HOLDING ON TO FAITH YOLANDA SURVIVORS STRUGGLE TO SALVAGE CHRISTMAS

Across central Philippines, people are scraping together whatever they can to celebrate Christmas, nearly seven weeks after the storm. Some are struggling to cope with their grief.Palo town is in Leyte, an island province which suffered the highest death toll. Businesses are still largely shuttered, power has yet to be fully restored, and security is fragile in some areas where carpetbaggers and thieves roam, residents say. Many survivors find strength in church. "Faith, we're keeping the faith," said Ronald Lago, 47, after a dawn Mass with his family. "We are together and that's all that matters," he said as a Filipino Christmas carol played out over the church's speakers. "We're starting to fix our house although when it rains, it also rains inside. We sleep with an umbrella." —

ALSO: Tacloban to hold 10-km candle-lighting rite on 40th day after Yolanda

A candle lighting ceremony that stretches 10 kilometers will highlight the “Pacuarenta” or 40 days after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated central Philippines. Residents in Tacloban City are expected to take part in the activity, according to a report by state-run Philippine Information Agency. "It is the belief that the souls leave the earth for heaven on the 40th day after death," the PIA said. Tuesday's activity will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with some 1,200 candles to be lighted along the 10-km route from the city airport to Anibong district. The Department of Tourism will provide 1,200 colored candles to those attending the candle-lighting on Tuesday.

ALSO: Typhoon-hit Tacloban looks ahead

Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan gathered to pray while a priest sprinkled holy water on their ruined homes on Tuesday in a ceremony marking the end of a 40-day mourning period for the thousands killed. The memorial took place in Tacloban on the island of Leyte, which bore the brunt of the Philippines' deadliest typhoon, accounting for more than 5 000 of the 6 069 confirmed deaths. “The people here have accepted that their loved ones will not be coming back,” Father Amadeo Alvero, of the Santo Nino parish in Tacloban, told AFP after celebrating an open-air mass attended by about 100 survivors. “However, they are having difficulty getting back on their feet because they still do not have proper homes, electricity is still down, and many have also lost their jobs. City officials have yet to find a relocation place for them.”


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Holding on to faith, Yolanda survivors struggle to salvage Christmas


A MAN who survived Supertyphoon “Yolanda” visits the grave of a relative who died at the height of the storm in Palo, Leyte province, as storm survivors continue to struggle for their daily survival amid the toughest of conditions and threats to the flow of relief. RAFFY LERMA

PALO, LEYTE, DECEMBER 25, 2013 (GMA NEWS TV) Rhodora Tonningsen has no tinsel or baubles for her Christmas tree this year so she's decorated it with packets of instant noodles and empty sardine cans from relief supplies handed out to survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Across central Philippines, people are scraping together whatever they can to celebrate Christmas, nearly seven weeks after the storm. Some are struggling to cope with their grief.

Tonningsen, 43, a single mother of four, pried a battered, three-foot (one-meter) artificial Christmas tree from the bank of mud and debris thrown up by the storm by her tiny, partly damaged home in the town of Palo, and put it up on the front porch.

"I just washed it so we'll have some semblance of Christmas, even if we're in dire straits," said Tonningsen, standing outside her home, now patched with corrugated iron also salvaged from the debris.

"We may be in ground zero, but it's OK - as long as we are alive and our family is intact."

The Nov. 8 storm was one of the strongest ever to hit land. It wiped out virtually everything in its path, killing more than 6,100 people. Another 1,800 are listed as missing.

More than four million people are homeless, celebrating Christmas in tents, evacuation centres, or in the ruins of their houses.

Peter Lacandazo, 56, is for the first time spending Christmas without most of his family. Twenty-two relatives, including his wife, five daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren, drowned when the storm surge crashed ashore.

"I said to myself earlier in church that I should have died along with them," Lacandazo said as he stood outside a tent in what used to be the garage of his family compound.

Lacandazo, his son and a grandson, the only family he has left, will hear Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and leave some food on a grave where his family lie buried.

"They are together, they are many. So they won't be sad, unlike us," Lacandazo said.

About 90 percent of the Philippines' 97 million people are Christian, mostly Roman Catholics.

Palo town is in Leyte, an island province which suffered the highest death toll. Businesses are still largely shuttered, power has yet to be fully restored, and security is fragile in some areas where carpetbaggers and thieves roam, residents say.

Many survivors find strength in church.

"Faith, we're keeping the faith," said Ronald Lago, 47, after a dawn Mass with his family. "We are together and that's all that matters," he said as a Filipino Christmas carol played out over the church's speakers.

"We're starting to fix our house although when it rains, it also rains inside. We sleep with an umbrella." — Reuters

Tacloban to hold 10-km candle-lighting rite on 40th day after Yolanda December 15, 2013 7:31pm 418 17 0 538


BLESSING THE PLACES: Father Amadeo Alvero sprinkles holy water on the ruins of a community in the central Philippine city of Tacloban to mark the 40th day after Super Typhoon Haiyan brought deadly storm surges on the city. — AFP photo

A candle lighting ceremony that stretches 10 kilometers will highlight the “Pacuarenta” or 40 days after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated central Philippines.

Residents in Tacloban City are expected to take part in the activity, according to a report by state-run Philippine Information Agency.

"It is the belief that the souls leave the earth for heaven on the 40th day after death," the PIA said.

Tuesday's activity will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with some 1,200 candles to be lighted along the 10-km route from the city airport to Anibong district.

The Department of Tourism will provide 1,200 colored candles to those attending the candle-lighting on Tuesday.

Families and friends who wish to pay their last respects to the fatalities are encouraged to put personal candles in between the colored ones.

Flowers, names and pictures of the dearly departed may also be displayed.

Yolanda tore through Visayas and Southern Luzon last Nov. 8, leaving more than 6,000 dead in its wake. Tacloban was among the areas hit hardest by the storm surge. — BM, GMA News

Typhoon-hit Tacloban looks ahead AFP December 17 2013 at 11:53am


Candles left by relatives of victims of Typhoon Haiyan illuminate a mass grave outside a church where Mass is being held at the start of nine days of Christmas vigils in Tacloban, in the central Philippines, on December 16, 2013. Picture: Erik De Castro

Manila - Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan gathered to pray while a priest sprinkled holy water on their ruined homes on Tuesday in a ceremony marking the end of a 40-day mourning period for the thousands killed.

The memorial took place in Tacloban on the island of Leyte, which bore the brunt of the Philippines' deadliest typhoon, accounting for more than 5 000 of the 6 069 confirmed deaths.

“The people here have accepted that their loved ones will not be coming back,” Father Amadeo Alvero, of the Santo Nino parish in Tacloban, told AFP after celebrating an open-air mass attended by about 100 survivors.

“However, they are having difficulty getting back on their feet because they still do not have proper homes, electricity is still down, and many have also lost their jobs. City officials have yet to find a relocation place for them.”

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country where it is traditional to mourn the dead for 40 days.

Residents of the parish are families of fishermen, fish vendors, and informal settlers.

They have all been told by the city government that they will not be allowed to rebuild because their old homes were too close to the shore and dangerous, the priest added.

Haiyan slashed across the central Philippines on November 8, unleashing ferocious winds of up to 315km/h on an area the size of Portugal, destroying more than a million homes and leaving four million people homeless.

The authorities said most of the deaths were caused by tsunami-like giant storm surges that swept through Tacloban and other cities and towns of Leyte and Samar islands.

Apart from the dead, 1 779 people remain missing, according to the latest government tally.

The priest walked through the debris-filled ruins of homes in the coastal neighbourhood sprinkling holy water on places where bodies of at least 30 of the victims had earlier been recovered.

“In my homily, I told them that death did not end their relationship with their relatives. I said we need to continue to pray to God to intercede for us,” Alvero added.

Elsewhere in the city, relatives have organised a mass candle-lighting ceremony to mark the end of the mourning period for their dead, the priest added.

President Benigno Aquino has said the government will need nearly $3-billion to rebuild these areas, while the United Nations on Monday launched an $791-million international aid appeal to finance the survivors' needs over the next 12 months.

“The humanitarian community's response plan sets out priority activities to ensure that vulnerable families have access to critical food assistance, clean water and sustainable and dignified shelter,” said the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines Luiza Carvalho.

It also seeks to help the survivors restore lost livelihoods, she said in a statement. - AFP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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