#Haiyan: Woman spends birthday looking for niece

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Her birthday wish: to find her 3-year-old niece after Super Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines

MISSING NIECE. Waves triggered by Yolanda swept away the house that Leona Macey Aguzar, 3, lived in. Photo courtesy of Maria Fidela Cabrera

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Maria Fidela Cabrera set foot in this typhoon-hit city Saturday, November 16, with a birthday wish.

It was Cabrera’s 36th birthday. It was also the first week since her 3-year-old niece, Leona Macey Escala Aguzar, went missing after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated the Eastern Visayas region.

Cabrera said waves triggered by Yolanda swept away the house that Leona lived in. Leona is missing along with her 19-year-old caretaker, a woman named Charmaine.

To look for her niece, Cabrera even took a week-long leave from work in the Bureau of Fire Protection in Metro Manila. The birthday girl said she was taking her chances.

Cabrera smiled then broke into tears. “Birthday ko. Birthday ko po.” (It’s my birthday. It’s my birthday.)

Sana kung may makakita sa pamangkin ko, ito pinakamasayang birthday ko,” a crying Cabrera said. (If anyone finds my niece, this will be my happiest birthday.)

Cabrera said Leona’s parents live in Abu Dhabi, but they flew to the Philippines to look for Leona, too. The missing girl has a 9-year-old sibling.

Cabrera said Leona’s grandparents, who lived with Leona by the sea, remain safe. She requested readers to look for Leona’s grandfather, Rogelio Aguzar, in case they find Leona. She gave the following contact details of the grandfather: 029486383 and 09083220459.

Like Leona, 1,186 people remain missing after Yolanda struck the Philippines, according to government data. Meanwhile, at least 3,633 have been confirmed dead. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com