Catholic churches in Philippines damaged by super typhoon

Several Catholic churches in the Bicol region were destroyed by strong winds brought by Super Typhoon Rolly in the Diocese of Legazpi in the province of Albay on Nov. 1.

Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi said Masses were temporarily celebrated outside the St. John the Baptist Church in the city of Tabaco and other devastated churches.

The prelate said the St. John the Baptist Church was “heavily damaged” with “more than half of the roof ripped off and blown away.”

A church in the village of San Antonio, also in Tabaco, caved in although religious images remained intact, said the prelate.

Several other churches were reported to have suffered “minimal” damage and were being repaired through the initiative of the faithful.

Bishop Baylon, however, said the diocese is still wanting in funds to help people whose homes were also destroyed.

“While we are working on the immediate repairs of these churches, we do not forget that many homes have been destroyed,” said the prelate.

“We’re sourcing out funds and building materials to help in their rehabilitation,” he said.

Voluntary donations

In the central Philippines, parishes in the Diocese of Borongan in Eastern Samar province, will be holding a “second collection” during Masses in the coming days for victims of the super typhoon.

The diocese, however, said the second collection is “voluntary” and is subject to the pastoral discretion of parish priests “in view of the financial constraints that our faithful are currently facing due to the pandemic.”

Several other dioceses across the country have also started a fund drive to help affected communities.

Displaced residents of the town of Tiwi in Albay province watch over their devastated houses on Nov. 3. (Photo by Vincent Go)

Meanwhile, an official of the Episcopal Commission on Health Care said churches and chapels that serve as evacuation centers should observe health protocols to ensure the safety of evacuees from the new coronavirus disease.

Bishop Oscar Florencio, vice chairman of the commission, said those in charge of the churches and chapels should ensure that “social distancing” is maintained as much as possible.

He said a healthcare professional doctor or nurse should be assigned to monitor the status of the health of the evacuees.

“If they know that one is sick then by all means they have to be isolated right away,” said Bishop Florencio.

He said churches should also be disinfected to “mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Thousands displaced

Super typhoon “Rolly” made landfall as an extremely powerful Category 5 typhoon on Catanduanes island and became the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone on record.

The 19th named storm, ninth typhoon, and second super typhoon of the 2020 Pacific typhoon season, Rolly carried 10-minute sustained winds of 220 km/h, 1-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h, and a minimum central pressure of 905 hPa.

It was the strongest tropical cyclone observed worldwide thus far in 2020 and one of the most intense tropical cyclones on record.

Following its first landfall, Rolly rapidly weakened while it moved over the Philippines. The storm brought severe flash flooding to the province of Albay, causing lahar flows from the nearby Mayon Volcano.

There were widespread power outages as well as damaged power and transmission lines in the Bicol region.

Crops were heavily damaged and over 390,000 individuals have been displaced in the region out of about a million people who were evacuated.

At least 24 people were reported killed and US$119.2 million worth of property were damaged.

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