The Philippines was making strong economic strides prior to being struck by Typhoon Haiyan, Raoul “Ray” Donato, the country’s honorary consul general, said during his comments following a holy mass in remembrance of the dead and supplication for the suffering held at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta the evening of Nov. 15.

Calling it “the mother of all typhoons,” Mr. Donato detailed the setbacks it has inflicted on the livelihoods of Filipinos living on the island of Leyte, one of the 7,000 comprising the country that was hardest hit in the early morning hours of Nov. 8. He depicted the raging winds that tore up coconut trees, smashed fishing vessels and destroyed a 16th century cathedral that had withstood many earthquakes over the years.

Only a month earlier, Moody’s Investors Service had awarded the Philippines an investment rating of Baa3, the third of the rating agencies to raise the country’s investment grade as a result of the economic reforms and political stability of the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Mr. Donato cited the 7.6 percent growth rate of the country’s gross domestic product in the first six months this year, one of the largest in the entire Asia-Pacific region, as proof that the country was “no longer a basket case,” and had since 2010 been a strong magnet for foreign direct investment.

Despite this success, he also said that “the growing economy was of little comfort to many” who continued to live in poverty. 

He commiserated with the attendees who filled the large cathedral for the service and had lost members of their families.

In addition, he said that the typhoon was a “wake-up call” not only for everyone to help in the country’s recovery, but also to support its most impoverished, many of whose lives have been devastated by the loss of their primary sources of income. 

The Rev. Chito Palang, a Filipino native who is parochial vicar at St. James the Apostle Catholic Church in McDonough, emphasized the fortitude of Filipinos in the face of adversity in his remarks. “We will not be defeated even though it is only the beginning and there will be many years of struggle,” he said.

He recalled the suffering of others who had experienced the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the great Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, and called on the “goodness of humanity” to help in the recovery efforts.

“Despair is never an option; we never give up and the Philippines will bounce back,” he added, citing the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”

Yet, before the country experiences a full recovery, he realistically noted, “It will be long, difficult and challenging, and take many years before they can stand on their feet again.”