Monday , October 3 2022

Five years without family: Hurricane Haiyan survivors still mourn the missing


TACLOBAN, Philippines: "My siblings are Jheraline Limpiado, James Jay, Jhirwin, Apple Joy, Khristine Mae, Geraldine, Jannika, Janeth in April, these are my nine brothers."

Sira Liebiado is uninterrupted with her sense and bravery, as she announces the names of her brothers and sisters. All of them are dead.

It's very amazing, Shyra. The 20-year-old is stoic, like many of the survivors of one of the world's most powerful storms ever recorded, Super Typhoon Haiyan. But after losing 11 members of her family, including her parents, in just one day, she has forged an additional level of determination within her.

Haiyan 2

Shyra Limpiado lost 11 family members during Typhoon Haiyan. (Photo: Recess Panel)

Shyra was the eldest of her siblings. It would help them take care of them, while her father, a fisherman, and her mother, a salesman, would work to support the big family.

He was poor, a typical family lived along the coast of Cancabato Bay in Tacloban.

"We were a happy family despite the fact that we had little money There were times when we did not have food to eat Even if my parents struggled to overcome them my siblings and I were still happy because we were full, We enjoyed our favorite activity, which was singing. "

The hurricane hit five years ago, but Shyra's memory for every moment of its impact is clear and melancholic. He speaks almost poetically about a disaster that has passed countless moments that we remember and we regret.

"The rain felt like needles on my skin," he said.

"As the wind and the rain worsened from 6am, my whole family was thrown into panic. We went out holding the hand of the other and then we saw our house washed in the sea while the neighbor's house had lost its roof.

"I kept on my siblings. The water has already arrived and we have seen things drifting into the ocean.

"My sister and I were trying to stay with each other while the younger ones were shouting that we were going to die." My sister cried my name when we slipped from the other's hand I was struggling to hold my head high so I did not drink seawater.

"The last words I heard from my parents were:" Where are you, my children? "This was when a wave as tall as a house struck us I was separated from my family and I found myself underwater. but I did not know how to swim like my other siblings I thought I was in heaven because I saw a bright light while underwater I prayed to the Lord not to let me die because I wanted to be with my family and finish it school.

Super Hurricane Haiyan

Sira loses her brothers and sisters and still believes that some of them may return alive. (Photo: Recess Panel)

"The spectacle was horrible when we were in elementary school, every structure was flushed, I saw dead bodies hanging on the school gates, and immediately I searched for my family there, but without result.

"I waited until night, hoping that my parents would appear with my siblings too.

"As I came back to my family's home, I recognized my father's dead body with his shirt and jacket he wore." I held my father's ruins in my arms and shouted, "After two weeks of sunshine , his body was inflated and his skin burned. I started to recognize his beautiful face.

"Three weeks after finding my father, my brother's friends asked me to come with them because they had something to show me." I immediately spotted the clothes of my seven-year-old sister, Joy, away from the shore and a dog celebrating her eyes and ears were gone, and I felt sorry for her to leave her during the storm's storm when I saw her dead body.

House damaged by Haiyan

All this remains from the former house of the Lydiaados family. (Photo: Recess Panel)


With such loss and despair, the signs of Haiyan will not disappear easily in Tacloban. Only in the city, at least 3,617 people died.

The story of Shyra is shocking, but not unique in his deep sorrow.

After hurricane and storm, chaos and confusion followed as people struggled to survive, separated from their loved ones and left attached to a full life.

Through the destruction of the city, dead bodies were hurriedly shuffled and moved from one place to another as they began to disintegrate. Normal funeral procedures were impossible.

Cemetery for Haiyan victims

DNA identification has never been completed for thousands of hurricane victims. (Photo: Recess Panel)

According to the command and administration of the local government, the vast majority of the bodies were buried in a mass grave, explains Ildebrando Bernadas, head of the Department of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CDRMM) for Tacloban.

"Just one meter deep we bury them with plastic sheets underneath, then we processed them one by one," he said.The DNA processing began at the same time and the samples were taken from each body and also relatives of those who died.

Shortly before Haiyan's first anniversary – known as Yolanda in the Philippines, officials arranged to build wooden crosses in the cemetery. The inhabitants of Tacloban were trying to connect with their loved ones without having any idea of ​​where they are.

"I left the area but when we returned, all the crosses already had names, people went there and wrote the names, it was very strange, every time we made a cross, one would expect to claim it. people did not start to recover, they did not begin to recover, they were still worried about where their loved ones were, "said Berndas.

These wooden crosses will eventually be replaced by more permanent stone. But one aspect of the mourning process is still missing. The DNA process has never been completed.

Boat destroyed by Haiyan

A broken boat sits along the coastline that has been damaged by Typhoon Haiyan. (Photo: Recess Panel)

To date, the identity of all these people buried in Tacloban is unknown. The names on the crosses have gone a long way. And alternative burials can not be made.

"Where are the results?" The national government, despite many consequences, would always say "not yet." I do not know what really happened, "said Bernadas.

"If the sample of DNA samples ever yields matches then I can pinpoint where your favorite person is."

The DNA process was assigned to the National Research Bureau (NBI), which suspended the valuable profile and exams in November 2015. When it was achieved by Channel NewsAsia, the NBI did not comment on when or whether the process would continue.


Shyra has never visited the cemetery where she suspects that at least two of her family members are. It is very likely that the rest will be buried there, but this is a truth that is not yet willing to accept.

Shyra still hopes her family members will return to her.

Shyra at home Tacloban

Shyra says she hopes to become a teacher in the future. (Photo: Recess Panel)

"I remember my naughty siblings and I miss being with them You are missing them most during their birthdays There are times when I can not help, but I wish that one day my mother or siblings will appear on our doorstep. I also like to think that my parents are somewhere abroad and just did not decide to go back home, "he said.

Accepting the death of someone without proof of a body is a difficult obstacle to overcome, says Bernadas. He has spoken to many people who are reluctant to declare their relatives dead, preferring to keep them on the official list of missing persons.

"It is a pain in their heart to declare them dead." I accompanied a lady waiting for her husband to come home, although there is an inscription on the gates of her house that says "we are waiting for you," he said.

Over the years, the missing registry has dropped to just 273 in Tacloban City. The declaration of death brings sadness but also means that families are entitled to financial assistance.

Tacloban Residential Quarter

Shyra and her younger brother, Josua, live in a relocation area for the victims of the disaster. (Photo: Recess Panel)

Shyra has accepted this payment for her family. And for now there are other day-to-day challenges. She lives in a relocation area for Haiyan survivors to the north of the city, taking care of Joshua's younger brother, the only survivor of her family who lived with grandparents outside of Tacloban when she struck the storm.

Shyra fulfills her goal of finishing high school and is currently in Year 12. She wants to become a teacher in the future.

Their newly constructed home is decorated with framed photographs of happier past days: Their mother with a newborn. a children's band dressed colorfully. The cover of the photo album says "Endless Love".

There is still a deep anxiety here, suppressed by time. Beyond the doors of this house. is shared and stays.

"Only time is measured until after all everything about Yolanda is cured. It's not over yet, "said Bernadas.

"People in their hearts and in their lives … there is still a trauma. During nights, when a strong wind is experienced, they can hear children crying."

If one of those who cried was Sira, nobody could blame her.

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