Philippine typhoon survivors struggle to salvage Christmas

December 24, 2013

(A typhoon survivor decorates a Christmas tree amidst the rubble of destroyed houses in Tacloban city in central Philippines December 17, 2013. REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

Filipino mother Rhodora Tonningsen has no tinsel or baubles for her Christmas tree this year so she’s decorated it with packets of instant noodles and empty sardine cans from relief supplies handed out to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

Across the centre of the mostly Catholic Philippines, people are scraping together whatever they can to celebrate Christmas, nearly seven weeks after the storm. Some are struggling to cope with their grief.

Tonningsen, 43, a single mother of four, pried a battered, three-foot (one-metre) artificial Christmas tree from the bank of mud and debris thrown up by the storm by her tiny, partly damaged home in the town of Palo, and put it up on the front porch.

“I just washed it so we’ll have some semblance of Christmas, even if we’re in dire straits,” said Tonningsen, standing outside her home, now patched with corrugated iron also salvaged from the debris.

“We may be in ground zero, but it’s OK – as long as we are alive and our family is intact.”


(Children eat their free meals during Christmas celebrations at the town of Bislig, Tanauan in Leyte province, central Philippines December 24, 2013. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

Read the full story by Rosemarie Francisco and Roli Ng here.

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