In November 2013, the most powerful hurricane on record, tore through the central Philippines. The 20 ft. surge and 195 mph winds left Samar devastated and took many lives.
Bishop Abellanosa, a local coconut farmer, said, “We’re used to typhoons, every year we are always in the path of typhoons but not as strong or as destructive as typhoon Yolanda.” The storm had claimed everything in its path.
The bishop described his journey home, “The hills were bald; all the coconut trees fell. So I was crying while driving my truck on my way to our place, because I can imagine what every family must have felt . . . their only means of sending their kids to school, their food, all the needs for their family comes from the coconut trees.”
When he arrived home to his ancestral coconut farm he found that of a hundred or more coconut trees, only five remained standing.
But for Abellanosa, it was more than just his livelihood that was taken from him, it was his connection to the past, “It is hard to leave behind, because it is not just a business that is a source of living but also a remembrance and a symbol of our love for our ancestors.”
The coconut trees had sustained his family through four generations. With the money that they earned on their farm they were able to go on family trips to Tacloban, send his mother to college, and pay the hospital bills of a cousin who had contracted dengue fever. And now they were left wondering where their next meal would come from. He said, “Because of Yolanda, our hopes, our dreams were almost lost.”
But despite his loss, he found a way to help others connect with their futures. When he learned that the Church had initiated a project to help those displaced by the typhoon rebuild their homes, he immediately got on board.
He repurposed his fallen trees as boards to be used in rebuilding efforts. He said, “The lumber that I can give, I gave free of charge to those who really don’t have any means of building a house.”
In thinking of his lost trees, Bishop Abellanosa was happy to note that he could provide sustained help to those in need. He exclaimed, “I am happy to see that the lumber from our coconut trees were used to build houses. I am very happy. At least for the last time, the coconut trees will be used by the people for a long time.”
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