Philippine Bible Society

God’s Word: Relief for the soul

Typhoons, flash floods, volcanic eruptions… these are just a few of the calamities that have struck the Philippines, adding to the increasing crises that the present government is facing. But life has been made more bearable for most of the calamity victims because of the hope shared by people who are themselves the living translation of God’s Word through their care, love and generosity. Two of the events in this article are testimonies God’s Word shared through actions.

ALCALA, PANGASINAN

On July 4, 2001, Typhoon Feria (International name: UTOR) hit Philippine shores. It slashed across the eastern coast of the country, unleashing its fury on the northern provinces of the country, tearing down bridges, flooding residential districts, ruining hectares of crops ready for harvest, isolating entire cities, but worse of all, taking innocent lives from their loved ones. In the aftermath of the storm, authorities pegged the estimated damage to infrastructure and agriculture at P1.59 billion. Almost 1 million people were displaced, and at least 128 lives lost. In all this devastation, the Philippine Bible Society responded in one such area affected by the storm.

In the early hours of July 5, while most Filipinos were safely and cozily snuggled under their bed covers inside their homes while Feria blew its fiercest, some 500 families in a remote town in Pangasinan were struggling to keep themselves alive. Comfort was far from being attained as the waters coming from the nearby Agno river threatened to wash out their homes. Due to the continuous downpour brought by the exiting typhoon plus a sudden release of all the gates of a dam upstream, the river inundated causing the dike along its banks to collapse sending a torrent of water coming from the provinces of La Union and Benguet towards the once-acclaimed most beautiful barangay in Alcala – Barangay Caranglaan – and the nearby barangays.

People were caught off-guard. As one mother related, nobody expected the rapid rise of water which took only minutes. Those who lived in less-sturdy houses were awake throughout the night, not knowing when the tide will carry them away, houses and all.

During the flood, ten people–eight of whom were children–died, while seventeen others were injured when the current carried them some distance away from their homes. Virginia Galletos, an elderly woman in Caranglaan, and her grandson were two of those who survived. They were found clinging to a bamboo pole about a kilometer away from their barangay. Her 45-year-old daughter, however, drowned.

“Nothing’s left for us… my house, our clothes… they’re all gone,” Mrs. Galletos lamented. The same calamity happened to them in early 1990s, but it was nothing compared to the destruction brought by the recent flash flood. She could not believe that this would happen to her in her old age.