TACLOBAN CITY -- Thousands of "Yolanda" survivors will visit nameless graves this All Saints' Day to remember their loved ones who perished when the monster typhoon ravaged central Philippines nearly four years ago.
Jocefine Fallier, 39, has been regularly visiting the mass grave at Holy Cross Memorial in Basper village here to remember five family members killed by Yolanda’s storm surges in 2013.
Fallier was at the mass grave site late Sunday afternoon offering flowers for her sister, grandfather, grandmother, aunt, and niece who all died when storm surges hit their community in San Jose district.
She is unsure if all her family members are buried there except for her sister, Jackelyn. The rest are still missing.
Fallier's loved ones are just few of the 2,273 bodies buried late 2013 at the mass grave in this city, considered as Yolanda’s ground zero. The site is dotted with white wooden crosses and some tombstones. Some people picked a cross and wrote the names of their family members on it.
Verona Opino, 36, just picked a cross at the center to write the name of her husband killed by huge waves in the city’s Magallanes district.
“Our village official just told me that my husband’s body was brought to the mass grave here. I’m not sure of the specific ground where he was buried,” Opino shared.
Mayor Cristina Romualdez said the city government has been funding the vegetation control at the mass grave site whole year round.
“We will also have a project next year. It is a sort of a memorial with statue of crying crucified Christ that will rise at the Holy Cross. This will be for local memorial tourism," Romualdez told reporters on Monday.
In the nearby town of Palo, the mass grave site is located in front of the Roman Catholic Church and along a major thoroughfare in Leyte. It is the final resting place of 378 residents of the village and some unknown casualties of the Yolanda tragedy.
A non-government organization converted the place into a flower garden and engraved the names of victims on a granite built near the garden’s gate.
Marilou Bidua, 44, who lost her husband when storm surges hit their village, said that during the commemoration of the All Souls' Day and super typhoon Yolanda anniversaries, she visits the site to light up candles, bring flowers and pray for the soul of her husband.
Bidua admitted that it is still hard for her to move on from the tragedy that happened almost four years ago. She said that whenever she visits the site, she does not feel like being there because the pain of remembering how her husband died keeps coming back.
"I saw how my husband helped our neighbors out of the strong water current. He was hit by a log and drowned. Everything is still on my mind," she said.
On the other side of the mass grave stood Corazon Pudadera, 50, from Babatngon, Leyte, who also lost her husband during the typhoon.
Pudadera's husband was working as caretaker of a fishpond in San Joaquin village when the typhoon hit central Philippines. She described him as a family-oriented man.
"Two days before Yolanda, he returned home in Babatngon and told me to ensure safety of our children since the typhoon was very strong," said Pudadera as she recalled her husband’s final words.
Pudadera still visits the site regularly although her husband's name is not engraved in the granite. It is her way of trying to move on from the tragedy.
After the observance of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, families of Yolanda victims will revisit mass graves to commemorate the fourth year of the super typhoon on November 8. (With reports from Ali Krause Gamana & Christine Quimbo, OJT/PNA)