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Crosses replace tombstones in Tacloban

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Elena Gilboy offers flowers on a cross that she believes marks the spot where her brother was buried in a mass grave for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” —JOEY GABIETA

Elena Gilboy offers flowers on a cross that she believes marks the spot where her brother was buried in a mass grave for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” —JOEY GABIETA

TACLOBAN CITY—Every Nov. 1 since 2014, Elena Gilboy offers flowers at a white cross planted near the entrance to a mass grave that contained the body of her brother, who died during a storm surge generated by the world’s strongest storm to hit land.

“I just felt that he was buried here,” said Gilboy, pointing to the spot where the cross is planted.

She and her husband, Rolando, 41, are among the thousands of people who went to the Holy Cross Memorial Park in Barangay Basper, Tacloban on Nov. 1 amid the downpour.

They all lit candles and offered flowers on the more than 2,200 white crosses that were spread across the 1.2-hectare mass grave.

The number corresponds to the number of bodies of victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” which struck the city on Nov. 8, 2013, that were buried there by the city government.

Among the bodies are those of Gilboy’s brother, Nilo Baduya, his wife, Amalia and their seven children.

When Yolanda struck Tacloban, Baduya and his family sought refuge on the second floor of their neighbor’s house in Barangay 48-B in Magallanes district, a coastal area.

The house was washed out by the deadly storm surge generated by Yolanda, killing everyone in the house, including the Baduya family.

“The bodies were discovered days later, covered with debris,” Gilboy said.

The Beduyas were first buried in a mass grave in Barangay Tigbao, a kilometer away from Basper, along with other bodies collected from different locations in the city days after it was pummeled by Yolanda.

At that time, there was no funeral parlor that could process the bodies.

But on Nov. 1, 2014, the remains were transferred to the Holy Cross Memorial Park.

To honor their dead, the relatives chose a spot and planted white crosses where they could offer flowers and say their prayers, especially on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day.

Gilboy said it didn’t matter if her cross stood not on the exact area where her brother is buried.

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