‘My aunt would have turned 80 next year’

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MY aunt, Venecia Manibay would have turned 80 and was planning a grand clan reunion in Barangay San Jose, Tacloban City next year, an event we all looked forward to.

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But she and her ailing husband, Felipe, were among those savaged by the seven storm surges of as high as 15 feet on that fateful night of Super Typhoon Yolanda on November 8.

Except for the old couple, all of our relatives have survived the typhoon 40 days ago, which traditionally means the final day of rest for the separated souls.

She even announced the grand party for next year in August with words like “I want everyone to be here (in Tacloban, the only home she has ever known).

It will take time to rebuild Tacloban but nothing will ever be the same again. It’s almost a certainty that family will gather next year to fulfill my aunt’s wishes. Perhaps then, we can finally say goodbye to the woman, who for many years stood as the clan’s matriarch, and accept her passing with peace in our hearts.

Having been used to so many storms in her life, my Aunt downplayed the coming of Yolanda. She stubbornly said that her home “withstood many typhoons and can weather Yolanda, too.”

His son came over to convince her to evacuate but to no avail. He had to rush home and be with his family.

Another grandson was with the old couple that fateful night of Yolanda when the howler ruined the house and giant waves reaching the second floor washed them all away. They were lucky to cling to a kaimito tree for six hours until their grasps gave way. But the grandson survived the ordeal to tell all of us what they went through.

He was battered, badly bruised and toughened by that experience. But he was also grateful to have survived.

Tuesday before the storm, my mother was flying back to Manila after attending a nephew’s wedding. She remembers not being able to properly say goodbye to her “Mana” (eldest sister) and felt bereft. Three weeks after, she still dreamt of her sister, alive. I can only imagine her sense of pain and loss.

It was nearly four weeks after the storm when photos of my aunt’s home were posted online. All that was left was rubble. But besides the kaimito tree, there was a mango tree and a coconut tree that remained standing, albeit bare of leaves. They had served as lifeline to a few other survivors.

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