TACLOBAN CITY-“We too wanted to see the Pope!” Thus said some 250 families displaced by supertyphoon Yolanda now temporary taking shelters in bunk houses in Palo, Leyte. The families are asking Catholic Church officials to intervene on their behalf amid reports that they would be relocated to other areas by the municipal government before the arrival of Pope Francis to Leyte next year.

According to the victims, who most of them have lost family members and loved ones during the disaster, they will be moved away from their present bunk houses in the Government Center Area in Barangay Candahug to another resettlement areas in upland villages because the site is said to be used for a vigil during the Pope’s visit. Delia Coritana, 45, who lost her husband and a child, said she felt being deprived of an opportunity to see the Pope in person if the plan will push through either on October or November. “We were informed that this area will be cleaned. We are hurt; we feel like we are being thrown away. We feel that they are ashamed of us. Please help us,” Coritana said in an interview. Reports said that the families would be sheltered in Barangay Tacuranga where several bunk houses remain unused up to this time since these were constructed by the national government. Coritana said that once the Holy Father leaves Leyte after his visit, they would be asked to return again to their bunk houses.

Jose Aldeza, another survivor, said he is opposing the plan because the bunk houses in the village of Tacuranga, about 7 kilometers away from their present location, will bring further inconvenience to them.
“We are requesting that if they are going to proceed with the plan, we hope that they can wait until Christmas vacation so that the schooling of our children will not be stopped,” he said. “We are saddened by the news. We are asking for help that the plan will not happen,” said Ronalyn Sabala, 34, shelter leader in the area. Although Sabala said that they are left with no choice if the plan will be implemented, she is also appealing to Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla that their impending transfer will be deferred until classes will take a break on December this year.

According to Sabala, they were not told exactly when they would be asked to move out from their present temporary shelters. “If we will be transferred next month or by November, what would happen to our children who are still in school? The travel time and cost of transportation will be an additional burden to us,” Sabala said. Sabala said that they are having a signature campaign for their petition to the mayor, hoping that their move “will soften her heart and that she will listen to our plea.” Sabala added that that are also willing to transfer if the new area where they will be brought into is already ready for permanent housing. The survivors said that they would transfer to the new site if it would mean permanent shelter for them. (RONALD O.REYES)