Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presents Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte a status of the Christus, Wednesday, January 15, 2020.
© Courtesy: Presidential Photographers Division (PPD)
Taal Volcano relief efforts among topics discussed
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met with Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte Wednesday, January 15, for a 35-minute courtesy visit.
“The visit was exceptional. He was warm and gracious,” s aid Elder Cook, who was joined at the Malago Clubhouse at Malacañan Palace by Elder Evan A. Schmutz, Philippines Area President; Elder Aretemio C. Maligon of the Seventy; and Edwin B. Bellen, deputy secretary for legislation of the Philippine Senate and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.
“Our people always support and sustain and pray for those who are leaders of nations, and we wanted him to know that our people did that,” added the apostle.
Among the topics discussed were Sunday’s eruption of Taal Volcano, located about 35 miles south of the capital city, and the Church’s efforts to provide evacuation centers in Church meetinghouses, not only for Latter-day Saints but for anyone in the community.
“We did stress that we’ve got five of our chapels that are being used for those who are evacuated who are fleeing from the effects of the volcano,” said Elder Cook.
To help alleviate pain and suffering due to the Taal calamity, Elder Cook presented Rolando Bautista, Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary, with a donation of Php 1 million pesos ($20,000 USD) on behalf of the Church. In addition, a humanitarian project fund of Php 5 million pesos ($100,000 USD) was announced. These funds will provide 5,200 food kits, 3,000 hygiene kits, 1,000 sleeping kits and face masks to protect from volcanic ash.
President Duterte was the mayor of Davao in the southern Philippines when the strongest typhoon on record at the time struck Tacloban in 2013. A devasting storm surge killed thousands and destroyed property. He was aware of the Church’s immediate relief efforts during that disaster, which included building temporary houses.
“He expressed gratitude for the history that he’s had in observing members of our church step up in times of calamity or natural disaster,” said Elder Cook. “He had a preexisting familiarity with the Church, and it was very positive.”
Programs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, such as Self-Reliance Services and Family Services’ Addiction Recovery Program, were also discussed.
Elder Cook continued, “We were able to talk to him about our 200th anniversary of the prophet Joseph Smith [receiving the First Vision], and … we compared that to not as long as the Catholics who were celebrating 500 years of Christianity coming to the Philippines.”
There are more than 800,000 members of the Church in the Philippines, in more than 1,200 congregations. Missionaries serve in 23 missions in the country.
President Duterte is the 16th president of the Philippines and has held office since June 2016. He is remarkably popular among Filipinos, with an approval rating above 80%.
Elder Cook presented President Duterte with a leather-bound personalized copy of the Book of Mormon. “He really liked it. He liked the fact that his name was embossed on it. He said, ‘I won’t read it right now, but I’ll promise you that I’ll read it before I finish [my term in office].’
“I think that we will see a closer relationship not just with him, but with those who surround him,” Elder Cook said.
The apostle and his wife, Mary, arrived in the Philippines on Saturday and have spent the past five days ministering to members and Church leaders, including those directly impacted by the Taal Volcano. Elder Cook also attended an interfaith luncheon and met with other officials and media.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talks with a group of people at a meetinghouse being used as a temporary shelter for evacuees of the Taal Volcano in Batangas, Philippines, Wednesday, January 15, 2020.
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Elder Cook Makes Unannounced Visit to Taal Volcano Evacuees
Five Church-owned buildings in the Philippines converted to evacuation centers
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made an unannounced ministering visit on Wednesday evening to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and others in communities near Manila, Philippines, affected by the recent Taal Volcano eruption. The apostle encouraged those taking refuge at local Church meetinghouses. Evacuees are not able to return to their homes because of the continued risk of the volcano erupting.
“I have visited people in a lot of circumstances where they’ve lost their homes in fires and other kinds of tragedies, and I honestly can’t remember a time when I’ve seen people who were quite as resilient and find a smile and [were] quite as happy,” said Elder Cook as he visited with a group of more than 180 individuals and families sheltered at the Batangas Philippines Stake Center, located several miles from the Taal Volcano.
“This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last time that you’ll see people caring for one another,” explained Elder Evan A. Schmutz, Philippines Area president. “You’ll see uplifted hearts, and they know that they’ll return and resume their lives.”
In all, there are more than 450 people being sheltered in five meetinghouses in Lipa, Batangas, Tanauan, Darasa and San Jose.
Among those Elder Cook met with was Jon Patrick Reyes, a local Latter-day Saint leader from the threatened region who has been leading evacuation efforts at the Batangas stake center. “We are still having people coming in,” said Reyes. “Some of them are members of the Church and some of them are not.”
During the visit, Elder Cook also expressed his appreciation to local Church leaders and members for their Christlike service to fellow members and friends of other faiths. “They seem to watch out for each other in the spiritual sense,” said Elder Cook. “Things are going to be alright.”
Local Latter-day Saint congregations have donated clothing, prepared food and rented buses to help with the ongoing rescue efforts for people who were forced to leave the endangered areas. “They’re grateful,” said Reyes, “to be in a safe place and to get some rest and to have some hot food.”
“In our area, it is zero visibility. You cannot see anything [out there], only the ash,” said Ronald Donache, leader of a Latter-day Saint congregation in Lemery. Donache reported that soon after the volcano erupted, Latter-day Saints and their neighbors gathered at their meetinghouse, covered in ash, to evaluate the situation and make their way to one of the evacuation centers.
“We were in the chapel, all of us. … I saw the love of God in there,” Donache recalled.
Elder Cook left feeling encouraged by the Filipinos’ resilience. “I’m not discouraged at all,” added the apostle. “If anything, I’m leaving kind of feeling uplifted myself. It’s been a good spiritual experience.”
Earlier in the day, Elder Cook met with Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and other government officials. He presented a Php 1 million pesos ($20,000 USD) donation on behalf of the Church and announced a humanitarian project fund of Php 5 million pesos ($100,000 USD). The funds will provide kits for food, hygiene and sleeping, as well as face masks for people impacted by the Taal Volcano eruption.
Ministering in Action: Members, LDSC Unite to Aid Taal Evacuees
Over 9,000 kits ready for distribution to affected families
Restita Dimaandal can now breathe a sigh of relief when the third batch of vehicle bearing the rest of her family arrived at the Batangas Stake (Diocese) Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday afternoon of 15 January 2020.
Restitita and 28 of her family members are part of the thousands of evacuees who fled from the Municipality of Taal to seek refuge elsewhere in the midst of imminent Taal Volcano eruption. After three harrowing days of not knowing where to go, Restitita and her entire household, including young children, can finally sleep.
She expressed gratitude to her relatives who are members of the Church and told them of the evacuation center. They traveled 59 kilometers in three batches from Pansol to Batangas City where they were welcomed by volunteer Latter-day Saints at the Chapel with food, water, clothing and shelter.
“Nung nandito na kami, nakakahinga na kami ng maayos,” she said in Tagalog. [When we arrived here, we can finally rest.] “Hindi na po kami natatakot kasi po may pagkain po kaming nadatnan. Welcome po pala kami dito.” [We’re not afraid anymore because there’s food. We know now that we’re welcome here.]
Ministering in Action
The Batangas Stake Center is one of five meetinghouses within in the threatened region that were converted into evacuation centers. As soon as news of the Taal Volcano spewing ash as high as 14 kilometers on Sunday afternoon of 12 January came, members of the Batangas Philippines Stake under the leadership of Stake President Jon P. Reyes mobilized volunteer emergency response teams to aid evacuees.
Buses were dispatched to towns within the danger zone to bring evacuees to safety. Latter-day Saints with vehicles also volunteered in the rescue operations. Relief Society sisters bought food, water and basic hygiene kits. Ward (congregation) leaders organized food committees to prepare food for the arriving evacuees. Other members donated clothes and repacked sleeping kits for those arriving at the chapel. Portalets or portable toilets were delivered to the meetinghouse, and classrooms were turned into makeshift sleeping quarters assigned to families. By the time the first evacuees arrived, hot meals, clean clothing, and safe shelter welcomed them.
As of 15 January, there were 260 men, women and children staying at the Batangas Stake Center. Currently, volunteers from the different wards in Batangas take turns in cooking meals to ensure that there’s food round the clock. Male members, on the other hand, follow scheduled routines to secure the chapel 24/7.
Similar rescue and relief operations are also organized in local meetinghouses in Lipa, Tanauan, San Jose and Darasa. Members and those of other faiths volunteered of their time and energy to help in the repacking of food, hygiene and sleeping kits for the evacuees. In total, there are over 450 people being sheltered in these chapels. Local Church leaders from different areas in Batangas continue to coordinate as the number of evacuees continue to arrive.
In addition, Latter-day Saints in areas outside the danger zone have initiated relief operations in response to the call for help. Others have rounded up their friends to deliver donations to Batangas. Church members from foreign countries have also coordinated with the Church’s humanitarian arm, Latter-day Saint Charities to send aid to Taal evacuees.
In Biñan City, 31 member volunteers of Biñan Ward spent 11 manhours repacking kits for Dasmariñas evacuation sites. In the Bacoor Stake, three wards, a total of 50 volunteers, rendered 400 man hours for the repacking and distributing of emergency kits. The same relief operations took place in Las Piñas wherein 80 volunteers spent 800 man hours to help the Taal evacuees. Likewise, more than 40 volunteer members from San Pablo 4th Ward in San Pablo Stake spend eight hours a day for three days to repack and donate food and clothing.
Latter-day Saint Charities Donation
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made an unannounced visit at the Batangas Stake Center on Wednesday evening, giving hope and comfort to the families staying at the chapel.
Elder Evan A. Schmutz, Philippines Area President, assured that the relief operations won’t be the last.
That Wednesday afternoon, Elder Cook met with Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the Malago Clubhouse of Malacañan Palace and presented a check of PhP 1,000,000.00 as donation and pledged a humanitarian project fund of PhP 5,000,000.00 for kits for food, sleeping, hygiene and face masks for people impacted by the Taal Volcano unrest.
As of 17 January 2020, there were 5,200 food kits, 2,000 hygiene kits and 1,000 sleeping kits repacked at the Bauan Meetinghouse in San Pascual, Batangas. Members and friends of the Church volunteered to repack these kits, which were apportioned to Angat Buhay Foundation (ABF) and Alagang Kapatid Foundation (AKF), on-the-ground NGO partners of Latter-day Saint Charities (LDSC). The Batangas Stake will receive these kits.
According to LDSC, these kits will benefit 4,386 families in the municipalities of Agoncillo, Alitagtag, Balayan, Bauan, Cuenca, Laurel, Lemery, Lipa City, Malvar, Mataas Na Kahoy, Nasugbu, San Luis, San Nicolas, Santa Teresita, Santo Tomas, Taal, Talisay, and City of Tanauan.
ABF and AKF have scheduled distribution to these locations 18 and 19 January 2020. However, according to Jairus Perez, Area Welfare Manager of LDSC, the dates of distributions may change as more development arise due to the volcanic unrest.
As the humanitarian arm of the Church, Latter-day Saint Charities is the application of the admonition of Jesus Christ to help and serve others in need. Within an hour of disaster, the Church, through LDSC, work with local government units and non-government agencies to determine the needed supplies are and the distribution to the affected areas. It largely runs with volunteer labor for repacking and distribution. The assistance that LDSC provides are made possible by generous donations of cash and in-kind materials from members and friends of the Church.
Story updated on 19 January 2020.
‘Light the World’ Effort in PH Generates Funds for Charity Partners
Over 7,000 transactions were made in 54 days
The Light the World Christmas initiative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ended on a high note. Not only did it encourage people to follow the example of Jesus Christ by caring for individuals all throughout the Christmas season, but also their special red Giving Machines generated over Php800,000.00 in donations for its three charity partners, Caritas Manila, UNICEF Philippines and HERO Foundation.
Presentation of the Light the World Giving Machine donations to the three charity partners, UNICEF, Caritas Manila and HERO Foundation.
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its humanitarian arm, Latter-day Saint Charities, held a special turnover ceremony on Thursday, 16 January 2020, to present the checks and in-kind donations to the three charity organizations with a total value of over Php1,000,000.
“We owe the success we achieved to the efforts of everyone in this room,” said Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as he welcomed guests and thanked partners, volunteers and donors. “We are excited to see how all gathered donations will bless the lives of our recipients.”
In the symbolic giving of donations, Winfrey Padlan and Randelle Joshua Manguba, 19-year-old scholars of the Youth Servant Leaders Program (YSLEP) of Caritas Manila, received school backpacks with basic school supplies. Lance Kelly Layug, a military orphan and scholar, received a check with the amount of Php35,000.00 that will help fund his tuition fees and other school-related expenses. Meanwhile, UNICEF received a portable-school-in-a-box, which will assist a teacher in the continuation of 40 children’s education by the first 72 hours of disaster or conflict.
Expression of Gratitude
“I’m beyond grateful,” said 16-year-old Lance who lost his soldier father when he was just four years old. He shared that the event reminded him of his father, who he described as a man with the initiative to help. “We need more people with compassion. We need more people who have the drive to help, who have the drive to reach out.”
Winfrey, on the other hand, shared that Caritas Manila’s YSLEP has helped her become financially capable to support her education as a Performing Arts student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. “Education is not all about tuition. We have a lot of financial needs to accomplish our studies,” she said. As a beneficiary of Caritas Manila, Winfrey shared that it has helped her develop a spiritual relationship with God. Not only that, the charity arm of the Roman Catholic church has also given her many opportunities to serve others. The most recent volunteer work she rendered was repacking of goods for the Taal evacuees. “’Thank you’ are just simple words,” she said. “But I mean it with all of my heart.”
Baula, on behalf of the thousands of children who will benefit from the Light the World donations, expressed gratitude to the Church and Latter-day Saint Charities. “Where UNICEF works is with where the least, the last, and the lost are” she said. “The current country programs of UNICEF in the Philippines work in Mindanao, specifically the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.” UNICEF is currently supporting eight municipalities in that region to help curb malnutrition and lack of access to education. Some of the resolutions of which were part of the Light the World products.
Turnover of Donations
During the presentation of checks, Caritas Manila, represented by Caritas Damayan Priest Minister Rev. Fr. Ricardo Valencia, received the total amount of Php292,900.00 resulting from 2,367 donations given through the Giving Machines.
For UNICEF Philippines, Elder Steven R. Bangerter of the Philippines Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presented the check in the amount of Php 275,850.00, corresponding to 979 donations given through the Giving Machines. Corporate Fundraising Officer Maria Margarita Baula received the check on behalf of the international organization.
Lastly, Elder Wakolo handed over to HERO Foundation’s Executive Director, Retired Major General Victor Bayani, the check with the total amount of Php 280,150.00 given by 3,664 individuals who donated from the Giving Machines.
Overall, the Giving Machines raised a total of Php 848,900.00 for just a period of 54 days in its second year in the Philippines. By comparison, the Giving Machines raised Php 790,900.00 in 2018 with 3,327 transactions.
Another feat for 2019’s Light the World Giving Machine campaign was that the Light the World products were made available online through Lazada. Making the products available for donation to those residing outside Metro Manila did not disappoint. Caritas Manila was able to raise Php34,308.00 while HERO Foundation sold LTW products for a total of Php18,000.00. UNICEF raised Php30,600.00 for donations.
To combine both online and offline donations, the ‘Light the World’ Christmas initiative raised Php931,808.00.
To factor in the 50 school backpacks and school supplies for Caritas Manila scholars in Pandacan Manila, valued at Php 25,000.00, the two checks at Php35,000.00 each for HERO Foundation scholars, and the portable-school-in-a-box valued at Php75,000.00 for UNICEF, the Light the World Giving Machines raised a grand total of Php1,101,808.00
One hundred percent of that amount will go directly to help individuals and families become self-reliant. Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, covered for all other administrative costs.
Retired Major General Victor Bayani, Executive Director of HERO Foundation, expressed gratitude for the donation. “HERO Foundation is very much privileged and honored to be the newest beneficiary of this Light the World project,” he said. He then relayed the good news that HERO Foundation will support not only orphans of soldiers killed in action but also of orphans whose military parent died by accident during disaster relief and rescue operations.
Light the World, One by One
It’s the fourth year that the Church has sponsored the Light the World initiative, but it’s only the second year that the Philippines launched the Giving Machines. Being the only one in Asia to have the special machines, Elder Wakolo expressed its significant in the lives of many individuals.
Unlike an ordinary vending machine wherein people buy to get something, the Giving Machines allow individuals to buy items to give to someone in need, which made it possible for donors to help someone in need instantly all throughout the period from 8 November to 31 December 2019.
Child actress of ‘Miracle in Cell No. 7’ Filipino remake, Xia Vigor, attended the handover ceremony and performed the song One by One, which was the theme of the Light the World 2019 campaign.
At the conclusion of the event, Elder Wakolo shared two scripture verses that came into his mind during the turnover ceremony. Citing from Matthews 25:40 of the New Testament and Mosiah 2:17 from the Book of Mormon, which is another Testament of Jesus Christ, Elder Wakolo shared that serving others is one form of serving God. He pointed out that the Light the World initiative is a great service that we’re doing to God and His children. “Today is just another reminder that we can do the very best that we can to help one by one, isa-isa. May we continue to light the world through the Light of the World not only at Christmas, not only in the beginning of the year but every day of our lives.”
Global Light the World Giving Machines
In 2019, there were 10 locations of the LTW Giving Machines. The U.S. locations included Gilbert, Arizona; Denver, Colorado; San Jose, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Laie (Oahu), Hawaii; New York City; and Orem and Salt Lake City, Utah. Worldwide, machines were placed in London, England, and Manila, Philippines.
As a whole, the Giving Machines generated nearly $6.3 million during the Christmas season with a total of 255,814 items purchased for donation purposes.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Latter-day Saint Charities, Caritas Manila, UNICEF Philippines and HERO Foundation expressed gratitude to Trinoma Mall and the other partners who have made the Light the World Giving Machines project a success. They’re also deeply thankful to the influencers who have helped promote the LTW Giving Machine project, which include Janella Renner, CNN Philippines junior anchor; Lucas Carson, junior boxer; Eric ‘Eruption’ Tai, actor, host, gamer and athlete; Diether Ocamp, HERO Foundation ambassador; Chantal Vidella, Star Magic talent and model; Jairus Aquino, ABS-CBN actor; Enos Perez, Warner Music artist; Obed dela Cruz, blogger; Xia Vigor, child actress; and His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle. Most importantly, they thanked all those who have donated through the Giving Machines and purchased donation products through the online shopping app as their generosity will help families and individuals, especially children.