Children in Bohol, Philippines, an area hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on October 15. Aftershocks are expected within the next few weeks to a month, forcing residents to sleep outdoors. Photo by Garrett Nolasco/CRS
“My heart dropped when I saw the rubble of the parish church in Clarin. The churches in Bohol date back to the earliest days of Catholicism in the Philippines in the 1600s. They represent the depth and richness of my own Catholic faith. And while the structural damage is an enormous blow, the loss of more than 150 lives strikes the “living Church” in Bohol, a true heartbreak.”
So began a communiqué from Catholic Relief Services Philippines emergency program manager Arnaldo “Arar” Arcadio who landed today in Bohol, Philippines. The town was struck two days ago by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Arar was deeply touched by scenes of destruction as he approached Bohol.
“When my CRS colleague and I arrived in Bohol today, I saw a glimpse of the earthquake destruction as the ferry approached the pier. Our ferry had to maneuver twice before we could finally dock—the pier had enormous cracks with some parts collapsing. It grew worse as we moved around the town.”
CRS immediately began working with the local Church and Caritas Philippines to determine the needs of families near the quake’s epicenter. Arar sent his initial reactions shortly after arriving.
“The needs are urgent. Today I spoke with priests who lost their homes and churches. They are trying to catch a few hours of sleep each night in cars or outside in makeshift beds made of sofa chairs, tarps or tables before coming back to help their neighbors and parishioners. The priests lamented that they have families sleeping outdoors with little shelter from the weather. However, I cannot forget the smiles of the priests, volunteers and victims as they greeted us when we visited.”
Arar will help lead an experienced emergency response team in assisting the most needy families affected by the quake.
“I will be working with Caritas Philippines to decide how Catholic Relief Services can support families and communities as they rebuild after the earthquake. I’m proud to be part of a team that is excellent in emergency response, and CRS will work with the local Church to reach people as quickly as possible. Access to the interior of the island will be difficult with extensive damage to roads and bridges.”
Amid the destruction, Arar was touched by another powerful effect from the quake.
‘Living Church’ Pulls Together
“As I go to mass on Sunday, I will take heart that the “living Church” doesn’t reside in a structure. Today I saw the Church in the faces of neighbors helping each other, and in the priests and laypeople who are working tirelessly in very difficult conditions.
“On Sunday, I hope you will join me in prayer and solidarity with the people who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses in Bohol. The “living Church” and people of other faiths in Bohol have a long road to recovery. Through Catholic Relief Services, Catholics in the United States can walk that road with my Church in the Philippines. ”
Arar signed off his message with “in hope and faith.”
If you would like to join CRS and your Church in the Philippines as it helps Bohol and other affected areas recover, please make a donation today.