Typhoon Haiyan: Could mystery man on tape be Tacloban patriach of 30 missing?

Typhoon Haiyan: Could mystery man on tape be Tacloban patriach of 30 missing?
Courtesy Daisy Nemeth
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 6:50am

The image lasts just four seconds, flashed on the screen during the opening sequence of a Filipino news program posted online.

It's of an elderly man kneeling on a church pew, his lips moving as though in prayer, and it's given new hope to a woman in Hong Kong who hasn't heard from 30 members of her family since Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into Tacloban in the Philippines last Friday.

"We think this is my uncle! They look identical!" Daisy Nemeth wrote in an email to CNN, after receiving an overnight message from her sister, Merceditas Tan Østergaard, in Denmark, who's been scanning online news in the hope of seeing a familiar face.

And there it was.

The lone, elderly man in silent prayer bears a striking resemblance to 68-year-old Rogelio Tan, the patriarch of the sprawling Tan family who all but disappeared during the storm.

"She was staring at the video clips and he was there in one of them. But his wife wasn't and his children weren't," Nemeth said from her home in Hong Kong, her joy of seeing her uncle tempered by the thought of those who weren't there, or couldn't be seen.

The family recognizes the church as the Santo Niño Church de Tacloban, a distinctive pink Roman Catholic Church just one block from the coast where a devastating storm surge swept in, killing hundreds, if not thousands of people.

The church withstood the storm, though its towering spire has been stripped of its roofing, as has most of the main building. Yet, it was there that the man suspected to be Tan can be seen praying, as he has done countless times before. His family lived just streets away.

The possible reappearance of her uncle four days after the typhoon was not the only news raising Nemeth's hopes that more relatives can be found.

On the same day, it emerged her cousin Hazel Tan and her five children, aged between nine and 19, had made it out of the storm. Nemeth has no idea how or where they are, but a family member passed on the news that they're safe and have since left Tacloban.

Nemeth says she expected to feel elation after finding some members of her missing family, but days of worry have left her emotionally exhausted.

"You think about what's going to happen when you find them, that it's going to be relief and joy and happiness and it wasn't," she said. "I checked them off the list and moved onto my uncle. And now I've checked him off the list, now I'm moving on to someone else. There's so much going on, feeling relief is impossible in this situation."

Her thoughts have now turned to her other cousin, Rogelio Tan Jr., his wife Vanessa, and their three young children, aged from four to eight years old.

Nemeth's mother last spoke to Vanessa the day before the typhoon swept in. They weren't worried. Vanessa even posted a message on Facebook last Thursday thanking God they were spared the worst of the storm. Little did she know what was to come.

The Super Typhoon hit the Philippines coast just before 5 a.m. last Friday, flattening buildings, swamping homes and businesses with flood water and leaving a trail of destruction authorities and locals are still trying to comprehend.

"I'm so tired at this point. I'm not negative about the situation but whatever happens, happens, at this point," Nemeth said.

"But I want the kids out. The thought of them living with bodies lining the streets -- it's pure misery there,"

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