September 22, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON – A Development & Peace (CCODP) delegation visited the region of the Philippines devastated by last year's Typhoon Haiyan. Their trip in August was filmed for a documentary, which is still in production.

Fran Lucas, national second vice-president of the Catholic Women's League, was one of 10 Canadians on the trip.

Serving with the CWL for 23 years at St. Joseph's Basilica, Lucas was invited by CCODP to participate in the 11-day whirlwind solidarity trip. It was a trip that she likened to the Amazing Race, seeing so many sites and having many memorable experiences in such a short time.

Also on the trip were Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller and many CCODP representatives. They visited Manila, as well as areas devastated by the typhoon.

"When the documentary comes out, I would like to see some continued fundraising done. I hope to kick something off in the Edmonton Archdiocese and perhaps something greater throughout Alberta. Those people still need our help. We can't forget about them," said Lucas.

The typhoon, occurring Nov. 8, 2013, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, and the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing at least 6,300 people in that country alone.

VISIT TO TACLOBAN

Months after the typhoon barreled through the Philippines, evidence of its gale force winds and crushing waves were still visible in the city of Tacloban, one of the worst-hit areas.

"D&P is absolutely, bar none, the organization that can move things and make things happen. They have systems in place in the Philippines and other countries that they can mobilize fast," said Lucas.

Money is the best thing to be collecting and sending to help the Philippines, she said. Clothing and other items tend to get left in boxes in church basements.

Lucas saw many churches and homes destroyed. CCODP worked with the Urban Poor Association in the Philippines for the building of shelter, both permanent and temporary.

FESTIVE WELCOME

"The people there are so resilient. Even having gone through all that they had, they created a feast for us, what they called a fiesta. Little flags were hanging, welcoming us. They sang songs as we drove up, and they served us a meal," said Lucas.

They also visited the Black Nazarene, a life-sized statue of Jesus carrying the cross. The statue is renowned in the Philippines and is believed to have miraculous powers.

"We were at a cathedral, and the crowds were immense. This cathedral holds 13 Masses per day. We attended the 11th Mass that day. This Black Nazarene is a very special icon in the Philippines, and everybody wants to touch it.

ICON'S PROTECTION

"The idea is that the icon will protect them from harm," said Lucas, adding that the icon's protection is even more relevant following the typhoon.

On their last day in the Philippines, the delegation took a horse-drawn carriage tour of Intramuros, the colonial part of Manila built inside the walls of the old fortress. It was there that they met Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who Lucas described as gentle, humorous, and having a rock star-like following in the Philippines.

"You can't pick up a Catholic newspaper that doesn't have an article on him at one time or another," said Lucas.

The Canadians, led by Archbishop Miller, took part in the blessing of 43 fully equipped motorized boats, purchased from CCODP donations, for fishermen affected by the typhoon.