Via Sun.Star.com.ph: In typhoon's wake, Christmas in Tacloban City infused with tragedy.
TACLOBAN — Christmas lights blink in a handful of restaurants, but at nightfall, much of the city flattened by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) slips into darkness.
A few downtown shops have reopened. Roadside vendors peddle fruits of the season: oranges and red apples. There is rebuilding, though much of it consists of residents hammering shelters out of scavenged debris.
The November 8 typhoon killed more than 6,100 people in the eastern Philippines, displaced at least four million others and left its most gruesome mark on Tacloban, a city of 240,000 that will need years to recover.
Soon after the storm, Philippine Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla promised to restore power by Christmas Eve or resign, and indeed, electricity has returned to nearly all of the more than 300 towns that lost it. But relatively few people are able to use it.
Officials said many storm-ravaged houses and shops will spend the holidays in the dark because their wiring systems are damaged.
City Hall, a seaside hilltop complex surrounded by ruins, buzzes with typhoon relief work, with dozens of staffers and foreign aid workers busy on the phone or huddled in talks.
"I am hoping by a year you'll see some significant improvements," Mayor Alfred Romualdez said, but he's not sure when his city will fully bounce back.
Christmas Day Mass here will be celebrated by the papal envoy. There will be a Christmas Eve dinner for foreign aid workers and local officials.
But mostly, Christmas will be a celebration amid deprivation, in tents, makeshift homes and damaged churches. The smell of death remains in parts of the city. Thousands of people have simply left.
"Many of them, I know, prefer not to spend it here," Romualdez said. "Maybe a change of scenery first and then come back after the holidays."
Fire officer Rolando Unay gently lifts a black cadaver bag left on a roadside by villagers in Tacloban city. "It's a child," he tells his team of corpse collectors.
As their orange dump truck cruises along a main road adorned with Christmas trees, motorists and passers-by cover their noses.
More than six weeks after Typhoon Haiyan struck, leaving well over 2,000 people dead in Tacloban alone, this sad work continues. Soldiers, police, firefighters and volunteers have cleared what had been a heartbreaking landscape of bodies strewn across the ruined city, but the stench in scattered mounds of debris means there are more left to find.