PGTW: Shaken, not stirred

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 17 October 2013, Thursday

Shaken, not stirred

The resilience of the Filipino spirit continues to be tested by political, social, and natural disasters.

After a succession of devastating typhoons and floods, and the scandals surrounding the pork barrel and misuse in general of government funds, yet another tragedy hit, this one natural and inescapable.

The sudden and awful impact of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol last Tuesday was said to have 32 times the power of the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.

It is estimated to be the most destructive earthquake to hit Bohol in 23 years. Around 110 aftershocks were recorded as of Tuesday midday, with more to come in the next few days

At least ten heritage churches were destroyed, seven in Bohol and three in Cebu, including Cebu’s Basilica of the Holy Child and Bohol’s Baclayon and San Pedro churches. The damage has been described elsewhere as “heartbreaking.”

Roads in many areas looked as if they had been inexpertly pleated by a cruel, giant hand. Bridges seemed smashed by the same harsh fist.

As of presstime, there are nearly 100 casualties, who perished when buildings and homes collapsed.

Many lost their homes. According to Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, as of the evening of the day of the quake, there were 20,425 “affected” individuals in Bohol and 2,335 in Cebu, “affected” meaning they were rendered homeless because their homes are too damaged or too unsafe to return to.

Among the dead are two employees of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Virginia S. Carausos (54), sweepstakes/lottery operations assistant, and Milba Cha-Eyal (57), administrative aide, had been reassigned from PCSO’s Head Office in Manila to the Bohol branch and arrived in Tagbilaran City to take up their new duties just two days before the earthquake.

They died when the house they both were staying in collapsed.

Both were long-time employees of the PCSO – Carausos served for 31 years, and Cha-Eyal for 19. The former leaves behind a husband and three children, the latter a husband and a daughter.

PCSO General Manager lawyer Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II said PCSO mourns the loss of Carausos and Cha-Eyal. “They gave their lives in service to the agency, the government, and to the Filipino people,” he said, “and we commend and thank them for their selflessness and dedication.”

These are but two of many. There are many more stories out there of loss and grief, and the mourning will last the lives of their loved ones, who will remain stunned at the abruptness of losing them.

Yet while one life lost is too many, it could have been worse, and we can count ourselves lucky to have been spared greater tragedy. For instance, the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 had a magnitude of 7.0, lower than the one that hit Bohol, yet it had a staggering death toll that the United States Geological Survey estimated to be as high as 300,000.

The Filipino spirit is perhaps the most resilient in the world. Where else can you find, at the height of a typhoon’s ravages, people taking selfies of themselves waist-deep in floodwater, smiles on their faces?

Each Filipino carries within this same spirit of survival, that serves them in good stead wherever they go. Take the case of 72-year-old Gene Peñaflor, who survived 19 days in the California wilderness by eating lizards, squirrels, and berries. When he was found last week by a group of hunters, he still had bullets left.

He was well-prepared for the ordeal, said his family, by a lifetime of “outdoor savvy,” according to SFGate.com. Their report adds that Peñaflor “honed an arsenal of survival skills by navigating the backcountry of his native Philippines as a child…”

It is this same strength and courage, shown by Gene, shown by Filipinos in times of trouble, coupled with the bayanihan spirit of working together and helping each other in adversity, that will pull us through, yet again, and again.

We are shaken, but not stirred.

We will rebuild. We will recover. We will go on.

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