Bohol quake, Yolanda survivors eager to feel consoling presence of Pope | Inquirer News

Bohol quake, Yolanda survivors eager to feel consoling presence of Pope

By: - Bureau Chief / @InquirerSLB
/ 09:11 PM January 16, 2015

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — Niza Flores brought with her at least 20 rosaries, which she planned to have Pope Francis blessed during their luncheon at the Archbishop’s Residence on Saturday.

“These (rosaries) are for my siblings and other relatives,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday.


Flores, 53, is one of the five survivors of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Bohol who have been given the rare privilege to break bread with Pope Francis during his visit to Leyte on Saturday.

An elderly male neighbor had asked her to hand in to Pope Francis a prayer pamphlet that he composed, thanking God for helping him survive the earthquake that killed 201 people and displaced 95,000 families in Bohol.


Flores said his neighbor was thankful to Pope Francis for taking the time to comfort the survivors of calamities.

Flores and four other survivors of the Bohol earthquake who will join the lunch with Pope Francis –Saturnino Barace Jr. 19; Veneranda Gentallan, 38; Shirley Bongay, 28; Salome Israel, 24; and Niza Flores, 53 — arrived in Palo at 5 p.m. on Thursday via Ormoc City, Leyte.

They were housed by the Palo Archdiocese with 25 survivors of supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in undisclosed place in time for their meeting with the Supreme Pontiff.

Flores told the Inquirer in a phone interview that she didn’t know exactly where they were but they were staying in a big house with the survivors of Yolanda.

She said their needs were provided for: food and accommodation. The male survivors stayed in one room, and the women in another room.

Flores said the rooms were big and were set up like a dormitory, with double-deck beds.

Flores said they had a buffet breakfast at 6 a.m. and were able to watch the live coverage of Pope Francis’ welcome ceremony and courtesy call at the Malacañang and the Mass at the Manila Cathedral.


“The house is very nice. We are treated very well. Our needs are addressed but we cannot leave the house,” she said.

Flores said they were also told to turn off their cellular phones upon entering the Archbishop’s Residence to wait for the Pope’s arrival.

But she didn’t mind, she said, because she was excited to meet the Pope.

Since there was no dress code, Flores said she would be dressed in simple brown skirt and blouse.

Flores said it has been a dream come true to be picked as one of those to have lunch with the Pope but the events that brought her to this moment were a nightmare.

“I lost my 12-year-old son. It’s so painful even until now. But my son seemed to be the bridge so I can fulfill my dream of seeing a pope. Amid all that happened in my life, I trust in God. If it is His will, then let it be,” she said.

Her youngest son, Geevie, was inside an Internet cafe when the 7.2-magnitude Bohol quake struck. Geevie died along with four others.

Flores, whose family owns a small hardware store in Bohol, said she and the other victims of calamities would find consolation in Pope Francis’ presence.

Pope Francis was scheduled to meet Pope Francis at 12:50 p.m. on Saturday. The lunch will last for an hour before the Pontiff will bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor and later meet with the clergy, men and women of different religious communities, and seminarians at the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral.

Pope Francis will then go to the mass grave at the back of the Cathedral where about 150 Yolanda victims were buried.

He will pray for about five minutes. About 10 meters away from the Pope will be about 100 families whose loved ones were buried at the mass grave.

Fr. Amadeo Alvero, the spokesperson of the Palo Archdiocese, said the survivors would leave the “holding area ”as early as 8 a.m. go to the Archbishop’s Residence where they would wait for the Pope.

Asked where they were staying, Alvero declined to divulge for confidentiality purposes. “It’s a private house,” he said.

Alvero said the lunch with the survivors would push through despite the threats of heavy rains brought on by tropical storm “Amang.”

“The Mass (at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport) and the lunch are the most important,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “We can forgo with the others.”

Alvero admitted that they had contingency plans in case of heavy rains. One is to cancel the blessing of Pope Francis Center for the Poor and the meeting with the clergy at the Palo Cathedral especially if the rains would trigger a three-hour delay in the schedule.

In the media handbook that detailed the schedule of Pope Francis’ five-day visit to the country, the Pontiff is supposed to stop while travelling to Palo from the Tacloban airport to visit a family in a house in Tacloban.

Sources said the Pope wanted to console a family in San Jose District, an area worst-hit in Tacloban City, which was considered ground zero of Yolanda.

During the simulation conducted by the police on Thursday, they included the Pope’s stopover.

But the heavy rains might force organizers to forgo the motorcade.

Senior Weather Specialist Robert Quinto of the Philippine Atmospherics, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in Manila said Palo and Tacloban would experience heavy rains due to “Amang.”


Dark clouds loomed over Tacloban on Friday. There were intermittent rains but not heavy.

As of Friday, the typhoon was spotted by PAGASA at 180 kilometers east of Borongan, Samar and has been expected to directly hit the northern parts of Samar.

Quinto brought into Leyte PAGASA’s mobile Doppler radar across the McArthur Shrine in Palo to monitor the weather condition during the papal visit.

He said that the equipment would help them monitor the amount of rain within an 80-kilometer radius from where they were situated.

Quinto said that they have been on the lookout for clouds that could bring heavy rains in the direction of Leyte. On Wednesday, they monitored cloudy skies over Tacloban City and Palo, which experienced light rains on Thursday and Friday.

Quinto said heavy rains on Saturday might make it difficult for the Pope to continue with his 12-kilometer motorcade from Tacloban to Palo.

“Meron na man kaming hourly update na binibigay sa mga organizers at bosses namin (PAGASA Manila) (We give an hourly update to the organizers and our bosses in Manila. It is up for them to decide on what to do),” said Quinto.

(With a report from Ador Mayol, Inquirer Visayas)

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TAGS: Amadeo Alvero, Archdiocese of Palo, Astronomical Services Administration, Bohol earthquake survivors, calamity survivors, Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, Geevie Flores, Geophysical, holy mass, lunch with Pope Francis, News, Niza Flores, papal visit, pastoral visit, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Space Administration (PAGASA), Philippine Atmospherics, Pope Francis, Regions, Robert Quinto, Yolanda survivors
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