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Haiyan survivors continue to find solace in Black Nazarene

Four years after disaster, they are paying homage to replica of 16th century sculpture of Jesus carrying the cross

Elmer Recuerdo, Tacloban

Elmer Recuerdo, Tacloban

Published: November 05, 2017 05:00 PM GMT

Updated: November 06, 2017 10:09 AM GMT

Haiyan survivors continue to find solace in Black Nazarene

A woman arranges what remains of an altar inside a devastated chapel in Leyte province in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan in 2013. (Photo by Vincent Go)

Filipino Catholics who were affected by the devastation brought about by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 continue to find solace in their devotion to the Black Nazarene.

People from all over Eastern Visayas region in the central Philippines flocked to the city of Tacloban this week to pay homage to an image of the Black Nazarene.

The image, a replica of a life-sized 16th century sculpture of a dark-skinned Jesus carrying the cross, was brought to Tacloban in time for the fourth anniversary of Haiyan's landfall this week.

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Father Erby Davy Lajara, parish priest of San Jose Parish in the city, said people in Easter Visayas "have a great devotion to the Black Nazarene."

"We can empathize with the Black Nazarene because it depicts the sufferings that Christ went through. We can feel that our sufferings are made lighter knowing that God is with us," said the priest.

Father Lajara said the image was brought to the city due to the appeal of parishioners and pilgrims from different parts of the region.

"They want to express their gratitude to God, and at the same time to express the pain that many of them are still experiencing," said the priest.

He said the presence of the image of the Black Nazarene whose feast is celebrated every January in Manila "unites the people in the grace of the Lord."

"This visit of the Black Nazarene brings to our people so much blessings, grace, happiness, hope, and peace to all of us," said Father Lajara.

One devotee, 42-year-old Teresita Homeres attests to how her prayers to the Black Nazarene saved her two young children that she left in Tacloban in 2013.

"Only a miracle saved my family because we lived right on the shore," she said. "My mind was telling me that it's impossible for them to survive but I knew that God will not abandon me," Homeres said.

Since the image of the Black Nazarene arrived in the city last week, Homeres and her family held a nightly vigil. "This is our way of thanking God for keeping my family safe," she said.


Aid to survivors remains wanting

In the province of Northern Samar, disaster survivors who organized themselves into an organization dubbed People Surge called on the government to stop sending soldiers to disaster-affected communities.

"Human-induced disasters like militarization are within government's sphere of priorities while our basic needs for recovery have been relegated to the backseat," said Jemmar Tenedero, chairman of the organization.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed troops in the region to go after communist rebels after talks for a negotiated peace agreement failed early this year.

People Surge, however, said alleged human rights violations perpetrated by state forces, and government inaction over rehabilitation issues have added to the people's hardships.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon to ever made landfall in recorded history, signaled the arrival of successive typhoons in the central Philippines that ravaged the region.

"The immediate effect of nature's fury to our economically-vulnerable communities is nothing less of worsening hunger and poverty," said Tenedero.

A report from the Department of Agriculture revealed that rice production in Northern Samar province posed a steady drop in the past three years.

In 2014, rice production in the province was at 117,965 metric tons, but in 2016, it dropped to 111,086 metric tons.

Damaged abaca plantations after the series of typhoons was at 99.97 percent, affecting thousands of farmers and fiber loss worth more than US$3.4 million.

At the House of Representatives, a proposal has been passed to declare Nov. 8 of every year "Typhoon Yolanda Resiliency Day" in the Eastern Visayas region.

Representative Yedda Marie Romualdez said her measure will honor those who perished during the disaster and those who helped the region recover.

She said remembering the day of the disaster does not celebrate the tragedy "but the strength and resilience of our people (and) of our phenomenal capacity to survive."

"The pain caused by [Haiyan] is somewhat negated by the phenomenal opportunity to be able to build back better, given the overwhelming support that comes our way," said Romualdez.

Super Typhoon Haiyan that hit the country in 2013 affected 1.5 million families, 18,261 of whom lost their homes.

Official government figures placed the number of those who died at 6,300 while 1,061 others were declared missing, and 28,689 were injured.

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