For ‘Yolanda’ survivors, pain of losing kin won’t go away
TACLOBAN CITY—Nine years have passed but Elena Caadan has yet to recover from the pain of losing her four children in a storm surge that hit their community at Barangay 88 in San Jose District in the morning of Nov. 8, 2013.
“It has been nine years, (but) up to now, I could (still) remember their cries for help. I wish I could have rescued them but I was also struggling due to the storm surge,” the 38-year-old mother said.
Her only consolation was she was able to recover the bodies of her children: Angel Mae, 8; Argel, 7; Reana Mae, 3; and Roselyn, 1.
“I recognized them through the clothes they wore (because) I was the one who put on their clothes that day,” she said.
READ: Yolanda Commemoration Day: DFA consular office in Tacloban City to close on Nov 8
READ: Marcos Jr. to lead 9th anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City
Caadan was among the people who visited the mass grave inside Holy Cross Cemetery in Barangay Basper here on Tuesday, exactly nine years since Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) pummeled Eastern Visayas region.
At least 2,200 people, who died at the height of Yolanda, were buried in the mass grave put up by the city government of Tacloban.
The 1.2-hectare mass grave served as a memorial park with thousands of white crosses. It was where most of the dead, mostly unidentified and decomposing, were hurriedly buried days after the supertyphoon.
Since then, relatives of those who lost their loved ones during the supertyphoon have been visiting the mass grave, especially every All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
According to Caadan, she believes that the four graves she has been visiting for the last nine years are the spots where her four children are buried.
“I feel this is where they were buried. I feel calm whenever I come here to visit them,” she said.
On Tuesday, Caadan lit candles on the graves and brought an offering of her children’s favorite food—biscuits, a piece of fried chicken and rice cake.
President Marcos visited the mass grave on Tuesday, prayed and offered a wreath for all those buried there.
The President said those who died during Yolanda would never be forgotten, including those who remained “uncounted.”
“And we will not forget about them. And we cannot forget about them. And I know, you do not forget about them. That is why we continue to commemorate Yolanda and we continue to grieve our dead,” he said in a speech during the event.
In a brief interview later, the President admitted he could not believe that there were only 6,000 deaths due to Yolanda. “I’m questioning that since Day 1,” he said.
Based on an official report released earlier by the government, the number of deaths due to Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to hit inland in recent history, reached 6,000 in Eastern Visayas, to include Tacloban which was considered to be the ground zero of the supertyphoon.
However, nine years after the disaster, questions as to the actual number of deaths remained.
Days after Yolanda pummeled the city and some parts of the region, then police director for Eastern Visayas Elmer Soria said the number of deaths due to Yolanda could reach 10,000.
Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who was also serving as mayor when Yolanda hit the city, said he supported the statement of Mr. Marcos, his cousin.
While it was difficult to make an actual number of those who died during Yolanda, he said the number of casualties in the city could be higher.
“I think the number of deaths could not be lower than 5,000. Aside from those that we have buried (in the mass grave), there were families who lost their loved ones who buried them right away,” he said.
Classes and work were suspended on Tuesday in many parts of Eastern Visayas, composed of the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar and Biliran, to remember their loved ones who died during Yolanda’s onslaught. INQ
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