink of an eye, Mother Nature can show her power and wreak havoc, said students, without much warning. The quick devastation left people stunned and searching for information about their loved ones. “Help” was heard ringing from all the corners of the hardest hit area of Tacloban City. People were hoping to find their loved ones after powerful winds and tsunami-like storm came like an unwanted visitor and wiped out the settled life in the area.
BYUH Alumnus Jeff Ruffolo from Guangzhou, China, was one of the typhoon survivors. He recounted in an email his horrific experience with his family while visiting Cebu City. He described the typhoon as “a mad Harriett from the darkness of hell.”
Ruffolo went to the Philippines to meet with the U.S. Consulate in Cebu to present documents regarding the citizenship of his 4-month-old twins. He and his Filipina wife, Cris, didn’t know that their trip would be accompanied by a dreadful storm. Ruffolo said the scene of Yolanda swirling in the sky was “the most terrifying experience [he] could ever imagine.”
Liahnne Baraquiel, a senior in psychology from the Philippines, also said, “I was not really surprised because I'm used to typhoons in the Philippines and I experienced them a lot. I was reading an article that says ‘Stronger winds make stronger trees.’ I think it seems like a bad thing, but this typhoon makes our country stronger. It makes the people stronger.”
While some had seen and faced the frightening storm, others, like the parents of the Latter-day Saint missionaries who were currently serving in the ruined areas, contacted the mission homes inquiring about their children’s safety.
Anisha Hall, a BYUH alumna from Texas, posted on Facebook about her missing missionary friend from Hong Kong. She said she was happy to know that rescuers were able to find her. “The Philippines is a place of very spiritually strong people. They turn to God in tragedy and are the best member missionaries I know. That comforts me when I think of all the rebuilding they have to do in the midst of such tragedy. They have the faith and the fortitude to get through anything (and they always do). They are an example to other nations,” Hall said.
In an LDS Church News updated on Nov. 11, it says that all missionaries serving in the devastated areas have been contacted and were safe. Rescued missionaries are being relocated in both Cebu and Manila, says LDS Church News. Photos of the rescued missionaries were posted on Mormonnews.org and some on the LDS Philippines Facebook page.
For more information on how to extend help for the typhoon victims, visit www.ldsphilanthropies.org.