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Families visit mass graves, tears shed on one year of Yolanda

White crosses were put on each grave of a Tacloban City resident killed by Super Typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8, 2013. The relatives themselves wrote the names on the crosses. Philstar/Angelo Gutierrez

A year after typhoon Yolanda tore across the Eastern Visayas, many families still can’t believe what struck the country as thousands of lives were lost to the typhoon.

Typhoon Yolanda claimed over 7,350 lives, on record is the strongest typhoon ever to hit land descended on land.

Despite rebuilding efforts by the government, survivors of the typhoon hardly felt any improvement as some resorted to different work just to get by.

As survivors mark the first year of the anniversary of the onslaught of Yolanda on Saturday, many of them visited the mass graves of their lost loved ones—children, elderly, all ages—and offered prayers and talked to them knowing they are in a better place.

President Benigno Aquino III defended the government’s relief efforts to bring back the devastated areas of Yolanda to normalcy.

“Curse me, criticize me but I believe I must do the right thing,” Aquino said.

“I am impatient like everyone else but I have to stress that we can’t rebuild haphazardly. We have to build back better … let’s get it right the first time and the benefits should be permanent,” the President said in a speech at the hard-hit town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar on Friday.

The Aquino administration is in question for the slow pace of the rehabilitation efforts in Eastern Visayas.

Just last week, Aquino approved the government’s P160-billion reconstruction master plan.

“Houses or new roads cannot be built overnight… What is important is we have clear targets, there is a clear plan to achieve these targets,” he said.

Aquino skips Tacloban

Tacloban City, the most devastated and whipped area by Yolanda, was not visited by Aquino and City Mayor Alfred Romualdez it would have been better if Aquino was there to condole with the families.

“I leave it up to the President … tao na lang ang maghusga diyan on how they feel about it, but as far as I’m concerned it would [have been] nice if he visited also places that he has not yet visited so that he can see what’s going on there,” Romualdez said.

Instead of Tacloban City, Aquino visited Guiuan town, where Yolanda made lanfall on November 8 last year.

Other top officials including Sen. Bongbong Marcos, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez joined the hundreds of Tacloban City residents in remembering their dead during simple rites at the Holy Cross Memorial at the Holy Cross Memorial in Barangay Basper.

Mayor Romualdez said that the ceremony is also for the more than 600 residents of Tacloban who are still missing.

“It’s important that we put a memorial here because many of the families did not just lose one family member… some of them even lost 15,” he said.”They never had time to mourn their dead because they were busy reconstructing their lives.”

Local officials at the memorial told reporters that last November 1, those who lost relatives from the onslaught of super typhoon went to the memorial and started marking white crosses with names.

A total of 2,274 people were buried at the memorial site.

“It’s only now, All Souls Day onward, that they really reflect and they look back and nami-miss nila ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay. Papasok na rin ang pasko, ‘yan importante. Kasama sa kutura natin at least meron silang napupuntahan every year at nakikita nila alam nila na naaalagaan ang mga patay. In our culture we respect our dead and we treat our dead sacred,” he said.

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