Having gone through feelings of terror during and after the 1991 earthquake in Baguio City, it has been my personal desire that no one goes through the same. But then the community (or, the world for that matter) is far greater than one person’s individual wish. In my other blog, on the same topic, I wrote that individual’s safety and security is correlated with the collective measures that the community undertakes to secure its members and the collective whole. In other words, the reduction of risks associated with disasters, earthquake in this case, is to a large extent a function of local governments’ measures toward this. Risk reduction is, once again, more than and not the same as preparedness. When local governments, duty bearers, don’t give a hoot, such an attitude further terrorizes people and locks them in a continuing anxious state. This is not good for mental health. And when people don’t function well, mentally, the nation can’t hope to be competitive.
The earthquake in Bohol and Cebu and the damages it has wrought has again resurfaced anxiety among Filipinos. Disaster risks have not been reduced to that level wherein people and their communities are safe, secure, and resilient. This knowledge, in the face of disasters left and right, pervasive poverty, and unemployment in localities, makes people, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, increasingly anxious.
Baguio City, for one, since after the 1991 earthquake, continues to ignore the lessons and defy recommendations that were sent in by experts 22 long years ago. As my colleagues in the DRR community say, the City is a disaster waiting to happen. Again.
Another urban area devastated in the 1991 earthquake is Pangasinan (Dagupan City) which like Baguio now prefers to through the years on a short memory.
The Bohol and Cebu events, significant for the devastation of Catholic churches such as the Basilica of Sto. Nino in Cebu, if seen as signs from heaven which many Filipinos always pray for, bring home the fact that disasters happen even if you light all the candles in the world and kneel until your knees bleed. Earthquakes occur because it is a process of nature, as natural as the process of breathing in humans, and not because God deems it so, as a punishment or whatever overly devout persons believe it to be. The lesson therefore is, on top of praying, it always pays to be prepared, to do what needs to be done in human terms in order to cushion the effects and impacts of such disasters on us and our communities.
But if people insist that the events have something to do with punishment from heaven or whatever following this reasoning, then I’d say it would have to be that the Bishops there, instead of communicating their Love’s love to people, had at one point and quite recently put up signs – Team Buhay, Team Patay – that served to alienate people from each other; signs that were even bigger than, hence obscured, the images of the welcoming Christ in these churches; these signs refocused people’s minds and hearts toward them – their message of disunity and accord – instead of the love of Christ for both sinners and not. How many of the faithful — and maybe those who thought of converting to the faith — were misled and turned away because of those signs? If I may conclude, what has won out, today, and outside the courts of man, is Team Patay (i.e. lack of true love, because a Bishop who loves all members of his flock cannot conceive death wishes.). The Bishops’ quest therefore, after the unfortunate events, should be to search and rekindle their hearts with Love and ponder the wise move (instead of hastily turning their minds to Spain for funds to rebuild the structures. Following the standards of Jesus, one can have a Church with just a clearing and people united in God: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am.” The grandiose of a structure could be a temptation to forget or cast aside the essentials of the faith.). And let not the CBCP fathers forget that they have dedicated this country to Mary this year, meaning, what are the values of Mary that they ought to imbibe and lead the people toward? Otherwise, when they don’t mean what they did, the act of dedication, as insiders say, has become quite the sacrilegious act. And when Bishops, especially, commit such acts, the belief is, there are grave consequences to themselves and the community.
That’s the religious and speculative view of the events.
My view is more pragmatic, that is, each day is an opportunity for Filipinos to define and shape our personal and collective future for the better. Today is the consequences of our choices and actions yesterday and tomorrow, today’s. That is free will. And God doesn’t tamper with free will. The future therefore is, substantially, within our control. That is how powerful humans are. The question is, how and in what do we use this power?