Friday, April 13, 2012

69 Days after a 6.9 Magnitude Earthquake


I waited for the debris to fall, the glass to break, the electrical wirings to spark, the alarm to bell, or the water sprinkles to shower us – but they did not. 

Looking at the food served, the soft drink in an 80 percent filled glass, jumped. The table moved a millimeter closer to another table. My heartbeat pumped at its own pace driven by the 30-seconds earthquake. 

Mall goers ran outside of the third level of the structure going to the veranda of Ayala mall fronting the Terraces. I couldn’t count them, but I distinguished one guy (and he distinguished me) wearing a La Salle jacket, we looked at each other figuring out our sense of being. Instead of running, he walked, while looking at me sitting comfortably.  

I remained calm while seeing eye-to-eye at the two senior citizens secured by a wheel-chair, two meters away from me. Leaving behind their belongings, no other customers left, and they ran for dear life -- including the waiters and waitresses. 

Many years ago, when I attended an international conference on occupational health and safety, I experienced the structure moved fast, as if it danced its finale. And I almost gasped my last then when we experienced a quake similar in magnitude.

Then a friend arrived and ate his lunch recalling that he, too, ran for his dear life.  

“Chu na mae”

An hour after the earthquake, I proceeded to Parian to visit my old office, the Visayas Human Development Agency, Inc. (a non-government organization which provides legal aid, education and research to the labor force) to meet long-lost friends. 

Passing through Echavez St., a resident was shot to death in his head and died without even affected by the tsunami scare. He was scared for life. 

Few minutes of staying at Parian, people began shouting “tsunami”… “tsunami”… “tsunami”... My heart trembled again – driven by the false alarm; without even noticing the change of pronunciation, was it “tsunami” or “chu na mae”. 

Looking outside in a three-storey structure, I saw a sea of humanity with all vigor, shouting, running, crying, finding comfort in a direction they don’t know where. Then I went downstairs to check the people and tried to comfort some. 

Indeed I saw some women shouting, “kuya…kuya, naay chu na mae”. I assured them that no tsunami will ever hit us. Comforted by my presence (or was it me comforted by their presence?), while people continued to run for safety, we returned to a direction where people feared. 

We proceeded to a homely comfort at the Good Shepherd Welcome House, Inc. (a drop-in center for prostituted women and children run by the Religious of the Good Shepherd where I currently served as a member of its Advocacy Team) almost seventy meters away from my old-office – without getting wet or washed away by “chu na mae.” 

Then, I realized I forgot to bring my whistle. 

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