Top of Tuesday’s news was the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the island of Bohol, 562 kilometers, south of Manila. The tremors reached onto nearby Cebu, destroying churches, hospitals and other structures. Bohol is a top tourist destination famous for its pristine waters, Chocolate Hills and the world-renowned Loboc Children’s Choir. The church where the children regularly sing, collapsed. The Basilica del Sto. Nino in Cebu, the oldest Catholic church in the Philippines, was also badly damaged.
Wednesday morning’s report said the number of casualties was less than 100. By the evening, news announced more than 140 dead bodies found and still counting. It has been raining very badly for days in most parts of the country, making the disaster bigger, darker and more confusing. Rescue and relief operations are ongoing. Movement of the tectonic plates, geological experts explain the disaster’s cause. The Bohol-Cebu quake was pronounced worse than the 2010 Haiti quake and is said to be 32 times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb.
The August 2012 Samar quake was 7.6 in Richter scale, but that disaster left only a few casualties. The 1990 Northern Luzon earthquake was 7.9 in magnitude, with 1,621 on its death toll (I was a teenager in the metropolis that time, tremors reached Metro Manila and for two months, we lived in fear – observing cracks in the wall and on the streets as we went along our routines).Topping the list of worst quakes was the 1976 earthquake in Mindanao, one that had a tsunami in its wake – death toll was 4,791. Unfortunately, we do get a lot of natural disasters around these parts, thanks to our rather exciting location: in the center of the world’s Ring of Fire, hoho. 🙂
I was in El Nido, Palawan the first time, last September. El Nido is another top tourist destination in the Philippines, known for its clear water and gigantic limestone rock formations, similar to the Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It was a pit stop in the Amazing Race reality show and the last scene in the latest installment of the Bourne Legacy series (a paradise-like island where the escaping movie couple, Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz, found themselves). My sister and I were there for five days, but we did not see much. The coastguards would not allow tours of the islands and the beaches: Philippines was then in the middle of a supertyphoon, Odette. We spent most of our time by the door of our hotel that was conveniently beachfront, with the giant sea waves lashing the shore and the windblown talisay leaves flying in our faces. For days, we felt marooned in the island said to be one of the country’s best.
On our last day, the supertyphoon has already landed, the coastguards allowed several groups to venture out nearby. We did get to see some of the gigantic limestone rocks, 13 to 15 million years in the making. From our boat, the cliffs look like ancient cathedrals – dark, foreboding, uninhabited. Dark blue waters with huge, undulating waves, against the gargantuan rocky mountains – untamed nature, up close, live. They take one’s breath away and leave one speechless. And, we weren’t in the choicest parts of El Nido yet…
We had a swim in a beach several kilometers away from the town and were served a sumptuous lunch. Then, on to another beach in another giant rock shelter, close by. As our boat was inching towards the shore, a storm hit. It was my second time to experience a sudden and violent cyclone in the open seas. The rain was pounding, the wind was merciless and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We were actually in an islet, somewhere in the Bacuit archipelago, just a few kilometers away from Malampaya. All tourists in the five boats that made that trip ran for cover, by the shore. There really was nowhere for us to go. We were like rodents scattered in different parts of the shore, ravaged by the storm, about to be carried away by the giant waves, almost…
Living in the Philippines is quite exciting. Soon as you’re thinking you’ve had it bad, you open the TV or your computer and immediately, news of disasters greet you. Hardly a month passes by without a catastrophe visiting our group of islands – storms, floods, earthquakes, landslides or sometimes, a combination of. And these do not include the man-made disasters, my friends… The politicians in our country are always busy, needless to say. It’s a tough job telling and assuring the people, the constituents, to hang on – tomorrow, life will be kinder.
It’s also rough for the public school teachers and their pupils – every calamity spells ruined classrooms, changes in class schedules and begging politicians and rich donors for money — for the reconstruction of the damaged facilities. Of course, farming is usually badly hit and every year, agricultural output slides down. There is still a huge market for the insurance of small farms, leaseholds and fish pens: It begs to be in the top priority. Still, corruption at various levels manage to thrive and how…
The country’s previous administration is currently being investigated – for appropriating privately funds in billions – earmarked for farmer victims of previous typhoons. Hope the current batch of politicians, local and national, will not make hay out of the Bohol-Cebu tragedy. And hopefully, the peoples’ attention and concern for the disaster’s victims will extend beyond the days when said episode is top of the Yahoo News or Twitter’s trending topic.
I don’t know… From my experience, it is not really the gravity of the misfortune that causes a victim severe setbacks, but seeing and feeling the apathy of others who know about the big, consequential disaster, but treat it much like yesterday’s news. 🙂
More than 1,200 aftershocks have been recorded since the original 30-second earthquake occurred. Authorities count 10 historic churches as badly damaged, as well as several hospitals and around 400, 000 families affected. Property damage estimate was placed at Php80 million, while the government has, so far, allocated Php98 million emergency and relief operations fund. Rescue operations are still ongoing, for the hundreds injured and missing in the tragic Bohol-Cebu quake.
Did I say that we, Filipinos, are a resilient lot? Disasters and all, we do manage to come around. More or less… 😉 🙂
Fortune knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.
Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.
One likes people much better when they’re battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph.
It is the task of a good man to help those in misfortune.