Hope in Loon as rescue teams recover Church relics

Bea Cupin
Relics from the damaged Our Lady of Light church were recovered and cleaned just as local priests heard mass on the street beside the Church's compound

RELICS. A statue was recovered and cleaned from the ruins of the centuries-old Church of Our Lady of Light that was destroyed by the recent earthquake. Photo by RAPPLER/Franz Lopez

LOON, Philippines — There was a commotion just across Loon’s town plaza, inside the compound that used to house the centuries-old Church of Our Lady of Light.

The Church now lays in ruin, much like the rest of the town. Loon begins its recovery from a destructive magnitude 7.2 earthquake that hit central Visayas as residents continue to set camp in the town’s open spaces or beside their homes.

On Sunday, October 20, came an unexpected source of hope for the tent city. Rescue teams, who were searching for bodies that may still be hidden in the rubble, instead found and recovered the statue of Our Lady of Light and the church crucifix.

The figures, which suffered minimal damage, were recovered and cleaned just as local priests heard mass along the street beside the Church’s compound.

Locals were teary-eyed as they started wiping and kissing their beloved poon. “Mao na mong gituuhan,” explained 60-year-old Niyebes Salinas, who was born and raised in Loon. (It’s a symbol of our faith.)

Salinas said the sculptures recovered were the same ones she saw even as a little child. “Makalipay, maka-gaan sa akong kasing-kasing. Naa sila diri karon, wala naunsa,” she said. (It makes me happy. It’s weight off my chest to see them without damage.)

It could be the Manila-based rescue teams’ last operation in Loon. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Makati rescue teams are due to head back to Manila by October 22.

Mahirap ‘yong mobilization kasi malayo ‘yong area tapos ‘yong transportation,” said Makati Rescue Operations Officer Frederick Garcia. (Mobilization is hard because the area is far and transportation is limited.)

The teams earlier recovered the body of a Loon lay minister from the church rubble. Locals were also worried that a family had been crushed under the church but local police confirmed otherwise.

It’s not everyday that highly-skilled rescue teams retrieve religious images. Asked how it made him feel, Garcia was all smiles.

Nakakataba ng puso yung nagbibigay ka ng tuwa, ng pag-asa,” he said. (It’s heart-warming to know that we’ve given them a reason to smile and hope.) – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.