Quakes in the City



Minutes after ten in the evening of October 18, 2021, the jolt came again. Online, a netizen posted this: “There it is: the earthquake for tonight. Now, I can sleep.”


From those lines, we can sense a regularity in the quakes that a person could feel secure the quota of earthquakes for the day has already been reached or fulfilled, and that now we could rest. Till the next day.


The fact is everything began some thirty minutes or so after ten of the evening of October 14, 2021. It was a Thursday. And it was a different kind of earthquake. But that singular characteristic of the shaking would become more clarified when a series of jolts followed the early morning, after that strong earthquake. Minutes after one in the morning of the 15th of October, not one but two jolts followed in succession.


The early morning tremors woke up the neighborhood and people came out. It was after the first jolt that people became conscious of what seemed to be happening, but it was the one that followed which somehow convinced many of the terrifying pattern becoming apparent.


When the strong quake occurred on Thursday, the hours after that saw people checking the Internet for explanations. The epicenter was around Canaman, some 5 kilometers from Naga City. The depth was only 4.3 kilometers. Three more jolts would take place in the following morning, coming from shallow origins of 2.3 to 3.5 kilometers.


Netizens were actively surfing the Internet in search of explanation. In the absence of any information or alert from our city government (I wonder if municipalities were issuing also alerts), data flowed freely online. So many experts in so little time. Terrible predictions of biblical proportion.


One site was over confident enough to declare what was happening in “Camarines.” But isn’t science working in the realm of probabilities, not certainties? It did not take long for people to ask if volcanoes have something to do with the series of quakes. One site said, yes. Its latest report mentions how the solar activity and cosmic rays are contributing to the earthquakes! It even mentions LPA or low pressure area as factors that aggravate the faults.


The problem with sources that are presented as “scientific” is that, in the absence of other data, people are bound to agree to and accept any kind of data or information.


While people for a while have forgotten about the pandemic and the Covid-19 virus, other things are going viral. These are the misinformation and the ill-gotten half-truths being parlayed through the social media. It is difficult to control them because this information super-highway is limitless.


In the meantime, people are left to themselves, to fend for themselves.


Unlike other natural calamities that can be predicted and observed, earthquakes still remain in the realm of the mysterious or the unknown. When we reason out about the occurrence of a tremor, it is always after the fact, not before. It is then that we observe in hindsight events. Were the dogs barking like crazy and the cats sort of troubled before the quake arrived? Was the sudden silence in the night a precursor to the quake? Was the shaking preceded by a sound and a rumbling?


Do earthquakes have sound?


Can animals predict an earthquake? Apparently, they can, according to some empirical observations with the pigs as the most sensitive of these animals, which also include dogs, turkeys, and chicken.


Chicken? As I was writing this column, I did hear cackling of chicken and crowing of roosters at 3 in the afternoon. Were they sensing a hum beneath the ground?


Sleepless nights and uneasy days are assured by these earthquakes.


Outside of troubling readings of the sky, there are comments running across the Internet admonishing the people that these earthquakes are God’s way of testing us. I do not think the Divine operates that way because if the Universe/God/Eternal Force did, then the corrupt politicians could have been swallowed already by the earth at the first instance of the tremblor. But, no, many of them are still alive, actively campaigning for the next election. Many of them who had caused the poverty of the land are still around, richer, stable, and unshaken by the acts they had done years ago.


In the meantime a wag of a government functionary had time to crack a dumb joke how when the grounds rumbled, he was worried that he had not put on his underwear yet. On that note, I think I could change my theology and wish God be punitive again and, with all His might, smite those with misplaced sense of humor and politics.