PALO, Leyte – Despite his shortened visit time in this Yolanda-hit town due to impending storm “Amang,” Pope Francis had savored locally prepared cuisine, Shirley Bongay, one of the privileged Boholanos to see and dine with the Pontiff, said in an exclusive interview with this writer last week. Bongay, one of the lucky five Boholano earthquake victims to huddle with the Pope, said that there were these menu like the “malunggay soup” and pork steak that the Pontif tried even for a short time with them.
Asked what she felt when face-to-face with the Pope, Bongay said no words can describe in such experience. “Happy,” she said candidly. Bongay said she was overwhelmed to meet the Pope. But in a rush she told her tale of nine hours ordeal underneath their concrete house that collapsed in barangay Lintuan, Loon, Bohol as a result of the earthquake.
While lying on the destroyed floor, she was unable to get out since her right arm was compressed by fallen debris and big trusses and concrete posts fell on her as result of the magnitude 7.2 tremor. Her mother and relatives had to secure a device to clear the debris with generator set since all powerlines were broke at that time. She said that the Pope blessed them and pray for all other earthquake victims.
There were 30 of them who huddled with the Pope. Most of them were from this town and Catbalogan, Samar and none from Tacloban City, about 12 kms from here. Pope Francis said a mass in Tacloban’s city’s airport where he landed, Bongay said. “Yolanda” struck and devastated Leyte province and this town, leaving more than seven thousand dead or missing and private properties and public infrastructure in ruins.
Niza Flores, companion of Bongay, also one of the quake victims said in separate interview that despite the hurry the pope must make to fly back to Manila, still the Pope was able to talk to 30 of them. Flores said “I’m very happy” in meeting with the Pope. Asked what they (she and Pope) were talking about, Flores said she told the Pope about what happened to Bohol and her son, Jevie, who died at the height of the earthquake that struck Bohol on October 15, 2013.
Aside from Flores, other lucky Boholanos who huddle with the Pope are Salome Israel of Tubigon town; Saturnino Barace of Antequera; Shirley Bongay, Loon; and Veneranda Gentallan, Maribojoc, Bohol. They are victims/survivors of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck the province on October 15, 2013 that left thousands homeless, 209 dead, centuries-old churches and government infrastructures and private properties in ruins.