PALO, LEYTE PROVINCE, Philippines — With tradesmen sawing and welding and hammering twenty feet up on scaffolding, and clattering rain pouring down through a gaping hole in the roof, it wasn’t a typical baptismal setting — especially one inside a cathedral. But on Christmas Eve in Palo, a town of around 60,000 people in the typhoon-hit central Philippines, 47 pairs of new parents formed a line from altar to door inside the wrecked Palo Cathedral, undaunted. Newborns nestled in their mothers’ arms for a Christmastime mass baptism into the Catholic Church — the majority faith in this archipelagic country of 105 million people. The joy of new life and the Christmas holiday comes on the heels of colossal tragedy, however, with Palo part of a region where at least 6,100 people were killed and 4 million left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda. The Nov. 8 tempest was by many accounts the most powerful storm ever recorded.
MANILA — Prison inmates in the Philippines got a taste of life outside of jail today, when in a landmark event for the Southeast Asian island nation, prisoners voted in the country’s national elections. Final results for the overall election are still forthcoming, but unofficial tallies of 57 percent of votes cast showed presidental favorite Beningo “Noynoy” Aquino well in front with 40.6 percent, ahead of former President Joseph Estrada in second place. First up to cast her ballot this morning at Makati City Jail in Manila was a 27-year-old who gave her name as Janet. Appearing non-plussed, she told GlobalPost that her voting experience “felt OK.” “I knew who I wanted to vote for, so it was no big deal,” she said.