‘It is difficult to be joyous’

‘Urduja’ survivors find barely any reason to celebrate Christmas amid deaths
By: - Correspondent / @joeygabietaINQ
/ 05:20 AM December 25, 2017

Passenger vessels bound for Leyte and Bohol provinces are stuck in Pier 3 in Cebu City at the height of “Urduja.” —JUNJIE MENDOZA / CEBU DAILY NEWS

TACLOBAN CITY—Survivors of Tropical Storm “Urduja” (international name: Kai-tak) in two Biliran towns find no reason to celebrate Christmas other than to be grateful for being alive.

“It is difficult to be joyous knowing that many of the people were sad over the loss of loved ones,” said Helen Palahos, 42 and resident of the village of Lucsoon in Naval town, one of the areas hardest hit by Urduja.


At least 27 residents of the village, many of them children, were buried alive when a landslide threw boulders and mud into at least eight houses as people slept.

Some of the dead were relatives of Palahos.


“Imagine losing several of your relatives in just one incident,” Palahos said. “It’s simply beyond belief,” she said.


The boulders and mud that entombed the houses have not been removed, reminding Palahos of the tragedy that befell her relatives. Search teams were still looking for six missing persons.

Among the missing was PO1 Haide Ponyales.

PO2 Louie Ann Roque, of the Naval municipal police station, said the entire police force of the town could not find any reason to celebrate as the fate of Ponyales remained unknown.

“The entire town, I guess, is still sad about what happened here,” Roque said. She said while power and water supplies had been restored, “signs of the disaster are still there—people lining up for food relief, damaged bridges and roads.”

Palahos said on Christmas Eve, she and her family would just hear Mass at church. “After that, we would just go to sleep,” she said.


Thanking God

Going to church, Palahos said, would be her way of thanking God for being alive. Her house was spared by the landslide although all her belongings were soaked wet by heavy rains brought by Urduja on Dec. 16.

Palahos’ house was just 200 meters from where the landslide struck.

Other residents said they would celebrate Christmas just to be thankful for being alive.

Surviving Urduja, according to Nida Palompon, 55, was more reason to celebrate Christmas.

“God protected us,” said Palompon, resident of the village of Bari-is in Caibiran, another town in Biliran hit hard by Urduja on Dec. 16.
She said she would gather her family for a meal of stir-fried noodles, fish and pork dishes.

A road in Daanbantayan, Cebu province, is cut in half as “Urduja” struck the town and left damaged infrastructure in its wake.

Among those she expected to arrive was her son, Arnel, 30, who lived in the village of Cabibihan, which was also hit by a landslide that killed 16 people.

Arnel’s house was spared.

Thanksgiving prayer

Rey Fajardo, 49 and resident of the village of Cogon in Naval, said he and his 87-year-old mother, Antonia, would go to Church in thanksgiving for surviving Urduja.

Fajardo, a teacher, said flooding reached his home, forcing him to move his mother to a neighbor’s house that was on higher ground.
The flooding took place after a dike along the Anas-Atipolo River breached.

Fajardo said he had prepared food items for the Christmas meal before Urduja struck but he was no longer in the mood to celebrate so he gave the food to a younger brother, Criston.

The four residents, however, expressed belief that the gloom now enveloping the town, and the rest of the province, was just temporary.
Soon, they believe, the people of Biliran would be back on their feet.

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TAGS: Biliran, Christmas, survivors, urduja
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