PALO, Leyte -- "I just imagine that they rode the C130 to Manila so I won't feel sad knowing that they are gone forever.” Thus said Janice Palaña, one of the survivors of the most devastating typhoon that ever hit Eastern Visayas.
Palaña, 29, was referring to her personal ordeal she suffered after losing 14 of her family members during the onslaught of Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (Haiyan) on Nov. 8, 2013.
Palaña, who is from Brgy. Salvacion, and her four children went to Palo Cathedral to light some candles and offered flowers to her family on their 9th death anniversary.
Only three bodies of their deceased family members were recovered and buried in a mass grave, while eleven have remained missing.
She remembers being told by her mother to evacuate with her 7-month-old son.
"My mother told me not to hesitate if I feel the need to keep my son safe so we left our home," she said.
Her last conversation with her family was at around 5 p.m. when she was told that some trees had fallen and water was rising from the sea before. Their contacts have been lost since then.
It was only days after when she was finally able to go home that she found out about the tragic deaths of her kin.
"I couldn't believe it at first because I have not seen their bodies. I have not seen any of them being buried," she said.
'Yolanda' has not only claimed the lives of her loved ones but also ruined her marriage.
Palaña said she had to drive a pedicab to sustain her needs and her son whom she was breastfeeding at that time.
She said that she had to work to secure the death certificates of her family even if she was also going through a tough time to survive.
Months later, she went to Manila to work, a decision which led to the separation between her and her husband who died a few years later.
She now has four children with her second husband. However, Palaña said that life has never been the same for her.
“I don't have a mother anymore. She was the person that I would usually run to when I had problems. No one is there to guide us anymore," she lamented.
"All of them used to be there, especially when I gave birth to my eldest son, but now, it's just me and my husband. My two siblings and my father now have families of their own, it's been hard,” she added.
Haiyan has recorded 6,300 deaths with hundreds still missing. The super typhoon also left billions worth of damages in infrastructure, agriculture, and other sectors.
"I pray that they and the other souls find peace and that they will go to heaven. I hope they won't worry about the ones left anymore," she said.
She now lives in a housing project for Post-Haiyan rehabilitation in San Jose village.