TACLOBAN: 'YOLANDA' SURVIVORS WELCOME CHRISTMAS

Survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), one of
the strongest typhoons ever to hit the Philippines, on Tuesday prepared to celebrate Christmas in the ruins of their communities. Hogs were being roasted, Christmas trees adorned streets, last-minute shoppers filled downtown and heavily damaged churches overflowed with parishioners on the eve of the country’s most joyous holiday. “Nothing can stop us from welcoming Christmas even though we have lost our home,” 63-year-old butcher’s wife Ellen Miano told AFP from a tiny shanty rising from a field of debris in the central city of Tacloban. Yolanda’s ferocious 315 kilometers (195 miles) an hour winds flattened the gritty neighbourhood on Tacloban’s coast, called Magallanes, then swept up everything else with giant waves in a day of terror on November 8.

ALSO: Grief over storm deaths finds outlet in streets of Tacloban
Cupping his hands around the flickering candlelight and shivering in an old white sando
that was a size too large for his thin frame, 8-year-old Edcel Earl Balaes planted his slim white candle on the pavement along Real Street, one of this city’s main thoroughfares. Balaes joined many other storm survivors in a candlelighting ceremony here for the 40th day of the deaths of thousands of city residents whose bodies had been either buried in mass graves or have not been found. Catholics observe the 40th day of a person’s death in commemoration of Jesus’ ascension to heaven 40 days after his death. The survivors lit a chain of candles on a 10.1-kilometer stretch of road from the city center to Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport. The chain passed through Anibong District, where hundreds are believed to have died when four ships docked in the port area were lifted from the sea by 20-foot waves and slammed into populated communities. Colored candles, provided by the Department of Tourism, were planted on the road to form a chain of light. Tiu said the ceremony sought to gather family and friends in a solemn tribute to those who died in the storm. She said it was the brainchild of Jeff Manibay, a local
broadcaster who himself lost parents in the disaster.
PHOTO: Christmas tree made of empty cans and bottles in Anibong, Tacloban, Leyte.

ALSO: Brothers build Christmas lantern to light up celebration in Tacloban

It’s hardly Christmas in this storm-ravaged city but the people are doing anything to have a sense of it. In Barangay (village) 48 in Magallanes, residents told the Philippine Daily Inquirer they would try to get by with whatever food they had for Christmas Eve. The highlight of the day would be the lighting of a 6-feet-tall parol that their neighbors, twin brothers Ronron and Ronrey Magdua, built in 10 days. The 19-year-old twins used the money they saved from the cash-for-work program of the Tzu Chi Foundation. It cost them some P2,000 in all to put together the red, white, and blue Christmas lantern. Its yellow sun and three stars complete the Philippine flag lantern.


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Yolanda’ survivors welcome Christmas


A typhoon survivor walks near a Christmas tree in Tacloban, Philippines, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. AP

TACLOBAN CITY, DECEMBER 25, 2013 (INQUIRER) Agence France-Presse - Survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit the Philippines, on Tuesday prepared to celebrate Christmas in the ruins of their communities.

Hogs were being roasted, Christmas trees adorned streets, last-minute shoppers filled downtown and heavily damaged churches overflowed with parishioners on the eve of the country’s most joyous holiday.

“Nothing can stop us from welcoming Christmas even though we have lost our home,” 63-year-old butcher’s wife Ellen Miano told AFP from a tiny shanty rising from a field of debris in the central city of Tacloban.

Yolanda’s ferocious 315 kilometers (195 miles) an hour winds flattened the gritty neighbourhood on Tacloban’s coast, called Magallanes, then swept up everything else with giant waves in a day of terror on November 8.

Tacloban and nearby districts accounted for more than 5,000 of the 6,000-plus confirmed deaths, with nearly 2,000 others missing, making it the country’s deadliest storm and one of its worst natural disasters.

Miano, who lives with her husband and four young nephews and nieces in the 2×3-meter (6×10-feet) hovel put together from salvaged wood and sheet metal, said the family would eat a traditional Christmas dinner at midnight, with fried noodles and sliced bread given to them by a relief agency.

Their 20-year-old neighbour Ronfrey Magdua built a giant, 4-meter-tall star-shaped lantern using salvaged wood and wrapped in the Philippine flag’s motif of red, white and blue, and put it up in the yard of a family that perished in the disaster.

“I made this in honor of the dead,” the jobless young man told AFP, saying he spent about 2,000 pesos (45 dollars) of his own savings on the project.

“I made many of my neighbours happy. Some of them told me it relieves some of their stress,” said Magdua, who lost a dozen distant relatives to the storm surge.


PHOTO COURTESY OF GMA NEWS TV: Survivors of super typhoon Yolanda decorate their improvised Christmas tree made of empty cans and bottles in Anibong, Tacloban, Leyte, on Tuesday. Signs of Christmas are still found in the ravaged city, an indicator of the residents' willingness to move forward post-Yolanda. Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

Some of the survivors have received small amounts of cash from the United Nations, the Philippine government and other aid organizations taking part in a scheme designed to revive the economy of devastated communities.

The UN’s World Food Programhas given out 1,300 pesos to some 18,000 of the poorest families in Tacloban and nearby areas in the runup to Christmas Day to spend on rebuilding their lives, said spokeswoman Amor Almagro.

The UN agency plans to provide $6 million to 100,000 families in the next few weeks, with other agencies also financing government schemes where people who lost their jobs are paid the minimum daily wage to clear debris from roads, Almagro told AFP.

The storm made 4.4 million homeless and caused $12.9 billion in damage, according to the government, which estimates it will take the affected central region, an area the size of Portugal, four years to recover.

But damaged churches in Tacloban and nearby towns opened their doors early Tuesday for the last of the pre-dawn masses held in the 10 days until Christmas Eve that mark the country’s holiday season.

“There will always be something beautiful that will come after what happened to us,” Bernardo Pantin, the parish priest of Palo town adjacent to Tacloban, told his parishioners in a homily.

About 100 people attended mass at a makeshift church made from coconut lumber and blue tarpaulin, after the old one was totally blown down by the winds.

“It (the typhoon) changed our lives, but we know that good things will follow. But of course it will take time,” Pantin told AFP.

At the Palo parish of San Joaquin, six-year-old Clifford Cobacha and his uncle Rico Cobacha, 27, attended pre-dawn mass and later lit candles in the church courtyard in front of a cluster of three small wooden crosses that marked the grave of his mother and two brothers.

More than 300 other bodies are buried in the church courtyard, their graves also marked with small wooden crosses

“It will be difficult to celebrate Christmas after we lost 15 relatives,” the elder Cobacha told AFP. Eight of them lay amongst the mass graves, with seven others, including the boy’s father, still missing.

Grief over storm deaths finds outlet in streets of Tacloban By Shiena M. Barrameda Inquirer Southern Luzon 9:44 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013


AN ENTIRE village joins its widows in commemorating the 40th day of their husbands’ deaths at the height of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” during a candlelighting ceremony in Tacloban City. SHIENA BARRAMEDA/ INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

TACLOBAN CITY—Cupping his hands around the flickering candlelight and shivering in an old white sando that was a size too large for his thin frame, 8-year-old Edcel Earl Balaes planted his slim white candle on the pavement along Real Street, one of this city’s main thoroughfares.

“This is for my pet rooster because he died when the tidal wave hit our house when ‘Yolanda’ came,” he said. Despite the laughter that erupted around him after he said this, Balaes remained serious.

He said his pet deserved to be remembered like all those who died 40 days ago in this city and in many other areas in the country when Supertyphoon “Yolanda” lashed through central Philippines on Nov. 8.

Balaes joined many other storm survivors in a candlelighting ceremony here for the 40th day of the deaths of thousands of city residents whose bodies had been either buried in mass graves or have not been found. Catholics observe the 40th day of a person’s death in commemoration of Jesus’ ascension to heaven 40 days after his death.

The ceremony was organized by Erlinda Olivia P. Tiu, Eastern Visayas director of the Philippine Information Agency, with the group One Tacloban Civic Group and local TV network Countryside Associated Television 8.

The survivors lit a chain of candles on a 10.1-kilometer stretch of road from the city center to Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport. The chain passed through Anibong District, where hundreds are believed to have died when four ships docked in the port area were lifted from the sea by 20-foot waves and slammed into populated communities.

Colored candles, provided by the Department of Tourism, were planted on the road to form a chain of light.

Tiu said the ceremony sought to gather family and friends in a solemn tribute to those who died in the storm. She said it was the brainchild of Jeff Manibay, a local broadcaster who himself lost parents in the disaster.

“When I lost my parents, I could not grieve properly,” said Manibay. His parents’ bodies have never been found.

“In mass tragedies like this, grieving becomes communal, not personal. You get to feel other people’s grief with yours,” he said.

His grief still showing in his eyes, he said he did not expect the number of participants to triple from the expected 1,200 people.

Manibay said that under normal circumstances, the 40th day of the dead in the Philippines is celebrated with merrymaking in homes.

“But, in our case, we cannot have the same emotion because we all lost our homes. So I thought, maybe we should do it on the streets then,” he said.

Lilia Dadula, 53, lost her husband Conrado, a vendor, who died at the age of 57 when the storm washed away their house in a coastal village.

She sat on the pavement with fellow widows—daughter-in-law Charice de la Cruz-Dadula, 30, and Emma Cabiltes, 42—with their husbands’ pictures propped up in front of them beside lighted, white candles.

The entire Barangay (village) 88, consisting of 150 families now temporarily living at Tacloban People’s Center, was at the candlelighting ceremony, mourning along with the widows as they commemorated the 40th day of their husbands’ deaths.

Charice said the bodies of her husband Orlando, Lilia’s son, and Cabiltes’ husband, Diego, were among the last to be found on Dec. 3 under the debris.

Near Tacloban Convention Center, which now serves as a temporary evacuation center, Lenlen Resurecion Bausing lighted candles for her sister-in-law, Gloria Bausing Cavite, 67.

Bausing scribbled a message that read “Gone but never forgotten” on top of Cavite’s picture.

She said Cavite’s body has yet to be found after she was washed away by strong waves.

Among those who joined the candlelighting was government employee Romeo Badilla, who became misty-eyed when he spoke of his nephew, Fredrick. Tuesday, the 40th day, would have been his nephew’s 24th birthday and civil wedding to his fiancée.

The bodies of Fredrick and his fiancée, Joy Garil, who was six months pregnant, were found on Dec. 6 under the debris in Anibong District. Badilla recalled how his nephew’s head fell off while a backhoe was retrieving his body in the coastal area of Barangay 66. He said he still could not comprehend how a promising, caring, young man could die so suddenly.

Badilla’s neighbor, Gloria Hernandez, 49, said she was just pretending that her nephew, Christopher Palle, 37, was just vacationing somewhere with his wife and son who also died in the storm.

Manibay, the local broadcaster, said the activity sought to give closure to those who lost relatives and friends.

Records of the Office of Civil Defense in Eastern Visayas showed that as of Dec. 17, the total number of fatalities in Yolanda stands at 5,715.

“We are stronger than most people think. We also want to show the world that we will always remember 08 November. That was the day hell descended on earth upon us,” said Manibay.
 

Brothers build Christmas lantern to light up celebration in Tacloban By Nikko Dizon Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:40 pm | Tuesday, December 24th, 2013


The giant lantern in Tacloban is a reminder of hope. CONTRIBUTOR/ ROLAN GARCIA

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — It’s hardly Christmas in this storm-ravaged city but the people are doing anything to have a sense of it.

In Barangay (village) 48 in Magallanes, residents told the Philippine Daily Inquirer they would try to get by with whatever food they had for Christmas Eve.

The highlight of the day would be the lighting of a 6-feet-tall parol that their neighbors, twin brothers Ronron and Ronrey Magdua, built in 10 days.

The 19-year-old twins used the money they saved from the cash-for-work program of the Tzu Chi Foundation. It cost them some P2,000 in all to put together the red, white, and blue Christmas lantern. Its yellow sun and three stars complete the Philippine flag lantern.

“We just want to remind people that we can rise again,” Ronron told the Inquirer, when asked why he and his brother based the lantern on the flag. The parol is on Esperas St. Esperas came from the Spanish word ‘esperar,’ which means to hope for. Ronron said his Christmas hope for his fellow Taclobanons would be for them to accept the tragedy and move on.

Their neighbors have been hardly preparing for the traditional noche buena. A group of men having beer at a sari-sari store said they would make do with whatever’s left of the relief goods that they received. In fact, they said, they last received food packs three days ago. On Tuesday, the eve of Christmas, there was not much to do except to reminisce, from the days before the storm to that horrific November day when supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) decimated the city.

Magallanes, a coastal village, lost 53 residents. Some remain missing. Nine bodies were recovered just last week.

The rains pelted the city on Tuesday, but the Magdua brothers continued putting the finishing touches on their lantern which they put up amid the rubbles in their village.

They were set to light up the lantern at 6 p.m., and were told the media would be covering it for the news.

The brothers put up the lantern on a lot where a house was washed away. Did they ask permission from the owners of the place?

“There’s no one to ask permission from,” Ronrey said.

The owners, an elderly couple named Jose and Remedios Sagdullas, were killed in the storm. Their bodies had been recovered and were placed in a mass grave.

Magallanes district was practically wiped out, with only a few houses standing.

Last Christmas was as festive as it could be in the line of villages in this district.

“Residents had a party at the basketball court,” said Wenifredo Rivas, a city hall employee.

Rivas could only describe the past Christmases they had as “happy.”

There were carolers in the streets and neighbors got together.

With the court gone, the residents would be having Christmas dinner in their homes, or whatever was left of them.

“Wala eh (Nothing else could be done). We’ll make do with what’s left of the relief goods. They’re hard to come by now,” said Cesar Acuna, Rivas’ neighbor.

There used to be karaoke singing that started at dusk. But Rivas said without electricity, how could they get a karaoke machine to work?

In Palo Cathedral, some 11 kilometers away, a handful of church volunteers were putting together flower arrangements for a Christmas Eve mass made special by the presence of the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Guiseppe Pinto. The roof of the centuries-old church was blown off by the winds described by Msgr. Bernardo Panteri as “deafening.”

“We’ll have a simple celebration. You noticed there’s not much decor around town,” Panteri said.

But the spirit of Christmas definitely remains, he said. In this predominantly Catholic country, no one has blamed God for the tragedy, Panteri added.

“The people’s faith remains strong. They believe something better will come out of this,” he said.

Church volunteer Charity Malquistro said everyone has just been trying to be merry.

But how amid this destruction, under a roofless cathedral?

Without skipping a beat, Malquistro said: “By laughing all the way!” -


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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