News / Asia

Philippine Typhoon Survivors Struggle to Salvage Christmas

Children, victims of super typhoon Haiyan, decorate their improvised Christmas tree with empty cans and bottles at the ravaged town of Tanuan, Leyte province, central Philippines, Dec. 19, 2013.
Children, victims of super typhoon Haiyan, decorate their improvised Christmas tree with empty cans and bottles at the ravaged town of Tanuan, Leyte province, central Philippines, Dec. 19, 2013.
Reuters
Philippine mother Rhodora Tonningsen has no tinsel or ornaments for her Christmas tree this year, so she's decorated it with packets of instant noodles and empty sardine cans from relief supplies handed out to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.
 
Across the center of the mostly Catholic Philippines, people are scraping together whatever they can to celebrate Christmas, nearly seven weeks after the storm. Some are struggling to cope with their grief.
 
Tonningsen, 43, a single mother of four, pried a battered, three-foot artificial Christmas tree from the bank of mud and debris thrown up by the storm by her tiny, partly damaged home in the town of Palo, and put it up on the front porch.
 
“I just washed it so we'll have some semblance of Christmas, even if we're in dire straits,” said Tonningsen, standing outside her home, now patched with corrugated iron also salvaged from the debris.
 
“We may be in ground zero, but it's OK - as long as we are alive and our family is intact,” she continued.
 
The Nov. 8 storm was one of the strongest ever to hit land. It wiped out virtually everything in its path, killing more than 6,100 people. Another 1,800 are listed as missing.
 
More than four million people are homeless, celebrating Christmas in tents, evacuation centers, or in the ruins of their houses.
 
Peter Lacandazo, 56, is for the first time spending Christmas without most of his family. Twenty-two relatives, including his wife, five daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren, drowned when the storm surge crashed ashore.
 
“I said to myself earlier in church that I should have died along with them,” Lacandazo said as he stood outside a tent in what used to be the garage of his family compound.
 
Lacandazo, his son and a grandson, the only family he has left, will hear midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and leave some food on a grave where his family is buried.
 
“They are together, they are many. So they won't be sad, unlike us,” Lacandazo said.
 
About 90 percent of the Philippines' 97 million people are Christian, most Roman Catholics.
 
Palo town is in Leyte, an island province which suffered the highest death toll. Businesses are still largely shuttered, power has yet to be fully restored, and security is fragile in some areas where carpetbaggers and thieves roam, residents say.
 
Many survivors find strength in church.
 
“Faith, we're keeping the faith,” said Ronald Lago, 47, after a dawn Mass with his family. “We are together and that's all that matters,” he said as a Philippine Christmas carol played out over the church's speakers.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid