Christmas won’t be the same again for Erika

TANAUAN, Leyte (MindaNews /21 Dec) – This Christmas, eleven-year-old Erika Lyn Mansubay would have spent it with her family in a shopping mall not far from their home.

Erika would have danced on Christmas eve while her mother, Edna, would sing on the karaoke till morning.

Sadly, these won’t happen this Christmas, nor in the Christmases of the coming years.

Erika lost her entire family – Diorico, her father; Edna, her mother; her brother Dave Anthony, 9; and her sister Emerald Jane, 6.

Even her uncle, Eduardo Manalo, who lifted Erika to a wooden pole to save her, did not survive the eight-meter storm surge that inundated the town of Tanauan last November 8.

That fateful day, Erika lost a total of seven relatives when their houses collapsed due to the storm surge and 250-kph winds.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council reported 1,252 persons died in the town of Tanauan alone. Many of them were buried in roadsides and in front of a church in Tanauan, which were hastily converted into mass graves.

As of this writing, total death toll from super typhoon Yolanda already reached 6,102 persons in Leyte and the entire Visayas.

Evelyn Manalo, sister of Eduardo Manalo, said Erika was found more than 800 meters from her house, clinging to a wooden pole on a pile of debris at a destroyed gasoline station.

Erika said her father had planned for the family to spend Christmas Day at a shopping mall in nearby Tacloban City.

She said their regular Christmas eve would be spent in the family compound singing and feasting.

“I love to dance as Mama sings,” Erika said.

Evelyn said the rest of their family have decided to migrate to Manila after this Christmas, taking Erika with them.

“There is no Christmas in our place anymore. We lost so many of our loved ones here. This is not our home anymore,” Evelyn said.

Alice Limpiado, a Gawad Kalinga volunteer who handled the stress debriefing of Erika and other children, said bringing Erika to Manila will not erase her traumatic experience.

Limpiado said Erika is already withdrawing to her inner self and not participating in the games they designed to ease the sad experience of the children.

“This is a sure sign Erika is withdrawing to her inner self. She does not want to get too friendly with the others. She is suffering her personal hell by herself,” Limpiado said.

Tito Alex Besinga, head of the Gawad Kalinga in Cagayan de Oro City, said all is not lost for Erika. “She survived the worst ordeal anyone can imagine. She is strong, and every day that reality will sink in to her. She is a survivor,” Besinga said.