Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Negros Earthquake: Watta Scare!

Negros was shaken! We were caught off guard with a scare that has hit Negros Oriental as the epicenter, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Panay Island yesterday. Who would have thought this has happened? A hammock ride-like experience for many, with the paranoia and tall buildings' phobia, we had been rocked! Yes! And I am talking about the quake with a whooping 6.8 in magnitude.

Adjacent to Negros Island where the center of the quake was, it was nothing but an ordinary Monday morning. The streets are crowded, as people rush to and fro at the start of the week which is a typical scene. When I left home, it was gloomy. I didn't want to get up and go to work that day, but I needed to catch my sweetie online early so I was left with no choice! I woke up and forced myself to stand in a cold dark Monday morn.

I have had plans to visit Negros again. In fact, I was looking forward to another adventure there. When left home on the rush after realizing that I need to get myself to school early. I wanted to avoid traffic, and start the week right! With all the rush, I never had the chance to have my mom packed my lunch and off I go to a college where I am teaching! Call it premonition, but I was not really feeling good that day. There is something wrong with something I don't even know what!

Giving my lectures and composition activities that morning.. I got preoccupied but quite uneasy. Whatever you might consider it, one of my students wrote about Negros, not about quakes anyway. Then comes lunch time. I dismissed my last morning class earlier than usual. When I went to the faculty room, I felt the need to go and get food immediately. This is something I don't usually do, but there I was, feeling something like i needed to be on the rush.

Halfway out of the floor, I heard the guard asked me if I felt something shaking and I answered none. It was only when I was in the middle of the stairway that I  felt like I was a ball inside a box, shaken. I grabbed the handle and forced myself to run downstairs. I met three students who were screaming, and wanted to go back upstairs. With the tension, I shouted to them to go back and go straight out of the building to the street. It was like the most difficult descend I have ever had! 11:45 am, Monday, February 6, 2012, Iloilo City was shaken.. and I meant... badly. It was nothing like those in the epicenter, though. Grief surrounds Negros. 

College students in the streets as earthquake strikes Negros.

As we found our way to the main road, many were screaming.. looking at the buildings that surrounded them, moving like pieces of lego a child is trying to dismantle. Electric lamp posts shaking like a stirring rod, and the wires, moving like a skipping rope! That was one of the worst things I have experienced. We were in the middle of the street for more than five minutes of non stop shaking. We can feel the ground rumbling. It  is like a giant's stomach churning a whole cow! It was scary, but it was nothing like those from Negros and at least we are still lucky. 

It was only after the major shakes that everything sunk in. Students started crying, and with some trembling, I suddenly realized that perhaps, things happen. From a great blaze that turned 400 houses into ashes some weeks ago, is it in this moment that buildings are bound to collapse and cover all of us? Fear started to cover many! Is Iloilo City doomed? I hope not. We should not wish bad things for those from Negros either. 

I can still remember  how downtown has turned into a movie-like scene. Remember the movie, "The Day After Tomorrow"?   That's of course minus the snow! Everyone is rushing home. Gridlock lasted for some time, nearby malls closed as the upper floors started to crack and with people about to go on a stampede. Blackout has added to the scare. Many were trapped in elevators, jump from escalators, and communication networks becoming too busy to call loved ones. Watching the news later, it is still nothing compared to its epicenter in Negros. 

We were hit, but not as equally devastated as those in the epicenter. Classes were suspended, malls and offices closed, and by 4pm, the city looked abandoned. Several aftershocks followed, and I mean more than 50 by 8pm. The scare has spread.

With all that has happened, however, there seems to be people who made fun of it. Many suffered physically and emotionally out of this, and I don't think that any sane and human person could ever be capable of using this to be on the limelight. May they be forgiven, anyway.

First, some hours after the earthquake that has hit the Visayan region, a woman, named Ahcee Flores posted her wishes of having tsunami to wipe away all the old-fashioned or low class people in the Visayas. This has ended up with her claiming to have been harassed for practicing her freedom of speech. This has resulted to countless hate posts and even threats. But who is she??? Many believe that Gladys Lumantes Delos Santos was the real name of Ahcee Flores, the lady who posted comments on Yahoo saying she wants the Visayan people killed by the tsunami.

Second, communication networks taking advantage of the events to earn more by probably starting chain text messages saying that a stronger shake will come said by PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Service Administration) when it is clear to those that a legit one could have come from the Philvolcs. Another big thing is, unlike typhoons or tsunamis, earthquake is never predicted. With all that panicked and concerned, networks may have gained much from chain messages they started as people disregarded the validity of the messages. Who would likely check the reliability of the messages? A few did. And they are those who understand which agency can say something, and what calamities can be predicted.

We would often say that in times like this, we need presence of mind. But as an Ilonggo, we might think differently in some ways. We believe that beyond the modernization, we are still practicing our religion. Many are still seen on churches and practice their belief. I am not perfectly religious, but I do pray and it has help a lot. With this event where there is nowhere to run, there is only one source of strength-GOD. You can never hide form the quakes, but you can always feel the strength from inside you. Are we Ilonggos starting to get astray from our strong connection with the church??? Yesterday, I heard people crying, and not so many... obviously praying.

May this be a lesson to us never to abandon our faith. We can never run from the natural calamities, but divine intervention spells out the difference. Readiness of the government and the social institutions are also called upon. Safety. At least that is what we wanted. God bless, Negros! This is just another challenge. 

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