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World of Difference

Where – thanks to your support – families can recover after disaster strikes and prepare for future emergencies.

Where is the Philippines?

The Philippines is a tropical country located in the western Pacific Ocean with Taiwan to the north, and Vietnam to the west. More than 170 different languages are spoken, the most widespread being Tagalog (Filipino).

The Philippines in numbers

Working in the Philippines

Transforming lives across the Philippines

In the 2018 World Risk Report, the Philippines is ranked the third highest in the world, as it is exposed to frequent natural disasters such as typhoons, storm surges and volcanic eruptions. This can be devastating to the wellbeing and livelihoods of people across the country, pushing many deeper into poverty.

Tearfund started working with local partner organisations to respond to disasters and emergencies in 2014. We aim to quickly reach people in greatest need and provide long-term support to communities in the most disaster-prone areas.

Two photos, first of people passing bags out of a truck to other people, second of a damaged home and knocked down palm trees

Left: Tearfund's partner PhilRads supported families after Typhoon Rai in 2021 | Credit: Rose Handog/PhilRads | Right: Devastation caused by Typhoon Rai in Southern Leyte, which struck in December 2021 | Credit: Pastor Jun Biluan/PhilRads

Patricia shares about life in the Philippines

‘What makes our country beautiful also makes us very vulnerable.’

Patricia Pagulayan, Communications Officer for Tearfund in Asia who was born and still lives in the Philippines, shares about her life, work and experiences in this wonderful but vulnerable country. She also recalls the typhoon in December 2021 that was headed for the town where most of her family live, and the agonising two-day wait before she was able to contact them to check whether everything was OK.

Patricia from Tearfund who feared for her family’s safety when a typhoon struck.

Learning tough lessons from the typhoon

Evelyn and Joel didn't know how they could recover from a devastating typhoon, but help was on its way...

Joel, his wife Evlyn and their children outside their newly-rebuilt home | Credit: Reynaldo A. Concepcion Jr./Tearfund

Evelyn and her husband, Joel didn’t believe the water would rise so high or that the destructive waves would reach their family home. ‘The waves just got bigger and bigger,’ she says. ‘The water was rising, it went up to the top of our door. Our children started crying.’

Their small fishing village in Albay in the Bicol region is regularly battered by high winds and storms, but Evelyn and Joel had experienced nothing like that night. On 31 October 2020, Super Typhoon Goni struck the Philippines. At least 24 people were killed, and more than 300,000 fled their homes.

Evelyn and Joel’s home was no longer safe. They had to abandon it and swim with their children to safety. ‘We headed towards higher ground,’ remembers Evelyn. ‘Our house was submerged in water.’ But they were not left helpless facing such destruction, Tearfund’s local church partner responded swiftly to offer immediate support and training to prepare for future disasters...

Joel and his family, all working to earn extra income at their home | Credit: Reynaldo A. Concepcion Jr./Tearfund

Evelyn, Joel and their children headed to the nearby community centre, where they joined many families fleeing the devastating storms. Although much higher than their home near the bay, the family were still in danger. ‘The waves and rain still reached us,’ says Evelyn. ‘We learned from that experience that we need to evacuate to a much higher ground.’

The storm left a trail of destruction. ‘Our house was completely destroyed,’ says Evelyn. ‘Our belongings were washed out and swept away by the waves. Our boat was also completely destroyed.’

More storms than ever formed during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. In the Pacific, typhoons and cyclones cut short hundreds of lives and resulted in damage costing billions. ‘Because of the high winds, life has been much more difficult,’ says Joel. ‘Strong winds make it much harder for us fishermen.’

Top: A ruined fishing boat among the debris washed up in Tiwi, Albay | Credit: Patricia Pagulayan/Tearfund Bottom: Edgar outside the wreckage of his home, destroyed by Typhoon Goni | Credit: Patricia Pagulayan/Tearfund

But thanks to the support of people like you, the families in Albay were not left with nothing. Our local partner, Philippine Relief and Development Services (PhilRads) – a branch of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches – provided urgent supplies and gave cash to all 623 families in the area, including Evelyn and Joel’s. The relief packages consisted of money to purchase basic household items, rice, sugar and tins of essential food.

‘We are really grateful because it helped us every day,’ says Evelyn. ‘Especially the rice. We had money to buy soap and food and some materials to fix our house. We didn’t need to think about what to feed our children. It really helped us a lot.’

‘We should all help each other in caring for God’s creation’

But PhilRads did much more than help families survive the first weeks after the typhoon, they offered training to reduce the risk when a disaster strikes, and provided expert advice on how to respond immediately.

‘We are more prepared now,’ says Evelyn. ‘When we notice a strong wind coming or an alert from the local government, we’ll have our belongings ready so that we can evacuate immediately. We’ve learnt a tough lesson from the last typhoon.’

Evelyn also knows from her experience why we must all take better care of the environment. ‘We should all help each other in caring for God’s creation. I pray to God that creation will be preserved so that we can thrive and live well.’

Saying no to exploding fish

Blast fishing, fish bombing or dynamite fishing is a destructive practice that uses explosives to stun or kill schools of fish for an easy catch. It destroys the surrounding coral reef where the fish live, and is a danger to fishermen and divers.

Although illegal, it’s a widespread practice across the Philippines. But Joel and the community of Albay refuse to fish in such a damaging way. ‘I hope people stop using dynamite to catch fish,’ he says. ‘Good fishermen fish with bait. If bad people continue to use dynamite, they will be destroying other fishermen’s livelihoods.’

A man wearing goggle submerged in water up to his chest

A deep-sea diver prepares to swim deep to lure schools of fish into a net | Credit: Reynaldo A. Concepcion Jr./Tearfund

Brightly decorated houses for the Pahiyas [Harvest] Festival in Lucban Quezon | Credit: Adobe Stock

A harvest for the town

‘A great harvest is one of the most joyous occasions we Filipinos celebrate,’ says Patricia Pagulayan. ‘We are connected together with the land as with the farmers who till them – we are all connected by the produce of the land. Festivals like the Pahiyas are our way to celebrate and give gratitude to God for the richness of food our land gives us.’

The town of Lucban, Quezon, celebrates one of the Philippines biggest and most colourful harvest festivals each May. Known as Pahiyas, the festival is to offer thanksgiving to God for a bountiful harvest. Local people decorate their houses with fruits, vegetables and colourful kiping – a leaf-shaped wafer made of rice and dyed with food colouring. It started when there was so much produce provided at harvest festival that churches couldn’t accommodate it all. Now the local parish priest visits houses to bless their produce.

Top: Fruit, vegetables and other produce used to make a picture of Jesus | Bottom: The Pahiyas festival offers thanksgiving to God for a bountiful harvest | Credit: Adobe Stock

Photo of landscape. Credit Tom Price/Tearfund

Revisit previous destinations

Take a look back at all the other amazing World of Difference destinations here.

See destinations

We hope you feel blessed learning about lives transformed in the Philippines. Soon we will take you to a new destination where your support is making a huge difference.

©2024 All Rights Reserved. Registered Charity No.265464 (England and Wales) No.SC037624 (Scotland). Tearfund, 100 Church Road, Teddington, TW11 8QE 020 3906 3906 [email protected] Images and copyright © Reynaldo A. Concepcion Jr., Patricia Pagulayan, Tom Price/Tearfund, Rose Handog, Pastor Jun Biluan/PhilRads, AdobeStock

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