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Dress rehearsal

By: Jullie Y. Daza

IT wasn’t Friday the 13th but Friday the 12th, pay day. It wasn’t the Big One, but it was enough to scare people for at least 30 seconds.

We five mature adults, for want of a more precise word, continued eating our lunch. Barbara Gordon’s chandeliers were dancing and her antique mirrors were swaying, we kept eating, pausing just long enough to tell each other, “Earthquake? Earthquake.” Funny, that it was our friend from the US who was first to feel the shaking – not funny, on second thought, ‘cause the rest of us were plainly too earthquake-experienced to be appropriately sensitive. In fact, 20 minutes before the shaking began, I recalled how we’d been having too many earthquakes, practically one every week or every other week, the most recent being the one that rattled China’s Xi Chuan province and killed 20 people.

In the main dining room of Barbara’s decades-old restaurant in a three-story building that’s hundreds of years old, restored by Imelda Marcos and Jimmy Laya in the last century, no one was panicking, or trying to duck, cover, and hold, given that there was probably not enough room under the tables. At one table sat three gray-haired ladies who looked like nuns. One of them made the sign of the Cross. Nobody else appeared to be praying, so I took that as an “all clear” sign. “Next time,” our American friend whispered sagely, “don’t talk about earthquakes.”

That was 1:28 p.m. By 2:00 we were going down the age-polished stairs, and that’s when the earthquake became more real, less surreal. (Shouldn’t earthquakes be given proper names also, like typhoons?) Office workers gathered on the sidewalks, exchanging fears and feelings. Uniformed students, sprung out of school, congratulated themselves. On radio, Dr. Renato Solidum and his team said they were satisfied that the population seemed to have been adequately prepared by those mandatory drills.

Well and good. Except for two things. The tremor was major at magnitude 6.3 or .5, but it was felt at medium-intensity 4 in Metro Manila. Its source was the Manila Trench, not the West Valley Fault that we have been repeatedly warned against. Back to your trenches, folks!

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