I was able recently to visit the faithful in Palo, Leyte. A year ago we had the privilege of baptizing members of a small community at Palo and blessing the new parish of Saint Nikolai Velimirovich. However, not long afterward Typhoon Yolanda devastated this whole region; a year later, the damage is still evident everywhere. All the members of our parish survived the storm, but most were left homeless.
Here is a typical example of a building half-repaired: The back half has a new tin roof and is in use, the wall facing me is clean and freshly painted, but the front half of the building remains a wreck. But this building is made of sturdy concrete, and in time it can be repaired. Not shown here are the many wrecked homes and buildings where repairs have not yet even begun.
Along a canal, regulatory signage attempts to bring order.
Robinsons Mall and Supermarket is now restored and re-opened. Father Sava and I picked up some supplies for the members at Palo.
The road to Barayong
The Palo parish is in Barangay Barayong. Getting there requires traveling a very rough road up into the mountains. To transport Fr Sava and me, plus supplies and my package of vestments, we rented a multicab with a driver who knows the area.
I’m told for three months there was nothing but brown; now the green has returned, but it will be years before trees rise again here.
On the way up the hill, we pass the provincial jail.
In Barayong, Palo
This kindergarten has been restored, thanks to generous gifts and military aid from Korea.
Repairs to this school have not yet begun. Below: Homes in various stages of reconstruction.
St Nikolai Parish
At last we arrived at the home of a parishioner, where members gather for services. Unfortunately, due to the MacArthur Day celebrations in Tacloban and Palo, nearly everyone had traveled down into the city to take advantage of work opportunities. But it was a privilege to spend the day with those who remained, and with the children we baptized last year.
The chapel where St Nikolai parish met for services was destroyed together with their homes a year ago. Now a piece of ground about 30 meters on a side – call it 10000 square feet – is available for lease on very good terms.
It will take between two and five thousand dollars to build a chapel here, ideally of sturdy cinder block and cement. Super-Typhoon Yolanda was a freak storm, but the next chapel built here should still be strong enough to survive the annual storm season. Korean missionaries have built a Protestant church to replace one destroyed in the typhoon; perhaps in the coming year we will be able to raise funds to build a chapel of our own.
This gentleman is working next to the site that’s been offered for our chapel. He is with Habitat for Humanity; his group is organizing teams to harvest all the trees that were torn down by the typhoon in (what used to be) the forests, mill it into lumber on the spot, and distribute it where people can use it to frame their homes. And at the same time they’re planting nurseries full of forest tree seedlings, which they’ll transplant onto hillsides to prevent the remaining topsoil from being completely lost.
As we walked back to the house in the rain, I noticed what John’s shirt said. This is really consistent with the optimistic, faithful attitude these people continue to bring to such a difficult situation. Amid western comfort, can we also maintain such faith and hope?
In the departure area at the airport in Tacloban: a poster-size icon of the Theotokos. There’s something you’d never see in an American airport! I am still getting used to a culture in which piety is something normal.