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Good Shepherd Sisters respond to needs of earthquake survivors in Bohol

Submitted by: regina
On: 15/12/2013

(The following is an account of Sr. Carmelita Arenas RGS and Sr. Basilides "Daisy" Superable, about the Bohol trip that they took recently to respond to the needs of the people affected by the earthquake on October 15.)

Welcome Earth Healing Mission

This was what greeted us in Maribojoc & Tubigon  ( two coastal towns) impacted by the earthquake in Bohol.  We arrived on Nov. 28, 2013.  Dina, our liaison leader introduced us to Dr. Lim and Capitana Karaan. After a hasty lunch in Tagbilaran, we proceeded to Maribojoc where the teachers, barangay health workers, barangay nutrition staff, the local government members, midwives& survivorswaited for us in the covered court.  Dr. Malou introduced the healing of the earth mission in its integrated health approach and its relation to western and traditional Chinese medicine.     

Dr. Tess presented the Psychological First Aid, deemed more appropriate now rather than the psychological stress debriefing for survivors of calamity or trauma. The participants balked at the orientation to the acupuncture treatment.  The initial fear was overcome; more participants underwent the treatment.  Sr. Carmelita  gave the basic movements in Shibashi to help in the breathing exercise.   Herbal medicine samples were shown to encourage them to know the healing plants in their areas.  Evaluation was made with the following positive feedback:  knowledge of the PFA or psychological first aid, confidence to help others, awareness of the need to heal the earth, not to panic, how to handle calamity, etc.  Difficulty in sleeping, and stomach disorder were the common complaints in the aftermath of the earthquake.  


The ruins & the people’s supplication for the restoration of their church:

Early morning, we trekked to the ruined   church, careful on the zigzagged cracks on the path.  

As the sun rose to light the tragedy of the ruins, we blessed the four elements of air, water, fire, earth.  The women/men in tears prayed before the giant mound of rubble that was their church. But Mary’s statue stood while Christ’s figure still towered above.Stories abound of miracles:  The couple said they were eating their breakfast when the earthquake lifted the whole kitchen dumping them 10 meters away.

A fisherman saw from his boat  thechurch exploding dust and debris. Seconds later, the hill nearby ripped from top to bottom, thunderously shaking the ground. The people said they ran to the nearby hill upon hearing “tsunami”. They ran, they fell, they crawled. Crouching, they shook in fear & in the cold.  When someone yelled landslide; they ran again.  Many more poured out their stories. ..the death of 19 people, the swaying andpounding vertical thrusts of the earthquake, the fear of fissure in the swamp & on the road. Thus, the team listened to their stories while waiting for their turn for acupuncture. 

More people came in after the 82 participants told their neighbors of the new treatment. The staff at the mayors’ office, who took the brunt of continuous service to their constituents, was encouraged to have acupuncture.


Two team members went down to the shore & saw the lifted shoreline which caused the receding of the sea.  It was not a tsunami.   It was the upward thrust of the earthquake that baffled the people


A well organized local team:   Despite the absence of the mayor who was in Davao, the Quezon City  team witnessed the smooth running of the one & a half day mission. Snacks & lunch boxes were given to the participants. The team saw the arrival of sacks of rice. Next day, these would be distributed to the barangays. When interviewed, the people appreciated and thanked their mayor & local officials for the orderly/equitable distribution of goods.   At the airport that Sunday, the mayor caught up with the team to thank them.   He shared his experiences: To prevent the spread of disease; he immediately ordered the vaccination of the children & adults.  He saw to it that water berestoredimmediately; the peop0le could survive with water& could forego for some time the lackof electricity. He had scouted forbuilding materials, much needed by the people,  who now preferred sawali (bamboo slats) rather than concrete.  He articulated to DSWD head Dinky Soliman that housing fund be prioritized not temporary shelter & the townleaders  could work out the livelihood plans.  The mayor had a demo farm  or integrated farming.  . 


Travel to Tubigon:

We passed by Antiquera, Loon, and Calape. We saw the mangrove on the right & the left of the road, the rice fields, the lopsided concrete houses, the narrow broken bridge (being repaired), the ruined churches & chapels. At Tubigon Cultural Center; we had a brief meeting with the mayor & proceeded to the 110 audience of teachers, barangay health workers, nutrition staff and LGU’s. They were introduced to the psychological first aid; followed by the creation spirituality & physical exercise.  It was surprising to note that participants, though initially fearful did go for the acupuncture treatment.  This was continued again for the next day, with the venue moved to the community hospital open grounds.  There were about 100 people more, the elderly and mothers with children.  Sr. Daisy was assigned to have the children for drawing & storytellingwhile the acupuncturists Cristy and Dr. Malou continued with acupuncture till late afternoon.


Dialogue with the Mayor:

At dinner hosted by the Mayor, the team introduced the availability of training for local health workers toward integrative health, using alternative healing, acupuncture, nature’s medicines and spiritual interconnectedness.  This would include research on the indigenous  plants used for healing, confirming the wealth of nature’s resources in Bohol.


Blessing the ruins of the church:

The staff woke up early & from the view deck of the pension house saw the sleeping quiet town by the sea.  They heard mass at the patio, in front of the grotto, on wet benches.  Fr. Toto Labis showed the ruined front & side of the church; one wall crushed his jeep & carved the tabernacle hole.  Placing the candles on the broken concrete & wooden slabs, the small group blessed the earth & prayed for the restoration of the church and the healing of the spiritsof  so many. Beside the church, the huge concrete house of a Filipino expatriate geared on one side.


People at the tents:

While the team continued with the acupuncture, two staff, guided by a participant, took the tricycle to see one community who lived in tents. They passed by the pier& saw the boats that plied to 3-4 islands.  Passing through the rice paddies, the ruined chapels, the tilted houses, life went on as usual, with the cooking on makeshift stoves, the washing by the pump, the kids playing, the men talking. . Mostly, they stayed outside since the trees provided the cool shelter.  Inside one tent, a bedridden woman who had a stroked & got hit by the falling debris, tried to talk with the visitors.  She was well attended by the relatives, who said she had a daughter nun somewhere in Massachusetts.


First Sunday of Advent: Usheringthe Christmas season of hope

At Tagbilaran Cathedral, the two side altars were enclosed, ruined by the earthquake.  But the bells rang to celebrate the first Sunday of Advent.  People prayed more fervently. In their tremendous loss, their faith brimmed over with hope, as they prayed for the rebuilding of their church & their communities. .  Can something good come out of this devastation?  Whydid so many churches, chapels and concrete houses turn to rubble?WhatIs God’s message here?  As we prayed under the open   dome of the universe... the sea, the sky, the earth…seemed to invite us…. this is the temple to care for…and  the people to unify and rebuild. 

As the mayor of Maribojoc said… the earthquake calamity hit all, the poor and the rich alike. All are one in need of help and healing. What is the message of Bohol earthquake and of Yolanda’s visit of Central Visayas to the Filipinos… to the world?


May this outpouring of compassion from the local and international groups be a call to more equitable and just sharing of world’s resources.  May all be united in the care and conservation of our  nurturingllife giving blue planet. . May the painful struggle of our people inspire the individual, the families and our leaders to envision planned communities inclusive of the poor.  May the reconstruction not only of lives but of communities touch all  work humbly, to live simply and share justly to build a  new world.   Let people of good will go and live Christ…


Our gratitude to DraSharleen Lim and Capitana Arlene Karaan who welcomed us in Tagbilaran, mobilized vehicles for our use &treated us to a wonderful break. Thanks to the people of Maribojoc,especially Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr who lent us his house and showed us the great work being done to rebuild his town, to Dr. Rey Belderol and Virginia Medequisowho ably orchestrated the smooth running of the day. Thanks to the young mayor Marlon of Tubigon for his generosity and availability to access this help for hispeople, to his staff and to the administrator of the community hospital for the wonderful sea food lunch and accommodation for the sessions.  Most of all,  our admiration to the people of these towns for their warm welcome, for their openness to learn new things, for their resiliency and deep faith to help each other.  Bohol will not only survive; Bohol will thrive.


The Team:

          Dr. Malou Pagubas, Mrs. Malou Tinga, Mrs. Christina Magno,

          Dr. MarieTherese Galang, Dina Ayi Almodal

          Sr.Carmelita Arenas, RGS, Sr. Daisy Superable, RGS




In the circle blessing of nature, we followed the call of St. John Eudes to prayer: Adoration of God, Thanksgiving, Atonement and Solidarity in Action.


In gratitude to all our friends both local and abroad, we praise you in the heart of the Good Shepherd:


- Sr. Carmelita Arenas, RGS and Sr. Daisy Superable, RGS