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Pilgrims stranded, but say ‘God wants us to be safe’

A QUEUE of cargo trucks stretches as long as 3 kilometers in Matnog after authorities gave priority to pilgrims headed for Tacloban City at the town port. MARC ALVIC ESPLANA/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

A QUEUE of cargo trucks stretches as long as 3 kilometers in Matnog after authorities gave priority to pilgrims headed for Tacloban City at the town port. MARC ALVIC ESPLANA/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

HUNDREDS of pilgrims on their way to Tacloban City to see the Pope have been stranded in ports in the provinces of Sorsogon and Cebu after authorities canceled all sea travel due to Tropical Storm “Amang,” but some took it to mean God just wanted them to be safe.

Among the stranded in Cebu City is Elvira Salome, of the town of Tubigon.

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Salome, who turned 40 years old yesterday, said her birthday wish had been to see Pope Francis.

“Money can’t pay for this opportunity to hear Mass and get the chance to see him,” she said in an interview.

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“I have no reason to be sad about it. It only means that God wants to spare us from harm. God only wants us to be safe,” she told the Inquirer.

Salome was with her 12-year-old daughter Vherly Kim, the youngest among the 165 pilgrims who were stranded at Pier 1 in Cebu City.

“I only wish to see the Pope since this is a once in a lifetime chance,” Salome said.

Salome and her daughter are among nearly 200 pilgrims from Bohol province who are supposed to attend the Mass of Pope Francis in Tacloban but had been stranded here after storm signal No. 1 was raised over Leyte province.

The delegates, who took a fast craft from Tagbilaran City, arrived here on Friday past

10 a.m.

Fr. Warli Salise Jr., head of the delegation, said the people did not expect the cancellation.

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He said if the pilgrims really could not cross to Tacloban, they would be sent home to Tagbilaran City in Bohol.

Cmdr. Rodolfo Villajuan, head of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Cebu, said no sea vessel would be allowed to leave port until the storm signals are lifted.

In the port of Matnog town in Sorsogon, at least 2,000 passengers, mostly headed for Tacloban, found themselves with no ferry to ride after the PCG canceled all trips of sea vessels bound for Eastern Visayas as the weather bureau raised storm signals over the area.

Lt.s.g. Jerome Lozada, station commander of PCG-Sorsogon, said complaints had been pouring in from the passengers who were stranded in Matnog.

He said the PCG quickly enforced an order to cancel all trips of sea vessels from Matnog to the port in Allen town in Eastern Samar after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) raised public storm signal No. 1 over Sorsogon as Amang moved closer to Luzon and Visayas.

Eastern Samar was also placed under storm signal No. 1 along with the Eastern Visayas provinces of Northern Samar, Samar, Biliran and Leyte, where Tacloban City is located; and the Bicol provinces of Camarines Sur, Catanduanes Albay, Burias Island (Masbate), Sorsogon and Ticao Island (Masbate).

He said 32 cars, 43 buses and 49 trucks had also been stranded with the passengers within the port area.

Amang, packing maximum sustained winds of 75 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph, was located 531 kilometers east of Borongan City, Eastern Samar, according to the 1 p.m. bulletin of Pagasa.

It was moving west at 15 kph and projected to be 180 km east of Borongan City by Saturday morning, 40 km northeast of Legazpi City by Sunday morning and in the vicinity of Baler, Aurora province, by Monday morning.

Senior Insp. Malu Calubaquib, spokesperson of Philippine National Police in Bicol, said there were 38 trucks, 26 cars and nine buses stranded in the areas being watched by police outside Matnog port.

She said 66 trucks were left stationary in their line entering Matnog port while an additional 178 vehicles were also stranded at the PNP control points in Sorsogon City.

Calubaquib added there were 10 trucks and 35 buses being temporarily held in terminals operated by Matnog’s municipal government.

At the Bulan port, also in Sorsogon, some 115 passengers were also stranded due to the cancellation of sea trips by the PCG, Lozada said.

He said the PCG expected the weather to turn for the worse and waves to rise further on Saturday as Amang draws nearer land.

Lozada said the PCG expected the complaints from passengers as the people were excited to see the Pope in Tacloban City and had been waiting for their turn to cross to Eastern Samar since Wednesday.

“We cannot let them cross. Safety first,” he said.

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