IN MEMORY: TACLOBAN CITY RESIDENTS LIGHT CANDLES IN MEMORY OF THEIR DEAD

A week before Christmas, more than 40 days after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) killed thousands and left hundreds more missing, families of survivors face the reality of empty tables. In this city where the living hunt for their own dead, some are defiant, others resigned, and still others refuse to accept their lost will never come home. These are their stories......more below

ALSO: PH Catholics end 40-day mourning for typhoon dead

[Photo bottom left -Bodies are brought to the public cemetery in Basper for mass burial on Thursday, November 14.] Survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) gathered to pray while a priest sprinkled holy water on their ruined homes 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 the Agence France-Presse 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."

ALSO: Christmas in Tacloban: Long lines at the supermarket, homes still without power

Christmas may be dimmer in Tacloban, where electricity has yet to be restored in all homes following the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda, but residents have been doing their best to to spread cheer during the season. "Magpapasko pa rin po tayo kahit dinaanan tayo ng matinding sakuna, ise-celebrate po natin ang Pasko, " Kagawad Jun Jun Guanda of Barangay 31 said in a report on GMA News TV’s "Balitanghali." Guanda and the other residents of Brgy. 31 have rallied together to create a Christmas tree made of recovered materials, which they will enter in the Christmas tree decorating event sponsored by the city of Tacloban.


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IN MEMORY: TACLOBAN CITY RESIDENTS LIGHT CANDLES IN MEMORY OF THEIR DEAD


IN MEMORY. Tacloban City residents light candles in memory of their dead 40 days after Typhoon Haiyan. Photo by Geric Cruz

TACLOBAN CITY, DECEMBER 25, 2013 (RAPPLER.COM)- A week before Christmas, more than 40 days after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) killed thousands and left hundreds more missing, families of survivors face the reality of empty tables.

In this city where the living hunt for their own dead, some are defiant, others resigned, and still others refuse to accept their lost will never come home. These are their stories.

Dustin's mother

What Rhodelyn regrets is how she held him.

Hands can slip, she says, but had she mounted him on her back and wrapped his arms around her neck and gripped his wrists as the waves came, Dustin would be alive today, instead of dead at 5 years old.

It is what she thinks about now, more than 40 days after Yolanda, a little more than a week before Christmas.

The water sucked her deep when the waves came, pushed her under tumbling debris. She was holding Dustin by the hand, and then she wasn’t.

She fought her way up, saw her husband pushing their two other children up a coconut tree, heard him shout over the airplane-like howl of the wind. Up, he said, up, up the tree.

She swam to him. When he asked where his other child was, she had nothing to say. There was nothing she could say.

He was frantic, whipped his head around to scan the waters, but there was nothing to see. It was like being marooned in the middle of the ocean, she says. There was no one, no roofs, no people – no one but herself and her children and her weeping husband. The raindrops slashed like needles, cold and sharp.

They found Dustin’s body four days later, one village away, his body sprawled on a pile of roofing. They waited to have his body collected, to be buried in a mass grave.

Rhodelyn will not visit her son’s grave. She refuses to believe he is dead. She works, every day, as hard as she can. The distraction is important. She pretends Dustin is in Manila visiting her mother, or with her own cousins playing with other children. He is alive in her mind, even when her other children tell her to smile, tell her that Dustin is gone, that God took him, or that he is up there, in heaven, playing with his grandpa.

She would like to say sorry to Dustin, that she couldn’t save him, that she couldn’t do anything. She would like him to know she loves him, and that she wishes, every day, that she carried him on her shoulders instead of holding him by the hand.

The lost boys

The boys who are alive talk about that morning. How there was screaming, and then there was none. How it was impossible to see beyond your own arm. How they prayed, how they told God to send them to heaven if they died, how they clung to plastic tubs and swinging branches. How they found the bodies of their friends crushed under concrete.

The boys of Village 89 are sons of fishermen, in their teens and twenties, brothers and cousins and friends. Every night they would sit at a storefront in their village, drinking cheap rum, watching girls. Some of them were in school, some were already working, out in the bay with their fathers. They grew up together and had their first hangovers together and fell in love together and got their hearts broken together. On the day the storm came, they were together still, trapped inside a single-storey concrete house with dozens of others.

That day, three of them died, and their bodies were found together. Benjie is dead at 23, Benjie who cut all their hair and colored their mohawks red and yellow and green. Jimboy is dead, Jimboy the joker who had a slew of girlfriends and laughed at the world. And Onyok, Onyok is dead too, Onyok who dressed in stylish black and was serious when they talked about life and love and the future, whose laughter made them laugh even when his jokes did not.

The gang buried them, out on the coast, all of them digging in the wet sand. Their fathers helped, and the fathers of the dead.

Today those who are left stand on the side of the road, standing guard over a single lit candle. Their mohawks have grown, their hair is black, because Benjie is gone and there is no dye to be had.

At night they gather in a tent to sleep, all the boys who are left of the gang of Village 89, to talk about the girls they still like and the rum they don’t have and all who lost mother or father or second-cousin-twice removed. In the morning they go home to families living inside classrooms and shanties, then leave to ferret out relief operations and cash-for-work programs. They hand money to their mothers, squirreling the rest to buy imitation Vans sweatshirts.

Christmas is coming, they say, and they have collected enough metal to sell at P6 a kilo, more than enough to buy a few bottles of alcohol to share after eating with their families.

They intend to be happy, or as happy as they can get.

On the night before Christmas there will be a tent on the sand along the sea, where the boys of Village 89 will raise a toast to old friends. If Benjie can hear them, if Onyok or Jimboy can, they would like to extend an invitation.

Come, they say. It won't be the same without you.

The eve of lost children

Irene will be alone for Christmas.

She is 37, a medical representative from the Happy Homes Subdivision in Village 99. She had separated from her soldier husband years before, and had taken over the raising and caring of her 3 small children.

When the waves came, she swam out a window, plucking her children out one at a time, pushing them up to grip what remained of her roof gutter. The water was 15 feet, and they fought to stay afloat.

Everything was the color of smoke, she says, like fog. They hung on to the metal bar, Irene and her children, until another wave came, black and tall, slamming against the house and everyone who clung to it. It is the last sight she remembers of the storm.

When Irene woke up, she was alone, 15 feet from the ground, hanging from a light post. She made her slow way down, her arms red with gashes. There was a commotion, and she saw her second child, lungs being pumped by neighbors. The boy was dead. The other two were found a kilometer away.

Irene stood on the sidewalk for days, watching over the bodies of her children, afraid of the trucks that picked up cadavers. She wanted to be at their burial, she did not want them rolled down a dark hole without their names or their mother.

On the third day, she and her neighbors carried their dead to an open space in a nearby cemetery. Irene dug, her arms swollen, and watched as kindly hands wrapped her babies in plastic and tied them with rope and slipped them under the earth.

She did not eat, she did not sleep, she drank coffee, boiled in cups of salt water, when she remembered. There was no food in Village 99 for 5 days, she will testify to it, no matter what the government says.

On Christmas Eve, she will sit and watch all the other children who lived. She will not attempt to be happy, she only hopes she will not be as sad.

She has a message to all parents, everyone who ever held a child: Hold your baby on Christmas. Tell them you love them. Kiss them, and let them know mama is here. – Rappler.com

EARLIER REPORT FROM RAPPLER.COM

PH Catholics end 40-day mourning for typhoon dead by Agence France-Presse Posted on 12/17/2013 5:08 PM | Updated 12/17/2013 5:17 PM


MOURNING. Bodies are brought to the public cemetery in Basper for mass burial on Thursday, November 14. File photo by Jake Verzosa/Rappler

TACLOBAN, Philippines – Survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) gathered to pray while a priest sprinkled holy water on their ruined homes 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 the Agence France-Presse 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 315 kilometers (195 miles) an hour 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. – Rappler.com

FROM GMA NEWS TV

Christmas in Tacloban: Long lines at the supermarket, homes still without power December 24, 2013 6:19pm

 

YACLOBAN -Christmas may be dimmer in Tacloban, where electricity has yet to be restored in all homes following the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda, but residents have been doing their best to to spread cheer during the season. "Magpapasko pa rin po tayo kahit dinaanan tayo ng matinding sakuna, ise-celebrate po natin ang Pasko, " Kagawad Jun Jun Guanda of Barangay 31 said in a report on GMA News TV’s "Balitanghali."

Guanda and the other residents of Brgy. 31 have rallied together to create a Christmas tree made of recovered materials, which they will enter in the Christmas tree decorating event sponsored by the city of Tacloban.

Christmas may be dimmer in Tacloban, where electricity has yet to be restored in all homes following the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda, but residents have been doing their best to to spread cheer during the season.

"Magpapasko pa rin po tayo kahit dinaanan tayo ng matinding sakuna, ise-celebrate po natin ang Pasko, " Kagawad Jun Jun Guanda of Barangay 31 said in a report on GMA News TV’s "Balitanghali."

Guanda and the other residents of Brgy. 31 have rallied together to create a Christmas tree made of recovered materials, which they will enter in the Christmas tree decorating event sponsored by the city of Tacloban.

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.

Tacloban was one of the places hardest hit. More than four million people are homeless, celebrating Christmas in tents, evacuation centres, or in the ruins of their houses.

More than a month after the storm, long lines still form outside a supermarket. Residents queued for as long as four hours to buy food for the traditional noche buena meal at midnight.

The supermarket, which only allows 100 people inside at a time to shop for 30 minutes, is not yet in full operation.

Still, the orderly lines are a far cry from the looting seen in the city immediately following the typhoon’s aftermath.

Power situation

Christmas spirits may be dampened further by the fact that power has yet to be restored to many homes and establishments, despite Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla’s promise that electricity will be restored in the city by the end of the year.

Petilla, however, clarified that the electricity is there: it’s just that piping it into homes remains difficult.

“Mga 98 percent na tayo, at ang natitira na lang dito ay iilan-ilan na mga bayan,” Petilla said.

"We are on track. Bagama't mayroon pa ring nagdududa na iba na talagang hindi makakamit ito, pero I am assuring everybody that we will because I made that commitment,” he said.

Petilla vowed weeks ago that he would quit if the blacked-out Visayas regions did not have power by Christmas.

However, Department of Energy official Mylene Capongcol clarified later that this only means that 98 percent of “backbone lines” have been restored.

The Balitanghali report also noted that while the provincial capital has power, streetlights and traffic lights remain dim.

The delay in part could be explained by the damage sustained by many of the houses in the area.

“Pwedeng [kabitan na ng kuryente] pag na-declare ready to receive power yung bahay. Pag hindi, pwedeng masunog,” a Leyte II Electric Cooperative Inc employee explained. — Patricia Denise Chiu/BM, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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