On the 10th year ‘Yolanda’ anniversary
TACLOBAN CITY-President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. led in the 10th year anniversary of the onslaught of Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ on Wednesday (Nov. 8) here in the city, considered the ground zero of the world’s strongest typhoon to hit inland.
But due to bad weather, the President was not able to offer his prayers and flowers at the ‘Yolanda’ monument, where the names of the more than 2,200 people from the city who perished due to Yolanda were inscribed.
Still, the President urged those who perished due to Yolanda should not to be forgotten as he again expressed his doubt as to the real number of persons who died when Yolanda smashed its full fury to the city, in particular, 10 years ago.
“The devastation we suffered included over 6,000 lives lost, over 28,000 injured, over a thousand missing, and over three million families affected. And to this day, we still do not know the true scope of our loss because we grieve and we mourn those of our dead,” he said in his speech during the commemorative program held at the astrodome, which served as an evacuation center and temporary shelter for the typhoon victims.
“So, even if that is the case, let them not be unremembered. So, when we grieve and when we mourn for our dead, keep a special place in your heart for those who have not been known to have gone but we know in our hearts, we know the loss that we feel. Let us always pray for them,” he further added.
Mr. Marcos, in his speech, also acknowledged the pivotal role played by the international organizations, various governments, and local aid groups for coming to the city during those times as they extended the needed assistance to the typhoon survivors.
“I know that everyone here had a part to play in the recovery but we cannot overstate the importance of the efforts of the different countries who came to the Philippines to assist – the NGOs, the international NGOs, the local NGOs that came and helped with the rebuilding and the rehabilitation and the recovery,” he said.
“You stayed with us and stayed with us for years until you could see that we had recovered. And for that, we owe you a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay,” he added.
He further said: “So, to all the national leaders, all the local leaders, then and now, the private sector, the international [and] local organizations, volunteers, [and] donors: Accept our eternal gratitude.”
Among those present were representatives of different international and local humanitarian groups that came to Tacloban.
Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian and Thailand Ambassador Tull Traisorat were among the dignitaries who also witnessed the commemorative program.
The President arrived at the venue at around 9:21 am and was welcomed by Leyte congressman and Speaker Martin Romualdez, and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez.
Both local officials, cousins of the President, expressed their gratitude for Mr. Marcos coming to the event, the second time since he assumed the presidency in 2022.
Also present were Senators Mark Villar and Francis Tolentino, Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo, Environment Sec.Maria Antonia Loyzaga, Interior Sec.Benhur Abalos, and Housing Sec.Jose Rizalino Acuzar.
In his speech, the President also directed the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the National Housing Authority ‘to accelerate the provision of housing units and land titles to our beneficiaries.”
“But the work is not done, there are still many who continue to await our assistance. So, we have engaged the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the National Housing Authority to accelerate the provision of housing units and land titles to our beneficiaries,” he said”.
“I also urge the Yolanda Response Clusters to work closely with concerned local governments to address the lingering issues of the different affected communities. Let us continue to work hard so that we can provide them with the tools and the resources to rebuild their lives,” he said.
During the event, Mr. Marcos also led in the handing of certificates of ownership to nine housing beneficiaries.
Based on the records of the NHA regional office, out of the 69,969 housing units it was tasked to build in areas hit by Yolanda in Eastern Visayas, 51,857 units have been completed of which 40,393 are now occupied by the recipients or 77.89 percent.
Meantime, several local government units pummeled by Yolanda also observed the 10th year anniversary with masses and offering of flowers for the departed due to the monstrous typhoon.
But for Guiuan, Eastern Samar Mayor Annaliza Gonzales Kwan, the ‘mourning’ period is over adding that they are more concerned in development of their town.
“After the storm, the sun shines in Guiuan. Guiuan has recovered and built back better. We are better off now than before Yolanda-the lesson learned from that devastation is what makes us going,” she said.
It was in Guiuan that Yolanda made its landfall, killing 101 people with 16 missing and P7.6 billion estimated damages.
Survivors of the typhoon who lost their loved ones offered their prayers and flowers at the Holy Cross cemetery in Barangay Basper where the mass grave was put up by the Tacloban city government weeks after Yolanda unleashed its fury.
Nerissa Estrada and Juvilyn Tañega, who used to live in Sitio Alimasag in Barangay 88, San Jose, the hardest-hit village in the city, were among those who visited the mass grave.
Both said that while they were not able to find their loved ones who died due to Yolanda, they hoped that they were among the 2,200 persons buried there.
Estrada, who lost her mother, sibling, and son, offered her prayer and candles in a graveyard which she is not sure if her loved ones were actually buried there.
The mass grave was made hastily to avoid the possible spread of disease at that time reason there were no identifications of the dead persons.
JOEY A. GABIETA/ROEL T. AMAZONA