Survivors attend 'Simbang Gabi' in Yolanda-hit town

Reuters

Posted at Dec 16 2013 12:19 PM | Updated as of Dec 17 2013 04:59 AM

PALO, LEYTE - Residents in Palo town in the central Philippines gathered inside damaged churches to celebrate dawn mass on Monday, December 16.

The dawn church service, also known as "Misa De Gallo" in Spanish or "Simbang Gabi" in Filipino, is a novena of masses traditionally celebrated in the Philippines in days leading up to Christmas Eve. Some locals believe that completing the masses can grant miracles.

Parishioners sang songs during the early morning mass inside the San Joaquin Church in Palo.

One resident, Zandro Dagsa whose five relatives were killed when Typhoon Haiyan struck, said it didn't feel like Christmas.

"It doesn't feel the same, that's what I can say. It doesn't feel like Christmas," Dagsa said.

San Joaquin Parish Priest Kelvin Apurillo said despite the devastation he wanted his parishioners to stay hopeful.

"What do I expect from the people? Well, that they remain hopeful, that they remain faithful to God. Despite of all what had happen that they remain devoted to our lord, that they remain rooted in God himself," he said.

The predominantly Catholic Philippines is noted for its long Christmas season, with some celebrations starting as early as September and ending in January.

Super Typhoon Haiyan slammed central Philippine islands with 314 kph winds on November 8, causing tsunami-like storm surges that swallowed nearly the whole of Tacloban, once home to 220,000 people, in Leyte and Guiuan town in Eastern Samar.

Nearly 95 percent of the deaths from the typhoon came from Leyte and Eastern Samar.

The national disaster agency on Monday reported the death toll at 6,069 with 1,779 people missing.