John Davis, above, stands on the viewing deck overlooking the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines during a visit to the island in October. Davis and his wife, Jane, visited the area just a day before a 7.2-magnitude earthquake destroyed the viewing platform and some of the formations. The Davises, below, stand near the entrance to the Chocolate Hills Christian Church built by the World Mission Builders during a visit to the Philippines last month. The church sustained minimal damage in the earthquake that struck Bohol on Oct. 15. There was widespread damage to homes, the hospital and other churches in the area. (Submitted photos)
John Davis, above, stands on the viewing deck overlooking the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Philippines during a visit to the island in October. Davis and his wife, Jane, visited the area just a day before a 7.2-magnitude earthquake destroyed the viewing platform and some of the formations. The Davises, below, stand near the entrance to the Chocolate Hills Christian Church built by the World Mission Builders during a visit to the Philippines last month. The church sustained minimal damage in the earthquake that struck Bohol on Oct. 15. There was widespread damage to homes, the hospital and other churches in the area. (Submitted photos)
A Madison couple knew a return trip to the Philippines wouldn't be the same as their trip last year, but they never expected just how different it would be.

John and Jane Davis returned to the Philippines last month to help teach at two Bible colleges. For years, they have helped build churches with the World Mission Builders organization.

They planned to teach Bible studies and violin this year, but they never expected to be in the middle of two natural disasters - a typhoon and an earthquake.

"For us, this was very different," John said of the trip. "I'd never been in an earthquake, so it was a totally different experience."

The first week of the trip spent on the island of Leyte went well, and the couple had plans to visit a friend and second college location in Bohol, another island in the Philippines, for a few days during the second week of the trip.

They had heard of typhoon concerns on television news, but they didn't expect to have any issues with the hurricane-like storm as they traveled by boat to Bohol.

The skies were clear, and the waters were calm as they left Leyte and Cebu.

Within an hour of departure, the skies became dark and the water swelled.

"It got very bad," John said.

Passengers began praying for safety from the storm, and there were times when the couple didn't know if the boat would make it back to land, he said.

"I thought we were going to die," Jane said.

A trip that should have taken three hours took closer to five hours, she said, but the boat eventually docked in Bohol with all of the passengers safe but shaken.

Over the next two days, the Davises visited with friends, attended church services, taught at the college and took in a few of the tourist locations in Bohol, including the Chocolate Hills and butterfly gardens.

On the day they were supposed to leave Bohol, another natural disaster hit.

The couple arrived at the port for their travels back to Leyte on Oct. 15. They were waiting for an 8:30 a.m. departure in an area on a pier when the glass-walled terminal began to shake. The windows shattered and people began to run outside, fleeing from falling debris.

Just as quickly as the shaking began, it ended. Yet, a few seconds of tremors left behind wide-spread damage.

According to reports, more than 200 people were killed in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake.

Hundreds more sustained injuries, and thousands were left homeless after homes, buildings, churches and a hospital crumbled during the disaster.

The Davises were shaken from the natural disaster, but unharmed.

"You could see cracks in the concrete," Jane said, and the pier was severely damaged.

Several road also were cracked and split. Some areas had 6- to 12-inch gashes and drops, she said, which made travel difficult. Many of the boating piers and operations were damaged and closed to travelers.

While deciding what to do, the Davises made contact with friends on the island and traveled into the city.

"There wasn't a bridge we should have crossed," Jane said.

Each bridge had cracks and many had broken away from the connecting roadways.

They found one of the last operating boats on the island later that day and left for Cebu, which didn't suffer as much damage.

After the earthquake, the Davises learned all of the tourist locations they visited just a day before the disaster had been destroyed.

The Chocolate Hills observation deck no longer exists, and several of the Chocolate Hills formations were damaged.

Yet while other church buildings crumbled and fell to the ground during the quake, the college and church built by World Missions Builders on the island sustained minimal damage, John said.

The Davises said these natural disasters won't keep them away from the country during future mission trips. They always pray for safe travels before trips, they said, and will continue to do so as they plan to go back next year.

"We've been awful fortunate," John said of their trip. "Even though it was tragic, we were blessed."



Anyone wishing to contribute to ongoing natural disaster relief efforts in the Philippines may contact the World Mission Builders organization online at www.worldmissionbuilders.com.