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Typhoon survivors keep festival spirit alive in Philippines amid massive damage


Typhoon Rai left a trail of destruction, killed at least 375 people with many still missing, and damaged nearly 350,000 houses, but people in the affected areas are soldiering on.

"With or without food on the table, we will celebrate Christmas," said a survivor from Typhoon Rai that battered the central and southern Philippines last week.

The typhoon left a trail of destruction and killed at least 375 people with many still missing.

Gloria Fulido, resident from Bohol province that is one of the hard-hit provinces of Typhoon Rai, believed the festival spirit lives on despite the massive damage.

The most powerful typhoon to slam the Philippines this year knocked out power, telecommunications, and water supplies in regions in its path in the Southeast Asian country.

The national disaster agency said the estimated damage to agriculture and infrastructure has reached over 4 billion pesos (about 80 million U.S. dollars), adding that it damaged nearly 350,000 houses, including Fulido's house.

People take photos in front of a giant Christmas tree during the launch of a Christmas-themed display at a mall in Quezon City, the Philippines, on Nov. 4, 2021. (Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)

Two days before Christmas, Fulido decorated a small Christmas tree and hung the pink star-shaped lantern in front of her roofless house.

"The devastation brought about by the typhoon will not dampen our Christmas spirit," she added.

Christmas is usually marked by big celebrations in the Philippines. Traditional religious activities, family gatherings and endless parties are held during the holiday season. For the past few days, people thronged to Metro Manila bus stations and airports to head to their hometowns to celebrate the holidays season with relatives amid the threat of COVID-19 infections.
But in Fulido's neighborhood, many houses are "sky-roofed" after the typhoon. Plastic sheets are used as temporary roofs.

Photo shows a fishing community damaged by Typhoon Rai along a shoreline in Leyte Province, the Philippines, Dec. 22, 2021. (Xinhua)

Marlon Yunson, a resident of Pitogo island town in Bohol province, teared up while recalling the damage his family experienced. "We lost everything that we built for 18 years in a snap," he lamented.

Famous for the sprawling "chocolate hills" and the cute bug-eyed tarsiers that are listed as endangered species and are kept in the protected and fenced-off sanctuary to repopulate, Bohol is also among the best diving places in the Philippines.

But the typhoon damaged four of the more than 1,200 conical mounds known as "chocolate hills" and scared off the cute bug-eyed tarsier primates in the province.

Bohol Governor Arthur Yap said 107 people perished in the province and 12 more are still missing.

Yap dissuaded the people of Bohol from using firecrackers on Christmas eve and New Year to avoid fire as the province is running low with water due to the typhoon.

Filipinos believe in welcoming the new year with a bang by literally lighting firecrackers to usher in a prosperous new year. The tradition is usually destructive, causing fire, injuries and even death.

However, despite the tragedy that befell the province, it is not a bleak Christmas. A dozen of young people gathered to help repack and distribute donated clothes and foodstuff to the victims in Loon town.

"We are also victims, but there are people who need more help such as clothes and rice," Anthonette Mae Gupit said. 

Published : December 25, 2021

By : Xinhua