CEBU CITY, Philippines — When calamity strikes, charity crosses religions.
This was the case with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon Church, joining hands with the Roman Catholic Church to distribute relief goods to earthquake victims in Bohol.
The Latter-day Saint (LDS) Charities, the Mormon Church’s humanitarian arm, has vowed to help Catholics rebuild their Spanish-era churches that were destroyed by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Central Visayas on Oct. 15.
Jairus Perez, manager of LDS Charities in the Philippines, said one of their leaders was scheduled to meet with Bishop Leonardo Medroso of the Diocese of Tagbilaran to discuss how they could help restore the heritage churches in the province.
Msgr. Esteban Binghay, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu, welcomed the Mormon Church’s “good gesture.”
“The church is a symbol of unity and faith. Ecumenism means helping each other even if we belong to different churches because we believe in one God and we have one faith, one hope and one salvation,” he said.
Perez said they would like to help restore the damaged churches in Cebu, including the centuries-old Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, which lost its belfry, and the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, which sustained huge cracks on its facade.
“Actually, we have already reserved enough funds for the restoration of Catholic churches, including those in Cebu. We’re ready to send our donations for these churches,” he said.
Local tourists who found a second home in Bohol have also lent their talents and resources to raise funds for the earthquake victims.
In Los Baños, Laguna, writer Karen Lapitan, 26, started a charity enterprise called Shop for a Cause where she and colleagues at the Asean Centre for Biodiversity sell new and used items online.
“It’s just a simple way of giving back to the locals who had been very kind to us,” Lapitan said.
Lapitan and a friend visited the tourist island of Panglao in Bohol in 2012. Since they were on a tight budget, they could not afford hotel accommodations and ended up pitching a tent.
“The locals, mostly fishermen, looked after us the whole time. They were so kind to have prepared our food the next day, even if we didn’t ask them,” she said.
Lawyer Donna Orilla, 28, from Lipa City, Batangas, and her partner, veterinary doctor Esteban Aldrin Bisa, 44, wanted to return the kindness they received during a short tour in Bohol.
Last week, the couple turned Bisa’s animal clinic into a relief center and scheduled house-to-house hops to pick up donations from friends and clients.
Thanks to relief efforts, it’s business as usual in Bohol—almost—as tourists have started arriving in the province.
Brigida Capayaas, 54, a resident of Loboc, Bohol, is back on the job selling souvenirs at the Blood Compact Shrine in Bu-ol District.
Capayaas owns a stall near the shrine that sells key chains, coin purses and cell pouches.
She said she earned up to P1,000 a day during the peak season and P600 a day during the normal season. Since tourism was just starting to peak again, she said she had to reduce her prices—almost by half—to be able to sell more.
Tour guide Cecile Remolador, who was temporarily out of work when tours were closed for a week, is now back on the job as tourists have started coming back.
Loboc town Mayor Helen Alaba confirmed that tourism had started to pick up.
They had received bookings for the Loboc River Cruise since they resumed operations on Oct. 24, she said. As of Saturday, they had 249 guests on the river cruise.