Baptist Global Response

Filipinos smile in the midst of tragedy

By Caroline Anderson

Despite all the trauma Filipinos have suffered in the aftermath of the Nov. 7 typhoon, the majority of people still smile, laugh and joke.


As his boat arrives at Gibitngil Island, Michael Beasley, of Trimble Baptist Church, Trimble, Mo., looks at the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan. Beasley traveled with a local Baptist Global Response (BGR) team to assess damage and commence immediate disaster relief plans. He is a disaster relief volunteer for Missouri Baptist Convention, a BGR partner organization.

Shechem Tangog and Kris Alburo – two Waray Waray girls from the hard-hit island of Leyte – joined a relief team distributing Baptist Global Response relief packages on the island of Gibitngil Nov. 20.

Tangog said her parents live on a lake and did not receive any aid for a number of days after the typhoon. Alburo’s parents’ home in Tacloban was destroyed – only a concrete post remains – and her family is struggling to find food.

Despite the trauma and hardship their families are going through, the girls wanted to help communities that experienced similar traumas.

During the distribution, the two girls kept the children of Gibitngil entertained with songs and dances. In the van ride back to Cebu City, the girls themselves laughed, joked and sang lyrics from their favorite songs.

Why, when their families have lost everything, aren’t they sad?

Filipinos are a resilient people, BGR project director Susan Stokeld said. Typhoons batter their country every year. This year, the country has weathered 26 typhoons. Flooding and earthquakes are common.

It’s a beautiful characteristic – the ability to smile in the face of tragedy.

“You always see pictures of Manila flooding and pictures of people laughing – they are up to their hips in water,” said Ben Wolf, who with his wife, Pam, directs BGR work in the Asia Rim. The Wolfs served in the Philippines for 20 years. “For them, it’s not about the circumstances, it’s about the relationship.”

Stan Smith grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines and came back to serve as a career missionary. He and his wife have served for 30 years in the Philippines.

He agrees that Filipinos are a resilient people.

Smith went to Tacloban after the typhoon to find fellow missionaries and Filipino friends.

How you can help

Southern Baptists and their partners in the Philippines are responding to immediate needs and working on a long term relief plan through Baptist Global Response.

You can be a part of the relief efforts through BGR by praying, giving or volunteering. Learn more by clicking here.

“We couldn’t go to sleep past midnight because they were laughing and telling jokes,” Smith said. “They were just having the best time.”

He said he didn’t have the heart to ask them to be quiet so he could sleep.

“It was such a joyous occasion,” Smith said.

People in the small village of Bangon told BGR workers they would rise again and move forward, even though their village was destroyed. They are taking refuge under tarps and in homes without roofs and walls.

“Bangon” means “rise up” in the Cebuano language. They are a people who rise up amidst tragedy and trauma.

Smith said the “Bangon” mindset is present among the people in Tacloban and relief workers are making sure the vision for recovery come from Filipinos.

“That’s what people are looking at, rising again,” he said. “The Filipino people are very resilient and very resourceful. We can mar that by our outside efforts to help in ways that are not constructive.”

Cick here to learn more about the BGR Typhoon Haiyan Resposne.

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