‘Yolanda’ survivors struggle to move on, two years after the tragedy

By Sarwell Q. Meniano & Keyrve B. Homeres

TACLOBAN CITY, Nov. 9 (PNA) – When everyone was listening to the message of a Roman Catholic priest during a mass at a common grave in Basper village Sunday afternoon, two persons were in the field of white crosses, weeping for the loss of their loved ones.

Two years after the catastrophe, the two are still clueless if they were lighting a candle and offering flower in the exact spot where their love ones were actually buried.

When the city government put white wooden crosses in late 2013, family members had to pick a cross and put a label on it.

Andy Quesel, 39, from Naga-Naga village was sitting alone, facing the knee-high white crosses marked with names of his two children killed by the monster typhoon on Nov. 8, 2013. He brought with him his children’s favorite food as an offering – pasta, cake, and chicken adobo.

“It is really hard to accept because they both died instantly. It’s really painful thinking about how the seawater killed them,” recalled Quesel, as tears rolled down his cheeks. The father, his wife and the only survivor child regularly visit the mass grave.

Big waves demolished their house, sweeping them to different directions. It took him days to find the dead bodies of his two children. He brought the cadavers to roadside and they were buried by local authorities along with 2,000 other casualties.

Quesel is still waiting for the result of DNA test to locate the exact spot where his two children were laid to rest

Two years had past, Carol Lugasan, 53, from the coastal Sagkahan district is still grieving for the untimely demise of his only brother, who was swept away by violent waves.

“We can’t escape not to remember the tragedy that happened. It’s been two years I am still missing him so much,” Lugasan sobbed.

Just like other survivors, she hopes to locate the exact spot of his brother’s burial ground through DNA test conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation.

Although he understands that the process is tedious and costly, Mayor Alfred Romualdez vowed to work closely with the central government to facilitate the identification process.

Lugasan also asked the city government to replace wooden cross with gravestones since its already rotting.

In a mass held at Holy Cross Memorial Park near the common grave, Catholic priest Adrian O. Ladines spoke of hope for the people of Tacloban, who have been struggling to move on.

“Even in the middle of hardships, we never lose hope. Its true when they said that we are roofless, homeless, but not hopeless,” Ladines told the mass attendees.

He also made people realize how great God is, for giving such another chance to live for those who survived. “We are Gods proof of his goodness,” he added.

After the mass, the priests blessed the mass grave. The city government, led by Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin and Councilor Cristina Romualdez offered flowers to victims. (PNA)