The SMA has had a presence in the Philippines for nearly 30 years. Our principal purpose in going to the Philippines was to recruit and train priests for service in Africa. Today, Filipino SMA priests are ministering in Ghana and Tanzania. But as a quid pro quo for going to the Philippines the late Cardinal Sin asked that the SMA establish a parish in his Archdiocese. And so the Good Shepherd Parish in Las Piñas was born! It is staffed by three SMA’s – Fr Gus O’Driscoll (from Rathcormac, Cork) and two Filipino SMA priests: Frs German Patiga and Tony Gelaga.
The recent typhoon brought its tragedy home to us as Fr Gus reports. In these three articles we reproduce an edited account from his emails:
Monday, 11 November:
The island of Leyte was hit by the eye of the storm. You have seen the pictures of some of the towns, especially Tacloban, crushed in Tsunami-like manner. Estimates of death? 10,000? Who knows? It might well be higher. Harrowing pictures and stories on the newspapers. The main picture this morning would break your heart! A young, dazed father, carrying the lifeless body of his 6 year old daughter in his arms to a makeshift morgue.
I feel a particular sadness because my SMA companion here in the parish for the past 6 years (he was in Ireland on FVC /Sponsors days a few years ago), Fr. German Patiga, is from that area. He was a student of mine in my early years in the Philippines. His town lies along the coast, badly damaged. It’s about 12kms from Tacloban.
His father is in hospital there, having suffered a stroke just last week.
Now he has no contact with his family; all communication systems have broken down. I was chatting with parishioners after Masses yesterday, and again this morning, who also come from that area; they also fear the worst.
We were working on relief operations this morning – rice, canned goods, water, medicines etc which are going on a truck tonight from here for his family and neighbours, and may reach in 24 hours, hopefully (in his 2nd email Fr Gus told us that the truck took 60 hours!).
There are yet no commercial flights to Tacloban, but German has got a place on a military cargo plane that is leaving at 5am Tuesday. He is anxious and worried; what will he find when he reaches home?
The Philippines is used to typhoons, landslides, ships capsizing every year. The earthquake last month in the same central islands of the country brought a lot of destruction, and a few hundred deaths. Its a time of great sadness for the nation.
We had a lot of activities in our parish over the weekend; it kept our time and minds occupied. In the quieter times of today, the scale of the tragedy has hit home. I have not felt so sad in all my years in the Philippines.
Keep us in your prayers. Fr Gus.
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.
Read Fr Gus’ update on the situation in Tacloban…
Read Fr German’s account of what he found when he got home to his town.