Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

In typhoon’s wake, Christmas infused with tragedy

Philippines Typhoon Christmas

Typhoon survivor visit a restaurant pizza in Tacloban, Philippines, Friday Dec 20, 2013. Powers have been restored and markets have reopened in many places but mostly, Christmas in the areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan that struck Central Philippines on Nov. 8 will be a celebration amid deprivation in tents, makeshift homes and damaged churches.(AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

TACLOBAN, Philippines — Christmas lights blink in a handful of restaurants in Tacloban, but at nightfall, much of this city flattened by Typhoon Haiyan slips into darkness.

A few downtown shops have reopened. Roadside vendors peddle fruits of the season: oranges and red apples. There is rebuilding, though much of it consists of residents hammering shelters out of scavenged debris.

The Nov. 8 typhoon killed more than 6,100 people in the eastern Philippines, displaced at least 4 million others and left its most gruesome mark on Tacloban, a city of 240,000 that will need years to recover.

Soon after the storm, Philippine Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla promised to restore power by Christmas Eve or resign, and indeed, electricity has returned to nearly all of the more than 300 towns that lost it. But relatively few people are able to use it. Officials say many storm-ravaged houses and shops will spend the holidays in the dark because their wiring systems are damaged.

City Hall, a seaside hilltop complex surrounded by ruins, buzzes with typhoon relief work, with dozens of staffers and foreign aid workers busy on the phone or huddled in talks.

“I am hoping by a year you’ll see some significant improvements,” Mayor Alfred Romualdez says. But he’s not sure when his city will fully bounce back.

Christmas Day Mass here will be celebrated by the papal envoy. There will be a Christmas Eve dinner for foreign aid workers and local officials.

But mostly, Christmas will be a celebration amid deprivation, in tents, makeshift homes and damaged churches. The smell of death remains in parts of the city. Thousands of people have simply left.

“Many of them, I know, prefer not to spend it here,” Romualdez says. “Maybe a change of scenery first and then come back after the holidays.”

___

Fire officer Rolando Unay gently lifts a black cadaver bag left on a roadside by villagers in Tacloban city. “It’s a child,” he tells his team of corpse collectors.

As their orange dump truck cruises along a main road adorned with Christmas trees, motorists and passers-by cover their noses.

More than six weeks after Typhoon Haiyan struck, leaving well over 2,000 people dead in Tacloban alone, this sad work continues. Soldiers, police, firefighters and volunteers have cleared what had been a heartbreaking landscape of bodies strewn across the ruined city, but the stench in scattered mounds of debris means there are more left to find.

Unay, a doting grandfather with five children, says that although the work is difficult he sees the good in it.

“Every time I lift a child’s body, I could feel that the agony of a parent, a family somewhere, is about to end,” he said Friday.

At a corner, a distraught fisherman, Hubert Labanan, waves at Unay’s truck to stop. He points to the remains of his mother by the roadside. Villagers found her remains under a pile of wood and other debris that they cleared while preparing to repair a house.

Holding back tears, Labanan tells Unay’s crew that he had lost his own home in the storm and was too poor to bury his mother in a cemetery. He begged that she be taken to a mass grave.

As Unay’s team left with his mother’s remains, Labanan waved goodbye, then stood motionless until the orange truck vanished from his sight.

___

In early November, Eledio Moro thought he had Christmas figured out. He was going to surprise his 2-year-old daughter, Aubrey, with a pink toy motorbike. For his wife, a gold bracelet, or maybe an expensive Western-brand shirt.

He owned a restaurant and a money-lending business. His new house was one of the grandest in the poor coastal neighborhood. Last year, he draped it in the best and brightest Christmas lights.

“We worked hard and were doing well then suddenly, like a bubble that burst, I lost everything,” he says.

Like many in Tacloban, Moro ignored an order from authorities to evacuate as Haiyan approached, thinking his house could withstand the storm.

He and his family were huddled by the staircase when a cargo ship, swept inland by the massive storm surge, smashed into the house, knocking them into the water.

He survived by grabbing a piece of bamboo. Now all that is left of his home is the staircase, a wall and a second-floor balcony beside the huge, steel-hulled ship, still stuck by the road.

Moro, 41, now lives with his sister. Sleeping tablets have helped him get through the worst of the past six weeks, he says.

On Christmas, he will visit the graves of his wife and his daughter, “to ask forgiveness for not having been able to save them.”

___

Although its roof got blown off by Haiyan’s wind and it became a burial ground for dozens of typhoon victims, the Roman Catholic cathedral in Palo, near Tacloban, hosted a festive event a day before Christmas: the mass wedding of 98 couples.

Originally scheduled for 147 couples on Nov. 16, the wedding was postponed when the monster storm struck, damaging the church’s interior, breaking its stained glass windows and scattering its pews.

A smaller number registered for Tuesday’s ceremony, apparently because the other couples left the region after the storm, said Monsignor Bernie Pantin, who officiated the wedding.

“I praised them for their strong faith whatever happens,” Pantin said.

Workers draped the roof with tarpaulins ahead of Christmas but part of the altar still got wet from a downpour later Tuesday. Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, the papal envoy to the Philippines, was to celebrate a Christmas Eve Mass at the damaged cathedral.

___

At night in Tacloban’s dark and dreary downtown, Joseph Bonavitacola’s restaurant is filled with chatter, mostly of foreign and local aid workers. His brick oven hardly gets any rest.

Red Christmas lanterns, lights and decor adorn window panes and a brick wall at Giuseppe’s, which has the ambiance of fine dining in Manila, the Philippine capital.

It’s hard to imagine how the Italian businessman, who has lived in the city for 20 years with his Filipino wife, reopened the place less than three weeks after Typhoon Haiyan devastated about 4,000 businesses. Only about 5 percent have reopened, officials say.

“The water was about this high,” Bonavitacola says, pointing to the chest-high wooden cashier counter. “The bar was down. The chiller was by the door. The doors were broken. There was lots of mud. Everything was upside down.”

Frightened by a jailbreak and lootings, he left for Manila with his family but returned after three days to start a massive cleanup with 20 employees. He fixed damaged equipment and got supplies from another branch of his restaurant.

Despite a power outage, he reopened Nov. 24 with candlelit tables. His message, exclaimed on a big sign outside: Rise Tacloban.

He also owns 10 meat shops that were inundated, and has begun to reopen them, keeping prices at pre-typhoon levels.

Outside his crowded restaurant, armed policemen stand guard. Most nearby shops remain shut.

“We try to make it feel as normal as possible,” says Bonavitacola’s wife, Catheryn. “Because outside, it’s still depressing.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

 
Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 4 Comments

.

Opinion

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Jean Sophia Ruckdeshel

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Robert James Carty Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9