By Robin Gomes
The Catholic bishops of the Philippines have expressed their condolences for those hit by Typhoon Jolina (called Conson internationally) and urged prayers and solidarity for them.
“As one Church, I invite all of you to pray for our fellow Filipinos who were affected by the typhoon so that they may feel hope amidst their suffering,” wrote Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao in a statement on Friday. “On behalf of the bishops of the Philippines, I offer my condolences to those bereaved. May the souls of those who died be looked upon by God with mercy and compassion,” wrote the archbishop, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Typhoon Jolina slammed into the eastern Philippines on Tuesday, bringing sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour and gusts of 150 kph, causing destruction and power outages in several provinces. Citing the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), CNN Philippines reported on Friday that more than 109,000 people have been affected by Jolina. The Council confirmed 1 death, adding 13 other reported deaths still needed validation.
Prayers and solidarity
Expressing his closeness to the people, especially in Visayas and Luzon islands, Archbishop Valles said that the typhoon “destroyed homes, opened economic deficiencies, left people missing, and unfortunately, declared a number of victims as deceased”.
The 70-year-old archbishop urged for prayers to Mary, the Comforter of the Afflicted, for “consolation in the warmth of God’s love” for those affected. He also encouraged the faithful to solidarity saying, “As we all continue to strive under the hardship dictated by the pandemic, may our hearts be open to look upon our neighbors who are in a great need.”
Pope Francis - reciprocal help
In this regard, the Philippine bishops’ president recalled the exhortation of Pope Francis when he visited Japan in 2019. “The path to a full recovery may still be long, but it can always be undertaken if it counts on the spirit of people capable of mobilizing in order to help one another,” the Pope said on November 25, when he met the victims of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011. “Indeed, our healing takes time, but with the help of each other, through the words of Pope Francis, may we realize our duty to extend our hands rooted in our capability to love our neighbors as ourselves,” Archbishop Valles wrote in his statement.
Pope Francis visited the Philippines in 2015, particularly to show his solidarity and be close to those hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the deadliest tropical cyclones ever recorded. It killed more than 6,000 people, affected about 11 million people and left many homeless. Speaking in his homily during Mass at the rain-swept Tacloban airport on Leyte island on January 17, he said, “When I witnessed this disaster from Rome, I felt that I had to be here. That is when I decided to come here. I wanted to come to be with you.”
Due to its geographical location, the Philippines is hit by seasonal monsoon rains and about 20 typhoons and storms each year, resulting in heavy casualties to human life and destruction of crops and properties. The country also lies in the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations.
As Jolina moved away leaving behind a trail of destruction, another powerful typhoon, Kiko (Chanthu), was skirting past most of the Philippines in the north on Friday. The Philippine meteorological agency said Typhoon Kiko was on the cusp of becoming a category 5 “super typhoon” with sustained winds of 215 kph at its center and gusts up to 265 kph as it moved past the extreme northeastern portion of Cagayan province.
“Let us pray that Typhoon Kiko may not be as devastating as Typhoon Jolina. May God the Father embrace our country so we may find comfort and peace,” Archbishop Valles urged.
The tropical storms are occurring at a time when the Philippines is struggling with surges in Coronavirus infections. The Philippines health ministry on Thursday reported 22,820 coronavirus cases, a new daily record since the start of the pandemic. It said total confirmed cases rose to more than 2.16 million. With 61 new deaths, casualties reached 34,733, after confirming 61 more fatalities.
The all-time high Covid-19 cases come as the Philippines is dealing with the highly transmissible Delta variant that has crippled the healthcare systems of Southeast Asian countries, such as in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.