Greetings again from Manila! I write this on Saturday night, after our confirmation ceremony this morning, and at the end of a very long, traumatic and pain-filled week.

Fr. German finally got a flight this morning to the neighbouring island of Cebu; from there he got a smaller aircraft to Tacloban city in the afternoon. After arriving there, he sent me the following text:

“if I had not known the condition of my family before leaving Manila, I would surely have fainted on seeing the destruction in Tacloban. Flying in to the city, I could not have ever imagined the magnitude of the destruction. I cried while the plane was descending. I still have to see the life of my family”.

In a text message received on Tuesday, 19 November, Fr German wrote: “I am now here in Palo Leyte – near to Tacloban city – with my family. My parents, siblings and their respective families are all alive. But four of my first cousins are dead and soem nephews are missing. The village next to ours is completely destroyed and there are at least 130 dead there. Our village has less than 10 dead. Our houses are either severely damaged or completely destroyed.”

As you have seen on the continuous coverage on CNN and BBC, relief aid is getting through, but very slowly. Trucks of food that have gone from Manila by road and ferry are stuck at the ports and bridges; one report this morning said there is a backlog of trucks for 2 km. The goodwill is there from the people / donors, but the system of distribution is poor.

Parishes continue the relief operation. Here in Good Shepherd Parish, and with SMA Philippines, we are focusing primarily on two parishes in the devastated places ( its more helpful to have a particular focus, than to send relief in a general way). The first, primary focus is the parish of Fr. German Patiga – Holy Family Parish, Pawing, Palo, Leyte.

The second is the home parish of one of our SMA seminarians, studying theology here in Manila – Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish, can-Avid, Eastern Samar.

Donations we get here in Manila, and donations we receive through the SMA in Ireland, through our Philippines Disaster Relief Fund (SMA members, family friends, and others who want to help) will be used in our on-going relief operation. Obviously this project will not be for just a few weeks. After the people receive food, water and medicine, there is the longer work of re-building their lives. Rehabilitation of lives and structures will last for a long time.

All week long I have been praying Psalm 34, which we read at Mass on Tuesday – “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirits are crushed, he will save”.

And the final verse of this Sunday’s Gospel brings consolation – “By your perseverance /endurance you will secure your lives”. 

Thanks for your support and prayers.

If you would like to support the SMA effort in the Philippines click here to make a donation. Click on the The Greatest Need option. Your full donation – no deduction for bank charges etc – will be sent to Fr Gus to purchase what is needed to help. Thank You.

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