In Tacloban park, memories painful
Mc Steffi Lagario, 12, and his cousin, Justin, 8, have a new playground, oblivious to the painful memories it triggers.
They run around the memorial park whose main attraction is the bow of the MV Eva Jocelyn, which was beached inland in Barangay 68, Anibong District, Tacloban City, at the height of the fury of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) on Nov. 8, 2013.
“We like playing here,” MC Steffi said. After all, the park is the only place where they can play.
But for their parents, looking at the Eva Jocelyn only brings back bad memories.
Jose Mensoza, 64, said the park only made him remember how he lost his wife, Flocerfina, and daughter-in-law, Nervin, two years ago. Before Yolanda struck, he and his family had joined his neighbors in leaving their shanties and seeking refuge in the two-story house owned by the Moro family, thinking they would be safer there.
He was wrong. The giant storm surge generated by Yolanda swept the 3,000-ton vessel inland, hitting 13 houses before it got stuck on the Moros’ house.
Mensoza said the people jumped out of the windows before the ship loaded with 14,000 bags of cement crashed into the house. Aside from Flocerfina and Nervin, seven other occupants died, including the house owners.
Place to honor
“I don’t like to see that ship again, but at the same time, it (park) can serve as a place where we can honor those who perished during Yolanda, including my husband,” Erlinda Tronson, 68, said. Her husband, Arturo, 68, died after their house was hit by the
The park, with a lot area of 120 square meters, is the exact spot where the Eva Jocelyn was beached. Only the bow has remained after the vessel was cut up into scraps.
Eva Shipping Lines, which is based in Mandaue City in Cebu province, sold the vessel as scrap to Philippine Precious Metal Resources (PPMR), according to Tacloban city engineer Dionisio de Paz.
PPMR, however, donated the bow, measuring 8 meters wide and 6 m long, to the city government, which decided to make it the centerpiece of the memorial park.
De Paz’s office supervised the construction of the park. The city spent P2.8 million for the project, whose construction was completed in five months and inaugurated on Nov. 7, the eve of Yolanda’s second anniversary.
Ma. Rosario Bactol, chair of Barangay 68, said she respected the sentiments of some families who lost their loved ones. But she agreed with the move of the city government to convert the area where the ship beached into a memorial park.
“It will remind us about Yolanda and the destruction the supertyphoon brought to our village,” Bactol said. “But we have to move on.”
Twenty-seven people, six of them children, were killed in her village during the storm. Bactol has proposed to the city government that their names be inscribed in one portion of the memorial park.
She said barangay guards (tanod) would secure the place.
City Administrator Jenny Lyn Manibay said the park serves as a reminder that Tacloban was once hit by a supertyphoon, the strongest to hit land.
“It was an iconic image as to how strong Yolanda was,” she said, “but more than that, it should serve as a reminder to our people that we should always be prepared in every disaster now that we know what it can do to us.”
City tourism officer Jake Ligan urged critics to keep an open mind.
“We cannot deny the fact that the ship was beached in their barangay due to a calamity. But it can serve as a reminder for us of those who died and to be always prepared for any disaster,” he said.
Ligan ruled out the possibility of turning the memorial park into a tourist attraction because that would mean disrespecting the pain endured by the survivors.
“It will become a place of interest here in Tacloban although its origin was due to a natural disaster,” he said.
Overwhelmed with pity
Already, the park has caught the attention of several visitors.
One of them, Gil Aballe, 40, of General Santos City, said he felt emotional when he saw the bow of the vessel because he was overwhelmed with pity for the survivors.
“I saw this ship only on television. When I saw it in person, I could not help but feel the pain of the survivors,” he said.
An employee of the Bureau of Fire Protection, who declined to be named, said many tourists had wanted to see the vessel because it had become the iconic symbol of Yolanda.
“It was seen all over the world. I myself took photo of it days after it was washed inland,” said the employee, who was a member of a task force that collected the bodies that littered the city after the supertyphoon.
Ariel Delarminta, 18, of Barangay 68, said he had no plans of hanging out there.
“Well, I guess for those not from our place, they like it. But for us villagers, it is a painful reminder,” he said.
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