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Mormon families among Filipinos helping their neighbors

'Harrowing' scenes behind them, Mormon missionaries evacuate Tacloban

Published: Friday, Aug. 28 2015 6:57 p.m. MDT

Russel Quima Patalinghug, sitting in white sweater, joins other Mormon Helping Hands volunteers working on relief supplies at the LDS chapel next to the Cebu City Temple in October after an earthquake rocked the Philippines. (Courtesy of Russel Patalinghug) Russel Quima Patalinghug, sitting in white sweater, joins other Mormon Helping Hands volunteers working on relief supplies at the LDS chapel next to the Cebu City Temple in October after an earthquake rocked the Philippines. (Courtesy of Russel Patalinghug)

SALT LAKE CITY — First came the mammoth earthquake on Oct. 15. Then the raging typhoon on Nov. 7. The back-to-back disasters provided LDS Bishop Henry Patalinghug, wife Russel and other Mormons in the Philippines a chance to help their suffering neighbors.

Bishop Patalinghug, who oversees the Busay Ward in Cebu City, traveled by boat to the epicenter of the earthquake with 18 other Mormon men skilled in carpentry and masonry on the first weekend in November. They were scheduled to continue to sacrifice three days each weekend until the jobs were done, but before they could leave again Friday, word came that Typhoon Haiphan was rampaging toward them.

The Patalinghugs evacuated their two daughters and other ward members to their chapel in the Cebu City Temple complex before the typhoon. Then they helped everyone return home. Then couple went back to work. On Tuesday, they helped other Mormon Helping Hands volunteers from five LDS stakes who worked until 11 p.m. to pack 3,000 supply kits for victims in the decimated city of Tacloban.

Elder Brent Nielson and his wife welcome a sister missionary as she steps out of the bus that brought her to the Manila Missionary Training Center on Tuesday night. (Mormon Pinoy Newsroom) Elder Brent Nielson and his wife welcome a sister missionary as she steps out of the bus that brought her to the Manila Missionary Training Center on Tuesday night. (Mormon Pinoy Newsroom)

The Patalinghugs represent many of the 675,000 Filipino members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are reaching out to help their neighbors in a disaster-ravaged nation. Meanwhile, the first Mormon missionaries evacuated from Tacloban reached Manila on Tuesday night, where they ate, called their families, shared harrowing tales and prayed for those who have lost loved ones or been displaced by the superstorm.

Efforts to help began before the typhoon hit. Filipino church leaders and members opened at least 200 meetinghouses throughout the country as the typhoon descended on the weekend. Ultimately, they hosted more than 14,000 evacuees, some of whose lives may have been saved by the action.

For Russel Patalinghug, it felt like a continuation of an effort that began with the quake. She said church members began to repack relief goods starting after the first disaster and simply continued after the typhoon.

Russel Patalinghug and her husband, Bishop Henry Patalinghug, take a break together on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Russel Patalinghug) Russel Patalinghug and her husband, Bishop Henry Patalinghug, take a break together on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Russel Patalinghug)

The supply kits packed at the Cebu City Stake Center on Tuesday by members of the Liloan, Consolacion, Mandaue, Cebu City and Cebu Central stakes were being taken Wednesday by an LDS Charities team to the island of Leyte and the victims at Tacloban.

Henry Patalinghug, 38, manages the family's small souvenir shop in front of the Cebu City Temple and witnessed the quake rotate the Angel Moroni on the temple 90 degrees to the south. Russel, 35, returned to work a month ago as the finance officer of Academy for Creating Enterprise after giving birth to the couple's second child in August.

Two days before the typhoon, Bishop Patalinghug oversaw the effort to contact ward members about the storm by phone call or text. He used the family's small truck to transport evacuees to the chapel, and home again after the typhoon. The church provided bedding and foam mattresses. He also worked to provide food to those too impoverished to procure their own.

Danielle Patalinghug, 3, who evacuated with her family to the LDS chapel in the Cebu City Temple complex during the typhoon, camped under a table to read books and watch an animated Book of Mormon video during the storm. (Russel Patalinghug) Danielle Patalinghug, 3, who evacuated with her family to the LDS chapel in the Cebu City Temple complex during the typhoon, camped under a table to read books and watch an animated Book of Mormon video during the storm. (Russel Patalinghug)

The storm reached its worst in Cebu City on Saturday morning, but the Patalinghugs and other evacuees were warm and "comforted" inside the church, Russel said via email. One evacuee said, "We felt so safe inside the chapel." Another said, "We are so lucky to have a refuge here."

The families emerged from the storm unharmed, only to learn that thousands are presumed dead in other areas of their country and that their help was needed.

The LDS Church, through area and local leaders and the efforts of Filipino members, is providing shelter, food, water and other basic supplies to evacuees and displaced families.

The displaced missionaries from the Tacloban Mission began to arrive Tuesday night in Manila. Some were evacuated from Tacloban itself by a U.S. C-130 military transport plane. One of them told a reporter her companion broke a window so they could escape their flooding apartment.

Sister Rebekah Guy calls home after arriving at the Manila Missionary Training Center from Tacloban. Guy and more than a dozen other missionaries made some of the trip aboard a C-130 military transport plane. She told ABC News she and her companion escaped a flooding apartment by breaking a window and they witnessed harrowing scenes of destruction in the obliterated city where they had served. (Mormon Pinoy Newsroom) Sister Rebekah Guy calls home after arriving at the Manila Missionary Training Center from Tacloban. Guy and more than a dozen other missionaries made some of the trip aboard a C-130 military transport plane. She told ABC News she and her companion escaped a flooding apartment by breaking a window and they witnessed harrowing scenes of destruction in the obliterated city where they had served. (Mormon Pinoy Newsroom)

Sister Rebekah Ruth Guy, 19, of Anchorage, told ABC News that when Typhoon Haiphan hit, "our apartment was flooding so we tried opening the door, but the flooding was already rising up to our chest."

After breaking the window, the two women climbed to the roof.

"The most harrowing (sight) was when I saw women and children piled under tarpaulin," Guy reported, "and when I saw dogs skewered on gates, cars thrown into buildings, people trying to find something to eat, water to drink."

The ABC News video described Guy only as "an American teen" but showed at least 15 missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wearing their missionary badges and lining up to board a U.S. military C-130 cargo on Tuesday, which was Monday night in the United States.

Two LDS sister missionaries from the Philippines Tacloban Mission huddle under a blanket after they arrived Tuesday night at the Manila Missionary Training Center. They were among the first missionaries evacuated from Tacloban to reach Manila. (Mormon Pinoy Newsroom) Two LDS sister missionaries from the Philippines Tacloban Mission huddle under a blanket after they arrived Tuesday night at the Manila Missionary Training Center. They were among the first missionaries evacuated from Tacloban to reach Manila. (Mormon Pinoy Newsroom)

Many of the missionaries first went to Cebu City, where they were hosted overnight by Cebu Mission President Evan Schmutz of Orem, then arrived at the Manila Missionary Training Center the next day, according an LDS Church Facebook page.

Guy was among the missionaries who reached the Manila MTC, where they were greeted by Elder Brent H. Nielson, LDS Philippines Area president, on Tuesday night. They received a brief orientation in the MTC gym before they were provided with food and opportunities to call their parents, bathe and change into clean clothes.

The Patalinghugs' 3-year-old daughter, Danielle, might not remember the 2013 disasters she lived through, but her parents will never forget one of her prayers after the earthquake nor the image of her camped out under a table in their LDS meetinghouse during the typhoon.

Missionaries listen to an orientation at the Manila MTC after being evacuated from the Tacloban area. (Tad Walch, Mormon Pinoy Newsroom) Missionaries listen to an orientation at the Manila MTC after being evacuated from the Tacloban area. (Tad Walch, Mormon Pinoy Newsroom)

"Heavenly Father," Danielle prayed a few days after the temblor in October, "I thank thee that there are no more earthquakes because I feel bad for mama, who ran out of the house without slippers."

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com

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