Di­vine sign on ground zero

We were in the mid­dle of our novena prayer when we no­ticed the can­dle holder mov­ing, then the flower vase

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - - FRONT PAGE - By Elmer Re­cuerdo

TACLOBAN CITY — The sixth an­niver­sary of ty­phoon “Yolanda” was marked yes­ter­day with a solemn cel­e­bra­tion in the whole of Eastern Visayas, which is still grap­pling with the loss of lives from the strong­est ty­phoon that ever hit the planet and the in­dif­fer­ence that hap­pened shortly af­ter­wards un­der the regime of for­mer pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III.

The heav­ens joined in and man­i­fested its dis­plea­sure in the con­tin­u­ing or­deal of the survivors as a mild quake hap­pened past noon that caused a lit­tle stir as many fam­i­lies were in the midst of the rites in honor of their rel­a­tives and friends who per­ished dur­ing the ty­phoon.

“We were in the mid­dle of our novena prayer when we no­ticed the can­dle holder mov­ing, then the flower vase. Some­body whis­pered linog (earth­quake), then ev­ery­body else stood up and ran to­wards the door,” says Eve­lyn Enci­nas, 27, a mar­ket ven­dor whose brother was among those who died dur­ing “Yolanda.”

“We just waited for a few min­utes out­side the house, and when there was no af­ter­shock, we con­tin­ued with our novena,” she said.

The mag­ni­tude 5.1 earth­quake struck at 1:31 in the af­ter­noon with the epi­cen­ter lo­cated 25 kilo­me­ters south-south­west of Guiuan town, the same town where ty­phoon “Yolanda” made its first land­fall on 8 Novem­ber 2013.

Ac­cord­ing to the Philip­pine In­sti­tute of Vol­canol­ogy and Seis­mol­ogy, the earth­quake reg­is­tered in­ten­sity 4 in Boron­gan City, in­ten­sity 3 in Palo, Leyte and San Fran­cisco, South­ern Leyte, in­ten­sity 2 in Suri­gao City, and in­ten­sity 1 in Or­moc and Gin­goog City.

No dam­age to prop­erty has been re­ported in Leyte as of presstime.

The Na­tional Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion and Man­age­ment Coun­cil sent text mes­sages to all mo­bile sub­scribers in the re­gion about the earth­quake with a fur­ther ad­vice to pre­pare for an af­ter­shock.

In the town of Tanauan, some eight kilo­me­ters from the town of Palo, the tremor was felt, but the peo­ple hardly gave any at­ten­tion as the res­i­dents were fo­cused on the ground­break­ing cer­e­mony for a new hous­ing pro­ject.

Stars on stage

At the time the earth­quake hap­pened, the au­di­ence were be­ing re­galed with a song num­ber by movie ac­tors Philip Sal­vador and Robin Padilla.

In the town of Palo, col­lege stu­dent Joel Cornejo said he was hav­ing a drink of tuba with some of his rel­a­tives when he no­ticed the glasses and plates were mov­ing. He said they were done with the novena for his un­cle and were al­ready hav­ing their lunch when the earth­quake struck.

“I thought that my cousin was just mov­ing his knees when some­body shouted linog,” he said. “We only went out­side the house to wait for a few min­utes. There was no panic. We have been through a lot that is worse than a mild earth­quake, so we know the drill,” he said.

In Manila, about 100 mem­bers of the

Com­mu­nity of Yolanda Survivors and Part­ners (CYSP) from var­i­ous prov­inces af­fected by the storm trooped to sev­eral govern­ment of­fices to de­nounce the fail­ure of the govern­ment to stop in­ef­fi­cien­cies and cor­rup­tion in re­con­struc­tion which led to more sub­stan­dard houses in “Yolanda”af­fected ar­eas.

“We wel­come Pres­i­dent Duterte’s early pro­nounce­ments that he will not tol­er­ate cor­rup­tion and in­ef­fi­ciency in ‘Yolanda’ re­con­struc­tion and those who will not toe the line will be nailed to the cross. While the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion merely in­her­ited the dis­mal re­con­struc­tion, it con­tin­ued un­til this time. This is the rea­son sub­stan­dard houses con­tin­ued to be built along the ‘Yolanda’ cor­ri­dor,” ac­cord­ing to Lita Ba­gu­nas, a leader of Uswag Este, an or­ga­ni­za­tion of survivors in Eastern Sa­mar.

The group noted even con­gres­sional hear­ings such as those con­ducted by the House and the Se­nate failed to come up with re­ports and rec­om­men­da­tions re­lated to the hous­ing re­con­struc­tion.

“One of the ma­jor com­plaints of survivors in­volved the con­struc­tion of sub­stan­dard hous­ing across ‘Yoland’a-af­fected ar­eas. These anom­alies were un­earthed in the con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions and Com­mis­sion on Au­dit re­ports. These re­ports should have com­pelled changes in the hous­ing re­con­struc­tion,” ac­cord­ing to Aaron Pe­drosa of Bulig Visayas, a survivors’ or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Per­sis­tent woes

De­spite the com­plaints, how­ever, survivors in some ar­eas are be­ing made to “self-de­mol­ish” af­ter be­ing told their Na­tional Hous­ing Author­ity (NHA) houses were ready for oc­cu­pancy, such as in the case of Pam­pango in Tacloban City.

Survivors do not be­lieve that the shel­ter units are safe.

“De­spite not hav­ing wa­ter, elec­tric­ity and schools, we are forced to live there. So, we in­cur ad­di­tional ex­penses for fare forc­ing many to just trans­fer res­i­dence or else they sac­ri­fice their food bud­get,” Vin­cent Acosta of G-Watch said.

Not all are trans­fer­ring to govern­ment shel­ter projects since, as re­vealed by the

In­ter-Agency Task Force on Yolanda (IATF), there are 50,000 ready hous­ing units, which cost the govern­ment more or less P15 bil­lion to build, and were un­oc­cu­pied be­cause the con­cerns of survivors have never been gen­uinely ad­dressed.

“This is an enor­mous waste of fund that should not have hap­pened if the govern­ment lis­tens to survivors,” ac­cord­ing to Fara Ga­malo of Free­dom from Debt Coali­tion Eastern Visayas.

Un­con­solable grief

Four prov­inces de­clared a sus­pen­sion of classes and work in govern­ment of­fices to give the peo­ple a chance to join the com­mem­o­ra­tion.

Tacloban City Mayor Al­fred Ro­mualdez has de­clared a hol­i­day in all lev­els both in pub­lic and pri­vate schools as well as work in govern­ment of­fices. The an­nounce­ment was quickly fol­lowed by sim­i­lar mea­sures in the prov­inces of Leyte, Sa­mar, Eastern Sa­mar and Bili­ran, as well as in at least 40 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and ci­ties.

Alex Aguirre, a 37-year-old govern­ment clerk based in Sa­mar, said the sus­pen­sion of work gave him the chance to come home to Tacloban and join his fam­ily in re­mem­ber­ing the death an­niver­sary of four fam­ily mem­bers and close rel­a­tives who per­ished dur­ing the su­per ty­phoon.

“This is im­por­tant for us be­cause we still grieve for the death of our loved ones. This also gives the fam­ily a chance to come to­gether and re­mem­ber our fam­ily mem­bers who are no longer with us,” he added.

Mag­ni­tude 5.1 earth­quake struck at 1:31 in the af­ter­noon with the epi­cen­ter lo­cated 25 kilo­me­ters south-south­west of Guiuan town, the same town where ty­phoon ‘Yolanda’ made its first land­fall on 8 Novem­ber 2013.

Some­body whis­pered linog (earth­quake), then ev­ery­body else stood up and ran to­wards the door.

KHRIZER MALIBAGO

De­cep­tive beauty Tacloban City’s Can­ca­bato Bay bares its mag­nif­i­cence the day af­ter the de­struc­tive ty­phoon “Yolanda” hit. The mon­ster storm left de­bris that lit­tered the wa­ter and its bank.

ELMER RE­CUERDO

Painful me­mories Rel­a­tives of vic­tims of su­per ty­phoon “Yolanda” gather at the Palo Cathe­dral com­pound yes­ter­day to mark the 2013 dis­as­ter.

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