Typhoon Haiyan survivors covered in mud tie thousands of white ribbons outside various establishments from Tacloban to Palo, symbolizing the Pope Francis' solidarity with the poor (Photo by Dexter Aserdano)
The color white covered the streets of Tacloban on Wednesday as Typhoon Haiyan survivors, religious representatives and civil society members working under the People’s Committee to Welcome the Pope in Eastern Visayas (People’s Welcome-EV) scoured the city tying thousands of white memorial ribbons.
“We will paint the town white with ribbons to remind the public that the real purpose of Pope Francis’ visit, lest it be forgotten, is the Holy Father’s solidarity with our plight as survivors of Yolanda and other subsequent typhoon disasters,” said Dr Efleda Bautista, convener of People’s Welcome-EV, referring to the typhoon by its local name.
“The ribbons' white color represents purity — that of the pope and the truth that we intend to raise and which the Holy Father himself seeks in his journey to Typhoon Yolanda ground zero," Bautista said.
"It also represents simplicity, as in Pope Francis’ choice to wear simple white robes instead of lavish ones, as symbolic of his giving voice to the cry of the poor,” he continued, adding that because of heavy security they were doubtful their statement could otherwise reach the pope.
Volunteers from the People’s Welcome-EV dramatized the plight of their fellow disaster survivors by daubing mud on their bodies while they tied the ribbons and distributed pamphlets around the streets of Tacloban.
They were later joined by members of the Sisters Association in Mindanao and representatives from Kalumaran, an indigenous peoples association, in the evening to light white candles at a busy road junction to pray for the pope’s safe arrival in Manila on Thursday. The Mindanao sisters and the indigenous laity had journeyed to Tacloban to learn and convey the Pope’s social teachings among Hailan survivors as well as to relay the concerns of the Mindanao people to the pontiff.
“We hope the simple gesture of welcoming Pope Francis with a humble ribbon, in contrast to the layers of expensive and expansive print banners by businesses and politicians, would help fellow Filipinos understand the spirit of the pope’s visit,” Bautista said.
Haiyan survivors also went to the blogosphere to seek a papal audience, and supporters have started wearing white ribbons in their social media profile pictures. Through the assistance of solidarity groups from Canada, they have also launched an Open Letter Video campaign where netizens can watch a 14-minute short documentary that shows survivors rising up to demand justice from negligent authorities, and share their appeal to Pope Francis through his @pontifex twitter account.
“Pope Francis’ visit will show him only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, given the unnecessary highly militarized security surrounding his trip. We hope to further spread our appeal for the pope to stand with us in our continuing struggle for social, environmental, and climate justice through social media given how he is a tech-savvy pontiff,” Bautista said.