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When my earth quakes

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 31, 2022 5:00 am

That was quite an earthquake we had last Wednesday. The night before, I had felt a dizziness that made me sit down immediately. I did not want to risk a blackout, then a fall. But when I sat, the dizziness disappeared.

Early the next morning as I sat beside his bed drinking coffee, my husband said, “I’m so dizzy.” I began to feel anxiety rising. What do I do? Will it be the hospital again? Do we need an ambulance? Then I felt my chair move slightly up and down. Then it swayed to the left and right. My two part-time helpers ran out. When I saw them I said, “Lindol (Earthquake)!”

None of us knew what to do. I went back to my 20s when there was a strong earthquake and we were told to stand beneath the lintel of a doorway. I looked up the word then. “Lintel” is that thing above a door that is designed to carry the load above the opening. I quickly scanned our condo unit. Couldn’t find a lintel sturdy enough to hold up the top floors.

The damage caused by a tsunami at Barangay Tibpuan, Lebak, Mindanao after the 7.9 Moro Gulf Earthquake on August 16, 1976.

Suddenly I remembered having lunch at the Hilton Rotisserie sometime in the 1970s. There was an earthquake. I went and stood under the entrance’s lintel. Earthquakes last very briefly. When that one subsided I looked up and saw the wooden sign with Rotisserie in brass letters swaying over my head. It was hung by thin chains on the lintel. If that had fallen on my head, you would have no crazy columnist to read now.

Another option was to sit under a table. But our table is glass. It would shatter into crumbs and the three concrete floors above would definitely smash us under the table. It would break if you dropped, say, a heavy vase full of water on it. We would be a mess of blood and broken glass fragments. In a flash I regretted having donated our wooden dining room table to Caritas to make room for a hospital bed. We would have been safer there.

Why have I survived so many earthquakes? There is no answer to that except that my time has not yet come. I believe that Someone somewhere has a list of everyone’s scheduled passing and nothing can beat that.

The two ladies who help us keep house didn’t know what to do. They just squatted on the kitchen floor. I looked at the cabinets so near them and thought the plates would fall on their heads if the earthquake lasted longer. On the verge of panic I stayed paralyzed in my chair praying to God to see us through this pretty strong earthquake. We live on the 27th floor. The sway was scary. 

Through all this as my husband, who complained of dizziness — the first sign of an earthquake — slept through the whole thing. His caregiver also slept through it. They must have felt Mother Nature had rocked them to sleep.

Hyatt Terraces Baguio Hotel collapsed due to the 1990 Luzon earthquake

When things had quieted down I remembered another earthquake I had survived in the 1990s. I was at UP about to attend something. I cannot remember what building it was in but the first floor had glass walls. I was walking around the building looking for the front door when the strong earthquake hit and I stood there looking at the glass swell back and forth in front of me. The glass swelling towards me looked like a pregnancy occurring then it went back to its original shape. And there was music: a duet of shrieks and moans that I believe came from the ground. I stood there paralyzed with fear waiting for the glass to break at the next swelling but it didn’t.

Then I remembered another earthquake when we lived in a house on a slope, which I feared would slide down and run into the house across us. That was the Ruby Towers incident, when the building collapsed and so many people died. 

Why have I survived so many earthquakes? There is no answer to that except that my time has not yet come. I believe that Someone somewhere has a list of everyone’s scheduled passing and nothing can beat that. No guts, no glory, people like to say. I don’t really believe that. If your guts kick in and save you during a crisis, it’s really because that crisis was not meant to be your time of death, not your God-given destiny. 

You stand just staring and waiting for glass or whatever to splinter into hundreds of shards that will head for your heart and kill you; time passes and suddenly you realize that you were just on the verge of an oncoming disaster that didn’t come. That maybe what cynics — sometimes like yourself — call myths are really something else. Are they myths? Could they be unrecognized truths? Maybe our guardian angels are watching us. Maybe my father who died early has been protecting me all this time. Maybe God has written our destinies and only He knows what will happen next. The only thing we have to do is trust: believe that no matter how difficult or impossible the circumstances, the outcome is always in His hands.

That’s what people mean when they say, “Have faith!”