In November 2013, Henry Patalinghug was working alongside other Latter-day Saint volunteer carpenters to help people on the island of Bohol rebuild after a damaging earthquake. While there, they learned that a powerful typhoon was headed straight for the Philippines. The storm, known as Yolanda in the Philippines and as Haiyan internationally, was projected to be one of the most devastating in the country’s history.
Latter-day Saints quickly went to work preparing for the disaster. Over 14,000 people sought shelter in 200 meetinghouses across the storm’s projected path. But even among members of the Church, it was difficult to get word out to everyone. In Tacloban, Analyn Esperas was still at home waiting for her husband, Gemmer, to return from work when the typhoon hit. Wind and water tore the house apart and dragged Analyn and her six-year-old daughter, Annammer, out into a rice field. Despite Analyn’s desperate attempts to hold her daughter close, the water swept the little girl away.
Gemmer later searched the area where his home once stood and found his daughter’s body. After burying her, he gathered loose sheets of corrugated metal for a makeshift shelter, but gaps in the metal left the Esperases exposed to the wind and rain. They weren’t able to sleep through the night until Joy Operio, a counselor in their ward’s bishopric, found them and directed them to the meetinghouse for shelter.
Displaced families like the Esperases then joined other Church members in relief efforts. Gemmer quickly enrolled in a Church program to train under master carpenters while rebuilding his own home, then nine homes for others, from donated materials. By completing the program, he earned a carpentry certificate that allowed him to find employment in ongoing reconstruction efforts. Jenalyn Barantes, whose house had also been destroyed, said, “I learned to work together with those who are also in need here so we can recover … together.” Others also helped: Mormon Helping Hands volunteers across the Philippines, like Henry Patalinghug’s wife, Russel, packed supply kits for people displaced by the storm. The Church purchased aid supplies, from within the Philippines as much as possible, and shipped them to affected areas.
In addition to the physical toll of the storm, Church members worked to overcome the emotional devastation it had left. While in the carpentry program, Gemmer accepted a Church calling to serve the youth in his ward during this difficult period. In time, he and Analyn also traveled to the Cebu City Philippines Temple, where they were sealed to their daughter. “I was crying so much,” Gemmer said, “to know that we will be together with Annammer someday.” During the sealing Analyn felt their daughter’s presence in the room with them and found peace after the storm at last. The experience, she said, “washed away the nightmares of my life.”