“Floods in Philippines Cause Great Damage,” Ensign, Feb. 1992, 76–77
Church members in the Philippines are recovering from a typhoon that killed twenty-two members and destroyed 90 percent of Ormoc, a city located 350 miles southeast of Manila in the central Leyte province.
Elder Durrel A. Woolsey of the Seventy, second counselor in the Philippines/Micronesia Area presidency, visited members after the November 5 storm that sent eight- and ten-foot walls of water through the area.
“Many members were stunned after losing loved ones,” he commented. “This is so tragic, yet the Filipino people are resilient and strong. They demonstrate great courage and are now digging out and cleaning up.”
A memorial service for flood victims was held at the Ormoc district meetinghouse on November 30. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy, first counselor in the Philippines/Micronesia Area presidency, spoke, offering comfort to those in mourning.
With peak winds of less than fifty miles per hour, tropical storm Thelma was not a strong storm, but the heavy rain combined with high tides to create one of the worst natural disasters to hit the Philippines in recent history. Some 6,000 people were killed, and approximately 7,100 families lost their homes.
Elder Woolsey toured the area, accompanied by Lowell D. Wood, director for temporal affairs in the Philippines/Micronesia Area, and Elder Cloyd Hofheins, a physician serving as a full-time missionary in the Philippines. Food and medical supplies were distributed to Saints who gathered at the district meetinghouse, which remained undamaged because it was located on high ground.
Following the storms, “the meetinghouse became a haven for many of the Saints who lost their homes,” reported Elder Woolsey.
Ormoc District president Gerardo N. Milallos, with his wife, baby, and other family members, were trapped in mud and debris. After pulling his wife and baby out of the water, President Milallos looked for someplace safe to pray. “At least we were able to ask help from Heavenly Father,” recalls Elizelda Milallos, wife of President Milallos.
The Milalloses headed for the meetinghouse to check on other members. As the Saints gathered, the stories shared were tragic. Seven members of the Celso Wenceslao family were drowned, leaving three daughters, ages thirteen, fourteen, and sixteen, behind.
Another member was cooking lunch for the missionaries when the waters came. She was unharmed, but her children and her mother were drowned.
Full-time missionaries in the area, including one missionary couple, were all safe and accounted for. The missionaries assisted in relief efforts at the district meetinghouse. Those efforts included distributing food packets containing candles, matches, sardines, and rice. Missionaries have now been transferred from the area because of the threat of disease, Elder Woolsey reported. There is concern about the spread of cholera and typhoid.
Elder Hofheins and Marilyn Pascual, a member in the stricken area who is a physician, worked together to administer medications to prevent the spread of disease.
Members are now working together to rebuild their homes and their lives. The Ormoc Philippines District has 888 members, 539 of whom live in Ormoc. Members who died were from the Ormoc First, Second, and Third branches and the Albuera Branch of the Philippines Tacloban Stake.