Boy who lost 22 relatives: I just wish my family to be whole again

Boy who lost 22 relatives: I just wish my family to be whole again
Peter Lacandazo ,who is in his 60's squats beside a sign he erected in his backyard which list the names of all 22 members of his family who perished when his home in Palos were hit by the typhoon.

PALO (Leyte) - Each day at dawn since the first Christmas vigil in the Philippines began two weeks ago, 12-year-old John Paul Madrigal has been marching up to a cemetery a few steps away from a shanty he shares with his grandfather.

At the cemetery, he would light a candle at the foot of a big, wooden cross and silently offer a prayer.

The cross bears the names of 22 of the boy's relatives, who drowned when Typhoon Haiyan swept across Leyte province on Nov 8.

The boy always prays for four names on the cross in particular: his mother, father and brothers Adam, 11, and Kenneth, four.

When asked what his wish for Christmas is, he said it is for his family to be whole again "because Christmas should be a time for family". He knows this wish will not come true, but he wishes for it anyway, every day.

John Paul comes from a brood of 28 headed by his 60-year-old grandfather, Mr Pete Lacandazo, who, despite his age, has the bulk of a retired rugby player.

In three hours, Haiyan reduced that number to six: Mr Lacandazo, two of his sons-in-law, John Paul and two other grandchildren.

A white board in front of his shanty lists down the names of every one Mr Lacandazo lost: his wife, children, brothers, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and uncles.

John Paul does not remember much of what happened that morning when Haiyan struck. He remembers clambering onto a roof with his grandfather, brothers and cousins when the first of three tsunami-like storm surges rolled in 3km from the shoreline.

They had barely managed to get a firm footing on the roof when a huge trunk of a coconut tree rammed into them.

John Paul remembers falling into the water and being swept away until he passed out. It felt like he suddenly fell asleep, he said. When he awoke, he found himself lodged between two tree trunks with a deep gash in the right side of his abdomen. He walked until he found his way back to his grandfather.

His grandfather also remembers the frantic dash onto the roof and the coconut tree that sent them into the water.

Mr Lacandazo remembers holding on to his 28-year-old daughter, then eight months pregnant, and a two-year-old grandchild, before a large block of wood slammed into his face. He began to drown and, for a second, let go of his daughter and grandchild.

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