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The great escape

WHEN the city empties out for the Holy Week exodus, doesn’t it seem as if people are fleeing an unholy place? Why the rush to leave town unless it was a vile and sinful place during a sacred and holy time? What’s everyone trying to flee or escape from?

Whatever, the days after Palm Sunday are a respite – what a blessed relief to drive around and retake the metropolis, minus the long queues, the sticky jams, the noisy sweaty crowds. It’s good to be home, stay home, no place like home.

Unless you’re arriving at the Manila international airport in the afternoon of April 6 at the same time with 1,500 other passengers on a total of five flights – which is when you feel like going back to wherever you’ve just come from.

I didn’t know how bad it was until I saw the evening news a few hours later. It wasn’t just bad, it was the worst I had seen of a congested airport, and the worse it looked on the TV screen, the more I realized how lucky we were. For all the elbow-to-elbow crowding and the kilometer-long serpentine rows of arrivals suffering in silence, the line at Immigration, Terminal 2, had moved quickly enough: I counted 20 minutes of waiting time. And another 15 before I pulled the family luggage out of the carousel.

Who’s complaining? Not me. Not until the next day, when I read a days-old newspaper account of the earthquake in Batangas on April 4, while we were away in Japan, and how it had destroyed a wall of the Minor Basilica of St. Martin de Tours in Taal. Oh, no! Two days before the earthquake, the awesome, centuries-old cathedral was featured in an article I wrote, with pictures taken by myself, for Panorama magazine’s April 2 issue. Should I feel guilty? Not unless Msgr. Alfredo Madlangbayan, parish priest, beats a confession out of me.

But when the second earthquake struck the province at intensity- 5 to 7 on April 8, I could only pray that no further damage had wounded the church and therefore not my conscience. (Jullie Y. Daza)

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