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Earthquakes, Cessna, Quarrying and Ash Wednesday

For Ben Ginto (not his real name), the horrible events happening now, in almost quick succession - earthquakes, missing planes, flooding, the Pandemic, wars, recession -- are signs that the end-time is near. A period of anxiety and catastrophe is pushing more people to believe that the destruction of the world is soon. So now is the time to pray more to prepare.

I talked to Ben this morning as I write my column. He is a friend, an inventor, and a happy-go-lucky person who is also a successful businessman. He believes people should just go on with life, pray and prepare for the “second coming” of Jesus. He said he prays a lot but does not attend church. He gets along with every one of different faiths and politics. But he swears over the increasing cost of gasoline and the high cost of living. He believes the socioeconomic problems today are the doing of opportunistic people in government. He once wished one top official “dead” because of the unsolved problems at the Customs.

Then, also this morning, I got to reconnect with a disaster survivor from Masbate. Mang Emirio is from Cataingan, a coastal town at the earthquake’s epicenter in Masbate last August 18, 2020. It was a nightmare for his family. The quake was almost intensity seven or a “destructive” quake, which Phivolcs officials said was strong enough to throw away big pieces of furniture and cause poorly-built homes to collapse. He remembered praying through the ordeal of camping out of their damaged home, with falling debris everywhere, while caring for his family with a three-year-old boy during the first months of the Pandemic. Then, every 30 minutes, there were aftershocks. His wife was then pregnant with their second child.

Praying for safety and food

Since then, Emilio told me, he had been praying every day and going to church to ease his mind off the distressing conditions of lack of jobs in their hometown and feeling of insecurity. In addition, he prays for his family’s safety and for food on their table.

I learned Emilio in one of the long-distance phone calls with the provincial DSWD when Tabang Bikol Movement spearheaded a Zoom meeting among stakeholders led by the DSWD, Office of Civil Defense, and the LGU on rescue and relief operations. Unfortunately, the quake left two dead and 180 injured. Two years later, another quake was recorded at 5.0-magnitude early Saturday morning of August 20. Earthquakes happen in Masbate almost frequently.

Masbate is the most earthquake-prone province in Bicol. It is seismically active and has active faults, including the Masbate and Sibuyan Sea Segments of the Philippine Fault (PF), and potentially active faults, including the Uson Fault and Southern Masbate Fault. During the rainy season, most mountain barangays are vulnerable to landslides. Gold-rich, Masbate one of the country’s five most extensive mining areas.

Last week, at a small gathering of the Ilaw ng Kababaihan, which TBM organized as a community-based women’s organization and social enterprise, I chanced upon Mary Anne, the widow of Ben Noarin, who went missing and found dead after the flooding in Calabanga, Camarines Sur. She said she found solace in the company of TBM and the Ilaw women. She continues to pray that their family would recover well from the untimely loss of her husband and father to her three children. She told me her other prayer is for Ilaw to grow and develop their social enterprises to inspire more poor people like her to struggle for their future.

At that moment, the Gryphons communication group, which helped in the rescue operations for Noarin, posted another successful find, that of the missing Cessna 340 aircraft that carried two Australians onboard with the two pilots when it departed Bicol International Airport last Saturday. Through a high-resolution camera, they found the wreckage near the Mayon Volcano’s crater in Albay.

It was the second Cessna aircraft that went off the mark in the skies (Cessna C206) in Isabela just within a month of each other. Relatives of the passengers are still praying that all passengers and pilots are alive and safe. But plane safety advocates are demanding, not praying, for the Civil Aviation authorities to probe into the safety of all aircraft.

Meantime, the Social Enterprises Development (SED) Project team in Legazpi led by Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation-Legazpi Campus VPAA Dr. Nila Onate and Extension Officer Bernard Apuli joined me at the field visit of the quarrying site at Sta. Domingo, Albay. The quarrying workers welcomed the Project team, praying that alternative livelihoods for families in high-risk disaster areas like mining, quarrying, and low-lying flood-prone communities in Bicol become a priority for the government with ample support. The SED Project collaborates with the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) with the Mariners- Canaman and Legazpi campuses, Central Bicol State University, and Tabang Bikol Movement. In addition, members of the community people’s organizations that TBM helped organize - Ilaw ng Kababaihan, People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors, and Bugkos ng Kabataan, are praying to show the way.

Filipinos are indeed prayerful and hopeful people. The Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed in its recent survey the “unwavering faith and devotion” of the Filipinos even in this day’s modern technology: seven (7) of 10 Filipino Catholics pray daily. For whom or for what? It is a compensatory resource. Whatever one’s faith is, I believe praying dramatically relieves everyone.

Today, being Ash Wednesday for the Christian world, this day ushers in the 40-day Season of Lent, of sacrifice, abstinence, and fasting, to prepare for Easter Sunday. Let’s expect more prayers to bombard the high heavens!


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