TACLOBAN CITY– MARY Juliet Karen could still clearly recall the nearly six hours battle with the world’s strongest storm to hit land, ‘Yolanda’ when it leveled this city and killed over 6,000 people on November 8, 2013.
“Yolanda literally pounded us to the grounds,” said Karen, a cultural worker in the city.
“But it was the hours and days and weeks and eventually years after the typhoon that was the real struggle. The life of surviving, the mental struggles in between,” she said.
As the city commemorated the 9th year of Yolanda on Tuesday (November 8), Karen admitted that “we slowly heal and we continue to pray for guidance, healing and strength to those who needed closures.”
“Our stories are facts and perpetual. We may not be glorified, but we live for those who were perished and for others. That is our purpose,” added lawyer Aljim Denver Arcueno added, recalling his own experience during the onslaught of Yolanda.
In Borongan City, Bishop Crispin Varquez offered a prayer for those who died during the storm.
“For this commemoration, let us continue with binding hopefulness and solidarity in the face of so many challenges coming our way and be thankful to the Lord that we have risen from the horrible destruction that super typhoon Yolanda had brought…We also remember the lives that were spared that they may find comfort and strength in God to rebuild and move forward in their lives,” the bishop said.
In their initiative to continue the conversations on Yolanda, members of Katig Network Inc. held a night of poetry and story-telling to remember those who passed away on that day.
While the Eastern Visayas State University in Tacloban also had their last episode of their “Haiyan Conversations” on the role of media in a disaster, with the main speaker, Albert Mulles, the author of non-fiction novel “Typhoon Haiyan the Untold Story: A Story of Hope and Survival”.
“Yolanda was nine years ago. To some people, it’s long forgotten tragedy. But for those who are here and who lost their loved ones, it would take forever,” said Leyte Governor Jericho Petilla, as he led the provincial capitol employees in honoring the seven provincial government personnel who died during the storm.
“Commemoration is remembering those who perished and those who helped us. Most of all, it is telling the surviving members that we did not forget,” he said.
At the Holy Cross Memorial Garden in Tacloban, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. maintained that “it is important that we come to these commemorations because it is also a demonstration, a manifestation of the strength and the courage of Filipinos.”
“To remind ourselves that Filipinos are brave, that Filipinos are kind, and that Filipinos will conquer all, especially if it is for their community, for their families, and for the land that they love. And now to see Tacloban which has, in fact, we have been hearing this phrase for a long time: this build back better. Tacloban has built back better,” Marcos said in his speech during the city-led commemorative program dubbed “Pagdumdum.”
Aside from Mayor Alfred Romualdez, also present during the event were Leyte Rep. and House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, local officials, and other survivors.
Since 2013, the government has been implementing the Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan and providing affected families with food assistance, cash-for-work programs, and Emergency Shelter Assistance, according to Malacañang.
Yolanda displaced more than 3 million families, destroyed more than 1.1 million homes and properties and recorded P90 billion in damages.
(RONALD O. REYES)