Tacloban residents mark Haiyan milestone

A woman, accompanied by young family members, writing the name of a loved one on a cross at a mass graveyard for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan during All Saints' Day in Tacloban city in the Philippines on Nov 1. Many Tacloban residents are still livi
A woman, accompanied by young family members, writing the name of a loved one on a cross at a mass graveyard for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan during All Saints' Day in Tacloban city in the Philippines on Nov 1. Many Tacloban residents are still living in makeshift homes as questions are being raised about the speed of reconstruction.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Philippines unveils memorials, holds masses for 2nd anniversary even as six new bodies found

TACLOBAN • The Philippines yesterday marked the second anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan - with the bodies of possible victims of the disaster, which left at least 7,350 people dead or missing, still being uncovered.

Thousands of residents marked the two-year milestone in the city of Tacloban, which was devastated by the huge storm, as memorials were unveiled and masses held.

The authorities last Saturday confirmed they found six new bodies. The unidentified skeletal remains were found by a man scavenging for wood in the outskirts of the city, according to Tacloban fire chief Charlie Herson.

"These are possible victims of the typhoon. They were buried by debris, in piles of wood," he told Agence France-Presse.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, smashed into the central Philippines on Nov 8, 2013. The once-thriving city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte suffered the worst damage with hundreds of houses washed away by a storm surge.

To mark the tragedy yesterday, special memorials were unveiled and Roman Catholic masses were held for the victims, including the more than 2,400 mostly unidentified bodies buried in a mass grave in Tacloban.

More than a million people were displaced by the typhoon in the already impoverished fishing and farming communities in the central islands.

  • HAIYAN'S DEVASTATION

  • HAIYAN'S DEVASTATION

    • Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, struck the Philippines on Nov 8, 2013.

    • Among the worst hit in the central islands were Leyte and its city, Tacloban.

    • Over a million people in impoverished fishing and farming communities were displaced.

    • At least 7,350 people are dead or missing.

    • Bodies are still being uncovered, with six found under debris on Saturday.

    • The government has a 150-billion-peso (S$4.5 billion) plan to build infrastructure and 205,128 new homes by 2017, but progress has been slow.

Thousands of Tacloban residents are still living in makeshift homes as questions are being raised about the speed of reconstruction.

President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that there would "always be discussions" on the speed of reconstruction, adding: "We understand such sentiments."

Local congressman Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said: "This is still not yet the old Tacloban. This is still not the old Leyte. It will still be a long time before things get back to normal."

Mr Lacierda said that despite local criticisms, foreign agencies, including the United Nations, had said that the Philippines was rebuilding faster than other developing countries struck by comparable natural disasters.

"What befell us was massive and we are continuing to provide assistance... always following our principle, to build back better," he said.

Some Tacloban residents are still clinging to hope that their missing loved ones are still alive.

Single mother Angelina Marquez, 17, said she hoped Remegildo, the father of her child, would reappear two years after he went missing during the storm.

"I still believe that he may have been washed away to a different place and the time will come, like in the movies, when he will come back to me," she said.

Some survivors like Ms Juvelyn Luana are lucky to have been among the 929 families to get new homes from the government.

Ms Luana has a new partner, a new son and a shack far from the deadly shore. "Having a husband and a baby gave my life direction," the 32-year-old told AFP as she scooped water into four grey drums to take to their brick and tin shanty.

The government has a 150 billion peso (S$4.5 billion) plan to build 205,128 new homes by 2017 in the devastated areas, along with roads, bridges and classrooms, but the plan has crawled under the weight of a cumbersome bureaucracy.

Thousands of the less fortunate survivors still live in cramped palm-thatch and wooden temporary shelters.

Though opportunities are scarce, Ms Luana's partner gets occasional carpentry work that pays 350 pesos a day. "We are OK, rebuilding our lives slowly," she said.

"But life here is very difficult."

Like many other survivors, Ms Luana said that aid has not come fast enough.

A promised government loan she had been counting on to start a small business selling rice from her home has not been given.

Ms Luana said that among her aims is buying a television set.

"My neighbours are crazy about soap operas but I want to know when the next typhoon is coming so I can prepare."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Tacloban residents mark Haiyan milestone'. Print Edition | Subscribe