Tacloban City completed three days of memorial activities on Thursday as it remembered the thousands of its residents who perished amid the widespread destruction brought about by super typhoon “Yolanda” when it struck four years ago.
“We wanted the memorial to be meaningful and heartfelt,” said Mayor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez, whose husband Alfred was mayor when “Yolanda” struck in November 2013.
The commemoration started off with thanksgiving Masses and wreath-laying ceremonies in Tacloban and Palo, Leyte on Tuesday, Nov. 7. A landmark was highlighted at the site of the MV Eva Jocelyn—a ship that washed ashore at the Anibong community in Tacloban during the height of the super-storm, crushing several shanty houses and killing their residents in the process.
The city government has converted MV Eva Jocelyn into a tourist destination. “It is now the Anibong Memorial Landmark that will serve as a reminder to future generations how the city recovered from the ruins,” said City Administrator lawyer Irene Chiu.
Wednesday, Nov. 8, started with a commemorative early morning walk from the Tacloban City Hall to the city convention center, followed by two thanksgiving Masses at the Astrodome and the Holy Cross Memorial mass grave in Barangay Basper, officiated by Palo Archbishop John Du.
Mayor Romualdez and her husband led the lighting of 7,000 candles along the city’s roads, as thousands lined the streets to light candles in memory of their loved ones who died in the typhoon. Foreign dignitaries and representatives of humanitarian organizations that helped rebuild the city attended the commemoration.
Another wreath was laid and offered at a spiral structure of the Tacloban City Convention Center, which was turned into an evacuation center for 8,000 people during the typhoon’s aftermath.
The day ended with the offering of flowers and candles on a raft for those who died in the waters of Cancabato Bay at Balyuan port, and the lighting and release of hundreds of sky lanterns at the Balyuan grounds.
“I was touched with the blessing of the three mass graves in the town, followed by the release of white doves. It was so meaningful to me,” said city native and Miss Philippines candidate Patrick Asturias, whose family businesses were washed away in the storm surge floods created by “Yolanda.”