Heroes moving up

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Monday, March 30, 2015


WE were at the 3rd floor of the Mariners’ Court at the Pier 1 area for our 4-year-old’s Moving Up ceremony when yesterday’s 4.8-magnitude earthquake had the building swaying and producing a rumbling, guttural sound.

This sound is familiar to us earthquake veterans. Thanks to the Bohol quake and its aftershocks. It’s like the sound that you make in your throat, with the back of your tongue touching the soft palate, or when you drink water in one big gulp after another. Only this sound doesn’t come from any part of your body but from deep down into the building’s foundations and beyond.

I heard it yesterday amid the noise of the celebration. My wife heard it too. She described the sound as scarier than the shaking itself.

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The JSU-PSU Mariner’s Court-Cebu is where my boy’s school, the Kids Daycare and After School Center, holds some of its major activities, especially those involving the attendance of parents and family members. You won’t miss it. It’s that seven-story building that features a ship bow jutting out of its façade you’d think the movie Titanic was filmed there.

That ship bow was one of the things I thought of when the earthquake happened. I told myself, this building will not collapse; it will just slip and slide into the ocean and sail away.

There were around 250 to 300 of us in the convention hall – kids, parents, grandparents, relatives, neighbors, friends, and the teaching and school personnel.

The school director, Annabelle Guanzon, was delivering her message to the kids and parents when the building shook at 9:45 a.m.

She stopped, visibly shaken, looked at the crowd then immediately recovered to tell everyone to stay calm and that everything’s going to be all right. “It’s OK, stay calm. Everything’s OK if we stay calm,” she said. There was no hint of alarm in her voice. She said it as if it was all part of her speech.

She repeated the reminder when she announced a few minutes later that the ceremonies had to be cut short because the Mariners’ management had decided to have the building evacuated as part of safety procedures.

“Please don’t panic. Stay calm. Don’t use the elevators,” Ms. Anabelle told the crowd. “And congratulations, everyone,” she told the kids, some of whom were wondering why they were leaving when they were just starting to feel good in their togas.

Before proceeding to the exit, my wife and I approached Ms. Anabelle and congratulated her for her handling of the situation.

I’m not sure now if it was because of our familiarity with the place or because of Ms. Anabelle’s calm disposition that not one of us panicked. Not one was seen running for the exit or was heard screaming the names of their favorite saints.

I won’t say earthquakes no longer scared us because I saw horrified faces yesterday. I saw grandmothers pulling out rosary beads from their bags. I heard neighbors calling home to check if everybody was OK. I saw my wife’s eyes widen in horror. The first time I saw her look horrified like that was when she first saw me naked. I told her that, and we managed a little laughter.

Me, I was one of the fathers who tried their best to look brave and strong in front of their kids. I could actually choose to panic. It’s a decision which is a lot easier to make. But I chose the more difficult decision to stay calm and look brave because my boy was watching me the whole time.

And he idolizes me. What kind of hero shits in his pants during earthquakes? “Not this hero, my boy, not me,” I whispered to him.

Then to my wife I said, “Shit that was scary.”

(@Insoymada)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 31, 2015.

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