News Release

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.


 

Downloadable video: SOTs / Broll

“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.

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