SAN JUAN, Philippine Islands (KHNL)- San Juan, in Southern Leyte, provides a beautiful setting for a sad story.
HOPE Worldwide's Jeni Demaano elaborates about the youthful survivors of the mudslide. "These children are total orphans. Victims of the mudslide tragedy in Guinsaugon, February 17th."
Some 50 children are housed at the orphanage at St. Bernard's. Most of them are in their teens. Demaano furthers, "We are processing their papers for foster care and conducting family assessment of their relatives in other provinces. If they don't get adopted, especially those ages 16 and 17, we are planning independent living for them. They will be living in one house, about 10 children, living as independents. They have seen the tragedy and all the barangay (village) was affected. They sleep. They drink alcohol to forget their sad experiences. A majority of the children have nightmares. Some of them told me they cannot accept it. They were sad to know their parents are gone, they are already alone. Their future will be difficult because they have no parents to look for them."
Demaano looks to a more positive side, saying "We are grateful for having the Aloha Medical Mission here. The disaster had a lot of children get sick."
Sixteen year-old Josephine Espinoza is one of the orphans still battling nightmares- both real and imagined. Josephine relives the day. "I was home with my mother and sister, and my father was working outside. My father saw the mudslide coming and screamed at us to run, then he was hit by a boulder. I ran back to save him but another boulder hit him and he died. The mud went into our house and sucked me in. It went into my eyes."
Josephine further explains, "My last memory of my mother was her shouting at me, my sister, and my father, to run and save our lives. When I looked back I saw stones flying over the village. They looked like birds, they were flying so fast."
The sky rained chaos- a constellation without stars, the heavens without a god.
"Later, I could not go back in the house because it was covered by mud", Josephine recalls. "Since coming here I have nightmares one of the mountains will have a mudslide."
Her weeks are made of days, which are made of hours, made of eternities. Josephine grieves, "I miss my mother giving me advice. I miss that I was my father's favorite and he never punished me or made me do chores. Now i'm really scared for my future. I've lost my parents. Nobody will pay for school or take care of me. I don't know where to live. I have 3 sisters living in other towns, but they're too poor to take me in."
We found something to bring out a rare smile from Josephine. We mentioned the name of her idol. Josephine echoed, "Jasmine Trias!"