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.
“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 $1 million pesos ($20,000 USD) on behalf of the Church. In addition, a humanitarian project fund of $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 referenced 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.