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Beckham hears sad tale of Leyte couple

/ 03:13 AM February 15, 2014

David Beckham. Photo by RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net

International football superstar David Beckham showed his soft side when he spent almost 30 minutes listening to the experience of a grieving couple Tanauan, Leyte, who lost their 4-year-old daughter to the storm surge created by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Thirty-six-year-old Trinidad Ojeda said they recounted to Beckham their experience when Yolanda made landfall in Leyte province. Forty of the 1,000 residents of Barangay Sto. Niño died in the storm surge, including her daughter Viana.

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Ojeda said Viana was with her father, Rodolfo Mueba, when they were swept away by the storm surge as they were about to leave their house in Barangay Sto. Niño to go to the nearby Sto. Niño Elementary School that served as an evacuation center.

Mueba managed to survive but his daughter was discovered two days after the typhoon under the rubble of debris within the village.

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“Beckham consoled us by saying that everything happened for a purpose and that we’ll all be OK soon,” Ojeda told the Inquirer.

Ojeda and Mueba, who have been living together for 11 years, are still grieving over the loss of their daughter. Their 16-year-old son, Vince, survived the ordeal.

According to the couple, Beckham stayed in their house for almost 30 minutes, asking them about their condition after the storm and if they were receiving assistance, particularly from United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), of which he is one of the ambassadors.

“Of course, we were happy. He really went out of his way just to be with us,” Mueba said.

He said Beckham appeared to be sincere while he was talking with them through an interpreter, even hugging his wife and his niece, Sharina Separa, 18, during his visit.

He also watched a video of Viana singing, which was earlier recorded by Ojeda on her mobile phone.

Aside from giving the family a rare photo with him, Beckham also signed Separa’s notebook with his football number 23.

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“I have a personal souvenir from him,” Separa giggled as she revealed that Beckham even changed his wet shirt before them.

Prior to his visit to the family, Beckham lifted the spirits of young typhoon survivors with a joke-filled game of football on a pitch surrounded by somber reminders of the country’s deadliest storm.

The former England captain carried boys on his shoulders, tugged at their shirts and exchanged high-fives throughout the roughly 20 minutes of sports therapy in one of the coastal towns that were worst hit by Yolanda.

The game came at the end of a two-day trip for Beckham to the typhoon-hit areas, where 6,200 people have been confirmed killed and nearly 1,800 others remain missing.

“It’s very uplifting to the hearts, to the souls of the children. After all they have been through the past three months with the storm, when he came, it was so good. We were so very happy,” local football coach Basil Nudalo told Agence France-Presse.

The game was played on the sports field of a ruined school in Tanauan, one of the towns facing the Pacific Ocean that were engulfed by tsunami-like storm surges.

More than 1,200 people died in Tanauan, and the game was played within walking distance of a mass grave where the bodies of hundreds of people were buried.

The shells of school buildings, ripped coconut trees and piles of rocky debris surrounded the pitch, but inside there was constant laughter from Beckham and the boys.

John Kelvin Dado, 12, who was among the young boys, admitted that he was not really fond of football although he knew their popular visitor.

“I just see him on television. But for almost 20 minutes, we saw him play with us here. We shook his hands that were sweaty,” the Grade 6 student said.

Beckham played with the boys at the Sto. Niño Elementary School grounds amid tight security. He arrived at the village at 9:45 a.m. and left at past 11 a.m.

After his visit in Tanauan, Beckham proceeded to Barangay Rawis located in Anibong district, Tacloban City, where he led the distribution of water containers at 2:27 p.m.

Much earlier, Beckham visited dozens of mothers with their babies in a health care center in Tanauan.

Unicef ensured high security for Beckham’s visit, trying to block journalists from filming his visits into survivors’ homes and relief centers.

Aside from one brief comment, Beckham declined to talk to reporters. But Unicef posted comments of his on their official website in which he thanked people around the world for donating money for Yolanda survivors.

“Seeing how children are being given a sense of normality amidst the rubble of their communities has been amazing,” he said in a Unicef blog. “I want to show people around the world how their generous donations have had an enormous impact on children and their families and how thankful people here are for their kindness.”

The United Nations launched an international aid appeal in December for $788 million to finance its humanitarian effort for this year, about half of which has been raised.

President Aquino has said the rebuilding effort will take at least four years and require more than $8 billion in funding. With a report from AFP

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TAGS: David Beckham, Leyte, Super Typhoon Yolanda, Tacloban, TANAUAN, Unicef, Yolanda aid
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