[Ecumenical News International, Manila, Philippines] A tropical storm that hit the southern Philippines eight days before Christmas has prompted church and government leaders to ask Filipinos to tone down their festivities this season and give to hundreds of families left homeless and hungry.
Some churches that celebrate morning or evening pre-Christmas services from Dec. 19-24 have encouraged parishioners to contribute to a fund drive to help survivors recover from Tropical Storm Sendong, which hit on 16 December.
“In the spirit of Christian solidarity, I request that a second collection be made at all Masses in … the Archdiocese of Manila from 19 December to Christmas Day,” newly-installed Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle said.
Sendong left more than 1,000 dead, 500 missing and affected 150,000 people in two major cities, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. The storm dumped 180 mm (seven inches) of rainfall in a span of 24 hours, causing flash floods while many residents were asleep.
Pastor Juanito Rivera Jr. of the United Church of Christ in Baguio City on Dec. 23 told ENInews the church’s five congregations would collect a special offering on Christmas Day.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) released half a million pesos (US$11,628) through church-based partners in southern Philippines, said Fr. Rex Reyes, NCCP secretary-general, in a Dec. 22 Facebook post.
The amount, he said, would be intended for the “most vulnerable, particularly those in remote communities who have difficulty recovering.”
United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) general secretary Bishop Reuel Marigza has visited Cagayan de Oro and Iligan since Dec. 21 and found it “heart-warming to see wounded healers at work,” he reported via Facebook.
Local UCCP pastors and leaders and members of church organizations — though they were victims themselves — have continued to help deliver relief goods to those in need, he said.
Roman Catholic Bishop Deogracias Iniguez of Caloocan City also appealed to the public’s “sense of compassion” to tone down lavish parties and fireworks during the season and consider contributions to flood victims, an appeal echoed by the government of President Benigno Aquino.