One miracle. One lifetime.
Close to a year ago today, Eastern Visayas was jolted by the most powerful earthquake recorded in the region. Unlike previous occurrences, this one was so violent household fixtures and appliances were sent tumbling. Terrified families squeezed themselves beneath dining tables as residential homes twisted and bounced from the power of the tremor. Tall buildings shook and creaked like wooden crates against the brutal & unexpected assault.
Philvolcs data reveal on August 31st 2012, at around 8:47 pm PST, a seismic activity with an epicenter approximately 120 kms off the coast of Guiuan shook the entire Eastern Visayas region. The mammoth quake registered a magnitude 7.6 on the Richter scale. USGS data reported a magnitude 7.9.
In Tacloban city, families preparing for bed rushed out of their homes with children and sometimes elderly in tow. Streets were littered with terrified people holding each other praying against the worst. Downtown residents crouched together for cover from concrete structures & power lines swinging violently from either side. Elsewhere in the city, the automatic power blackout forced everyone from the safety of their homes. From informal settlements to affluent subdivisions, locals held hands as they braced for a bigger blow.
But as fate would have it, catastrophe was not to be in Tacloban City – and so with the rest of the region. Despite the unprecedented magnitude, Eastern Visayas escaped the tragic misfortune others have suffered in the past. Except for a few cracked roads and largely insignificant sinkholes, the region suffered neither damage nor casualty – a stark contrast from the wake of destruction occasionally left by tremors with relatively lesser intensities.
In extreme cases, coastal communities turn hapless prey to rampaging tsunamis. For Leyte and Samar islands, it was a very close call.
Fortunately for “Warays”, a hearty laugh always comes in handy – a convenient therapy to calm brittle nerves. A few hours after the quake, funny stories, anecdotes as well as txt jokes took over. From bumbling escapes to bedtime hairdos – even hilariously inappropriate wardrobes, Taclobanons took to laughter as the best medicine.
But deep beneath this nervous amusement lurked mental and emotional scars. Days after the record tremor pushed the city to the brink of unthinkable disaster, locals belatedly realized a major tragedy was averted. While the narrow escape provided the needed sense of relief, it also came a bit too close for anyone’s comfort. This may partly explain why it seemed as though there was collective haste to immediately repress the harrowing experience. As a result, very little was said to reflect on what could have been – or what actually happened.
A month later the near-miss disaster was soon forgotten. August 31, 2012 was left the way it ended that evening – a joke.
It’s been almost a year now. And Tacloban City is about to come full circle to the day its future hung in the balance – the day all its gains came close to nothing but ruble. Many have yet to realize how close this city came to ruin. Had fate woken up at the wrong side of the bed that day, some of us may not be reading this article today. Those lucky enough to have survived are probably lining up at this publication to honor loved ones via a special anniversary obituary. Those with little or nothing left have to content themselves reading names of their tragic loss printed in tiny letters from pages three to five.
But on the other hand, perhaps fate woke up to a fine morning last August 31st – peeked through the window and caught the sun cheerfully painting amber skies before rising from the Pacific. And as fate sat down to marvel at the spectacle, crystal skies slowly unveiled magical blooms from a variety of colorful divine creations. And maybe as it later turned to inspect a log on the day’s seismic activities, it noticed an epicenter and instantly decided to move it 50 kilometers farther – if only to preserve the magical wonders unfolding before its eyes.
Whatever it was or whoever he may be, one thing is certain – something secured our land from a fury that has devastated many. Accidental? Perhaps. Divine intervention? Maybe.
At the end of the day, everyone wishes for a miracle. And with it comes personal visions of how it should look like when it finally appears. As one writer articulately puts it, “not all miracles are delivered in blinding lights and flying chariots. Nor do they always appear as flaming bushes talking to you in the voice of James Earl Jones”.
I’d like to think miracles do happen. And each of us is probably entitled to one in this lifetime. But for all we know, we already got ours. It simply happened so fast we failed to notice it. Just the same, it won’t hurt to say thank you. Because if the narrow escape we had last year were indeed a miracle, it’s probably the only miracle we will ever need.
In view of this, we wish to enlist your support for the August Thirty One Miracle (ATOM 7.6) Community Thanksgiving. A media led non-profit civic-religious undertaking aimed at gathering communities, organizations and local institutions on August 31, Saturday, 5:30 pm. Headed by Leyte-Samar Daily Express, DYVL-Aksyon Radio, CATNETWORK (CAT8) and the Vicariate of Tacloban Communications Office, ATOM hopes to gather Tacloban under a single thanksgiving mass celebration and reflect upon the city’s narrow escape from the 7.6 tremor.
A rosary procession will be held around the city prior to the pontifical celebration. Highlights of the unfolding event will broadcast live via combined media coverage utilizing various media outlets from print, radio and television. Should you find a need to further discuss the details of this matter, please feel free to contact us via the ATOM 7.6 secretariat at 321-4833 or 523-7373 or 321-5591. Thank you and more power to your continued success. – Dalmacio Grafil (Leyte Samar Daily Express) / Babes Custodio (DYVL-Aksyon Radyo)/ Jeff Manibay ( CAT8 Television) / Rev. Fr. Amadeo Alvero (Vicariate of Tacloban Communications)