For ‘Yolanda’ survivors, pain of losing kin won’t go away

TRAGIC REMINDER The more than 2,200 white crosses at a section of Holy Cross Cemetery in Tacloban City mark the final resting place of people who died during the onslaught of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) on Nov. 8, 2013. Many of those buried in this mass grave remain unidentified. —JUSINE TRAYA/CONTRIBUTOR

TACLOBAN CITY—Nine years have passed but Elena Caadan has yet to recover from the pain of losing her four children in a storm surge that hit their community at Barangay 88 in San Jose District in the morning of Nov. 8, 2013.

“It has been nine years, (but) up to now, I could (still) remember their cries for help. I wish I could have rescued them but I was also struggling due to the storm surge,” the 38-year-old mother said.

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Her only consolation was she was able to recover the bodies of her children: Angel Mae, 8; Argel, 7; Reana Mae, 3; and Roselyn, 1.

“I recognized them through the clothes they wore (because) I was the one who put on their clothes that day,” she said.

READ: Yolanda Commemoration Day: DFA consular office in Tacloban City to close on Nov 8

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Caadan was among the people who visited the mass grave inside Holy Cross Cemetery in Barangay Basper here on Tuesday, exactly nine years since Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) pummeled Eastern Visayas region.

At least 2,200 people, who died at the height of Yolanda, were buried in the mass grave put up by the city government of Tacloban.

The 1.2-hectare mass grave served as a memorial park with thousands of white crosses. It was where most of the dead, mostly unidentified and decomposing, were hurriedly buried days after the supertyphoon.

Since then, relatives of those who lost their loved ones during the supertyphoon have been visiting the mass grave, especially every All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

According to Caadan, she believes that the four graves she has been visiting for the last nine years are the spots where her four children are buried.

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President’s visit

“I feel this is where they were buried. I feel calm whenever I come here to visit them,” she said.

On Tuesday, Caadan lit candles on the graves and brought an offering of her children’s favorite food—biscuits, a piece of fried chicken and rice cake.

President Marcos visited the mass grave on Tuesday, prayed and offered a wreath for all those buried there.

The President said those who died during Yolanda would never be forgotten, including those who remained “uncounted.”