Update From the Philippines - Bantayan Island

Update from Thursday night - Andrew has now decided to stay on Bantayan Island and travel to the outlying islands, as people are telling him those islands are even worse off than Bantayan Island. You have to be flexible in relief work and be able to change your decisions frequently if you realize there are other areas needing your help!

Andrew and I were able to talk over Skype last night. He has traveled to Bantayan, a small island off the coast of Cebu. It's that teeny little speck off the northern tip of Cebu Island at the end of the arrow. This is just one aspect that makes providing relief so challenging in the Philippines - the country is made up of over 7,000 islands. Even if only a small percentage of those were affected by the hurricane, it could take a significant amount of time to meet all of their needs.

He arrived there yesterday after driving a couple hours from Cebu and taking a ferry to the island. As he drove with the team into the island, the debris began piling up on the roadside, and the destruction he saw worsened. People were lining the side of the road, mothers, children and families standing in front of their destroyed homes, holding signs that said, "Need help - we are hungry and thirsty" - a gut-wrenching sight.

Some photos of damaged houses and boats Andrew took. You can also follow Samaritan's Purse on instagram at @samaritanspurse for up-to-date photos.

Although the casualty numbers were very low, most of the homes and buildings on the islands have been wiped out or damaged so badly they offer no protection against nature. Many of the island's residents also rely on fishing for their livelihoods and food source, but nearly all the boats were destroyed in the storm, leaving the fisherman without a way to get to sea. Bantayan is also surrounded by many even smaller islands that rely on outside boats to deliver food and other daily goods. Without those deliveries, it's unknown how much those residents are suffering. People have lost all basic living necessities.

SP video of one of Andrew's team mates discussing the damage in Bogo City, where Andrew visited Tuesday

Today, Andrew and the other SP staff are beginning their relief work on Bantayan with a distribution of emergency food packages and 4,000 hygiene kits through a local church. These kits contain basic supplies like hand soap, laundry and dish soap, toothbrushes, towels, and feminine hygiene items. These items are essential to preventing the spread of diseases, especially diarrhea, while families are without homes and without basic means of staying clean. Volunteer students and church members helped pack the kits in Cebu yesterday, and they should arrive by truck sometime today.

After the distribution, Andrew plans to travel to Leyte Island, just east of Cebu. {see note above!} This was one of the hardest hit areas, and he has finally received rapid assessments done by church leaders on the island as to what is needed for water and sanitation - which is basically anything and everything. SP also has  a person on the ground in Tacloban City, seeing where SP can be strategic in providing aid. A 747 plane is leaving the United States tomorrow, loaded with emergency shelter tarps, water filters, chlorination supplies, emergency food packs, and blankets.

Last night, Andrew called me from the guesthouse he is staying at on the beach. He felt it was so strange to look out on the ocean, now a calm and beautiful sight, knowing that behind him lay wreckage that it had brought to countless lives. 

Please continue to pray for Andrew and the SP team as they seek out areas that are not receiving any help. 
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