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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid