TACLOBAN - An eerie air fills the Sto. Niño Shrine in Tacloban City.
The place is pitch-dark even in the middle of the day, its glass windows cracked or broken, and the smell of rotting wood fills the air. Its carpet and parquet floor are covered in thick mud left by 10 feet of black water that rushed inside the place at the height of the storm surge brought by super typhoon Yolanda.
Sto. Niño Shrine is the most visited tourist spot in Tacloban City, according to its resident tourist guide Annabel Arpon. The shrine owes its popularity to the hundreds of artworks and artifacts brought by Imelda Marcos from different countries back when it was still one of the 29 residential houses of the former First Couple. The place is still a sequestered property of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) until now.
Arpon could only watch in horror from the dormitory beside the main building as the first floor was overcome by 10 feet of water full of mud and debris while 300 kph winds of Yolanda lashed the area.
Arpon feared the worst after the flood as reports of looting circulated the devastated city. Fortunately, Sto. Niño Shrine's vast front yard got covered by debris, making it had to reach its main building. Otherwise, its two guards would have been no match to a mob.
"Taclobanons love this place and respect it, it's the people from other provinces doing all the looting that we fear," says Arpon. She has also asked the police to help secure the place.
For now, the place is off limits to anyone until the PCGG gets to account all the items in the shrine and determine their condition. It will take a long time before visitors can look at the shrine's artworks and artifacts.