Filipino priest returns home to aid in relief efforts

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2013 / 08:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest from the coastal city in the Philippines which was recently devastated by a typhoon, has decided to come back to his hometown in order to assist his family and those in need.

“I have my congregation and my parents on my mind,” Fr. Erwin Balagapo said in a Nov. 13 interview with Rome Reports.

Fr. Balagapo is currently studying in Rome, and is originally from Tacloban, one of the cities along the coast of the Philippines that was practically destroyed in by the deadly Typhoon Haiyan which hit the area last Friday, Nov. 8, and has so far killed and estimated 10,000 people, according to Rome Reports.

The priest decided to fly back to the area after receiving no word from his family for five days after the storm hit, saying that “Of course, I pray so that they're OK. But with 10,000 people dead,” he didn’t want to count on anything.

“Right away,” after he heard of the damage, Fr. Balagapo stated that he “looked for ways to get in touch with them.”

“I called my archbishop, I called the priests who are there. I also saw on the Internet a photo of one of my colleagues at the seminary. They're searching for him.”

Despite his the fear and concern for his loved ones, the priest admitted that “in the end, it's in God's hands, right? It may not be easy to say it, but it is the Year of Faith, after all, right?”

Fortunately just five hours before his flight departed, Fr. Balagapo received a call from his brother in the Philippines. Due to poor reception and damage done to the communication lines, the call only lasted for about 25 seconds, but it was enough time for the priest to hear that his family is ok.

With that good news in mind, Fr. Balagapo left Rome on Wednesday morning for Milan, where he was scheduled to meet a soldier who would take him on board one of the numerous military planes headed to the area to assist in aid efforts.

Once there, the priest was told to have his stole handy, because he would likely be very busy.

“They told me that if people see a priest, they will ask for blessings,” Fr. Balagapo recalled, “I can imagine the type of help that as a priest I can provide. I'm scared. I don't know what awaits me there, in my home.”

“But I hope to see my parents. I'm picturing now my mother's face, my father's, my sister who was here, and my brother, who's in Bohol helping.”

Fr. Balagapo revealed that once things begin to get back to normal in Tacloban, he will think about returning to Rome to complete his studies, but for now he is staying where he believes he’s most needed.

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