November 1, 2016
In time for All Saints’ Day, the members of People Surge light candles at a mass grave site in Tacloban.
“We offer these candles for those who did not make it in Yolanda. We light these candles for our families, friends and neighbors who did not make it to this point,” Marissa Cabaljao, People Surge Secretary-General, said as she leads the prayer.
Basper mass grave site is one of the biggest mass grave sites in Tacloban, hosting thousands of dead bodies dumped after the onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
“These candles may snuff out but our call for justice will continue to burn while both the living and the dead suffer from climate injustice and government negligence,” Cabaljao further said.
Unsure if it is really her husband beneath the tombstone, Lonching, 75, lit three candles for her husband who died when Yolanda struck the Visayas on November 8, 2016. She is a veteran member of Kusog han Barangay 37, an affiliate of People Surge.
The tombstone is now painted in white without name written on it. She was not allowed to write the name of her deceased husband. Should they want to put an identity, they have to buy a gravestone worth Php 500, at least.
Glenn Jomillo, 26, lost his mother when rolling storm surges smashed their house in Barangay Diit, Tacloban City. He now works as a development worker and has been an active member of People Surge since last year.
He said his family only received Php 10,000 worth as death compensation from the government. But before receiving such compensation, he had to go through usual bureaucratic problems including the submission of documents that were washed out during Yolanda.
But for People Surge, no amount of money will compensate the lives lost and the grave injustice during Yolanda.
Faith without action is dead
People Surge lit up three big candles to symbolize three years of injustice. Attendees of the open prayer arranged the candles to form the word ‘justice.’ Cabaljao stressed that up until now, justice remains elusive for both disaster victims and survivors.
Cabaljao noted that three years after Yolanda, disaster survivors who were transferred to permanent shelters continue to suffer because of the substandard, cramped and humid housing units and lack of livelihood.
Meanwhile, farmers who lost their crops after five disasters in a row—Yolanda, Ruby, Glenda, Seniang and Nona—continue to suffer worsening poverty and hunger in the countryside.
“Lighting candles may no longer be enough,” Cabaljao said.
“These prayers should translate into action and demand accountability from the government and the top polluters of the world that further the impacts of this new climate norm. After all, faith without action is dead.”
In the popular encyclical of Pope Francis dubbed “LAUDATO SI,” the Holy Father addressed the world to protect the environment from human-induced destruction in the altar of unfettered capitalism.
Seven days from now, People Surge will commemorate the third year anniversary of the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall on earth.
With the theme, “End three years of poverty, hunger and injustice! Genuine change and accountability for disaster victims!” People Surge, the biggest alliance of disaster survivors, will once again storm the thoroughfares of Tacloban to demand justice and accountability.#
Secretary General of People Surge