by Fr. Claro Conde

Diocesan Ethnic Coordinator and parish priest of St. Patrick (Wooston) and Annunciation (Netley Abbey) Southampton SO19 9BD cconde8254@yahoo.co.uk

30 November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan from UK

Picture39TV footages and photos we see in the news about the Philippines made not only me but many British cry. Before it went to Cebu, Masbate and Panay, Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan first hit Guiuan, Samar, my birthplace. The town’s church of La Purisima Concepción, where I was baptised, considered one of the finest and most beautiful 16th century Spanish land mark stood like our Netley Abbey ruins. Then it devastated Tacloban where I grew up and served as young priest at the Redemptorist church, now an evacuation centre. Fr. Flan Daffy, now retired in Ireland, commissioned my father, the late Fernando, to install iron grills at the sides of the nave so that gentle breeze would comfort the faithful from scorching heat and so that strong winds will just pass through. Their project saved the building and now about 2000 people are taking refuge. Then I saw my classmate, Fr. Edwin Bacaltos, interviewed by our BCC George Alagiah, who told us that this is the church of the poor, a messy church. At the western side of the city, is my home. My sister Susan, a nurse from New York on holidays, phoned me after worrisome waiting for 4 days to get a signal. Many neighbours climbed up our 3 storey family house when the sea surged to 10 feet. Others could not make it. I knew 22 friends lain at our parish of St. Jude, other bodies were just left on the streets to rot. For 10 days the survivors had to survive again from neglect of our national government. My sister and a couple of doctors gave first aid treatment to the injured and medicine to those sick. My brother Nanding, also a survivor, joined our neighbourhood watch team to ward off looters and to find more help. Another brother Benito from another Island not affected sent truck loads of emergency supplies.

People quickly respond

Here in UK, many parishioners, friends and strangers sent me their words of empathy.  I wanted to go home but here I got involved with different groups trying to do something to alleviate the sufferings of my people. We organized masses and rosary prayer services. The Leyte Samar Organisation UK  of which I am one of the founders served as a link to the Warays living in UK and our regions. They noted who were missing and those who survived. They sent some worried people to me for prayers, counseling and support. Some of my parishioners are contacting their friends and relatives on board HMS Daring to connect with my friends and churches there. Different groups invite me to talk and give them moral support in their fund campaigns. I was interviewed by the BBC and ITV and local radio stations, a chance to talk about the Philippines and appeal for aid.

Different British Filipino groups went to malls and to the streets to raise funds. At my suggestion my bishop created a special fund called “the Filipino Typhoon Appeal”. On Gaudete Sunday, he will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral for the Typhoon Victims and to thank the British people for their generous response. Simbang Gabi Masses have been organized in different parishes and most of the collections will be for the appeal.

When I came to UK in 1994, there were about 50,000 Filipinos in UK, mostly working as Domestic Helpers and Nannies in London. Now there are approximately 300,000 of us. In many ways I am a link of different British Filipino organisations in UK since I got involved with Migrant advocacy and ministered as Chaplain to Pinoys. With this disaster, British and Filipinos in UK join hands in helping the Philippines. Amidst the apocalyptic experience of our people, the Gospel calls us to bear witness to Jesus’ love for us and to live with hope in the Kingdom of God.



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