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Masks, markers

 

dza jullie yap daza - medium rare

BEEN there, done that.

As a creature of two centuries, that’s my take on having been a witness to nature’s awfully spectacular shows of her wrath. Last Sunday’s surprise eruption of Taal volcano – alert level 4 within six hours, with an ash column rising 100 meters high, resulting in ashfalls reaching Manila 90 km away – was nothing new, evoking graphic memories of June 15, 1991’s Mt. Pinatubo eruption.

While DZMM kept us posted with blow-by-blow accounts of Taal’s latest tantrum – marked by ash, rain, grains of sand or volcanic soil, darkness all around, mud-soaked vehicles stalled by zero visibility, evacuation of residents hampered by all of the above, plus lack of emergency housing – the debate at home was whether it was safe to turn on the airconditioner. Advised to shut all windows and doors to keep out the polluted air which hurt the eyes and nose, what was one to do? No windows, therefore no breeze, therefore no fresh air, ergo no sleep.

My doctor friend said no, don’t use your AC. A report quoted Joey Concepcion as saying it was safe to do so. But Mr. Concepcion’s business being the manufacture of airconditioners, does his statement reflect his opinion as a producer or a fellow consumer? The debate progressed, two pulmonologists who were interviewed on TV advising against turning on the AC.

There was no argument that the first thing to disappear from the shelves of neighborhood drugstores was face masks, of high-density fiber or not. Back in 1991 when Pinatubo’s tantrum was the second largest of the last century – it affected the color of the skies in Russia – we didn’t wear masks. We didn’t have 24/7 TV and smartphones. We didn’t argue about airconditioning. I remember Pinatubo because it happened on my birthday. When I came out of my sister-in-law Nora Daza’s restaurant in Makati, my car was covered in inch-thick ash. I drove home at 3 p.m. shrouded in darkness a la 9 p.m. I kept the headlights on, just to warn oncoming cars.

The ashfall scared me not. Had I been toughened by the magnitude-7 earthquake of the year before, July 1990? That phenomenon and how it shook me, top to bottom – now that was epochal. Frightful memories leave strong, indelible markers.

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