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50,000 candles line roads for Yolanda anniversary

TOLOSA (Agencies) : Almost two years after super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) pummeled the Central Visayas, the massive death toll is still deeply imprinted on the hearts and minds of local people.

Although the government pegged the official death toll from the super typhoon at 6,300 with 1,061 missing and unaccounted for, forensic experts claim the actual number of deaths is closer to 18,000, including missing victims, three times higher than the official estimate.

In the early days after the typhoon struck, the mayor of Tacloban, Alfred Romualdez, put his estimate of the death toll at 10,000, but maybe in an effort to embarrass his political foe, the president, Noynoy Aquino, lambasted the struggling mayor saying that it would be no more than 2,000 to 3,000.

But the huge loss of life has left survivors with the consciousness that their lives really are on loan and, as a gesture of gratitude and respect for their loved ones and neighbours who died, 50,000 candles were lit along the roadsides of Tacloban City, Palo, Tanauan and Tolosa on the second anniversary of the tragedy, November 8.

Civic and Church organisations in Tacloban City cooperated in preparation for the Candlelight Memorial, as well as other activities to mark the anniversary.

“This is basically a solemn spiritual expression of the people, continuing what was done last year,” the parish priest of St. Michael Archangel and head of the memorial committee, Monsignor Alex Opiniano, said.

CBCP News reported that priests from the parishes along the main road traversing Tacloban City, Palo, Tanauan and Tolosa blessed the candles, as well as the participants in the memorial activity.

Jude Acidre, from Tingog Sinirangan, stressed that the memorial was open to anyone who wanted to offer a prayer in memory of those who perished, as well as express gratitude for the second life that was loaned to the survivors, regardless of religious affiliation or political persuasions.

Acidre said prayer cards were distributed along the long avenues of candles to serve as a souvenir for those who came to pay their respects.

A former seminarian and well-known community organiser in the area, Acidre said the city’s radio stations did a simultaneous broadcast of prayers and reflections, as well as putting to air a musical concert entitled, Laudato Si (Praise Be: On care for our common home), by the Eastern Visayas
Choral Association, led by University of The Philippines Visayas
Tacloban Choir master, Stephen Lagarde.

Archbishop John Du, from Palo, celebrated a commemorative Mass at the Palo Cathedral on the morning of November 8 and another in the afternoon at the seaside church of Sto. Niño.

The afternoon Mass preceded the candle-lighting ceremony and prayer.

A private group called One Tacloban spearheaded a similar candle-lighting ceremony along the main thoroughfares of Tacloban City on the first anniversary commemoration of the tragedy.

A Mass and blessing of graves was held at the mass graveyard in northern Barangay Basper in Tacloban.

This year, the memorial activities for Yolanda victims were synchronised and coordinated with the Candlelight Memorial led by the committee of Monsignor Opiniano.