Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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At Large

‘San Andreas’ and the ‘Big One’

AT THE close of the Jimenez clan’s Flores de Mayo celebrations, after the dinner (hosted by the family of my late uncle Ramy and aunt Flor Jimenez), and the contest asking us to provide missing lyrics of Marian devotion songs (we’re corny and competitive that way), matters turned serious as my sister-in-law Coratec took the floor.

Coratec (wife of my late brother Bo) happens to be the general manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority, and clearly top of mind for her was the threat posed by the “Big One” on Metro Manila. We’re talking about the big tremor that, so experts say, is long overdue. With earthquakes recently hitting countries like Nepal and Japan, it does feel like the circle is closing in. Are we ready? Do we know what to do?

Can we survive such a disaster?

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That was the reminder Coratec issued, recommending that we all follow the “4 Ps” of disaster preparedness: plan (before a disaster strikes, develop a family disaster plan including each member’s responsibility, an escape route and a meeting place); prepare (have all the necessary disaster supplies ready, and a “go bag” for each member of the family filled with all the necessities in case of evacuation); practice (conduct family disaster drills); and protect (retrofit one’s house and surroundings to eliminate or reduce sources of risk).

To these “4 Ps” Coratec added a fifth: pray, that we are not confronted by a serious disaster any time soon, but also that we know how to minimize deaths and injuries in case the “Big One” does strike.

Coratec likewise informed us of the designated gathering places for residents of different areas in the metropolis. These are: Veterans Memorial Golf Course in Quezon City, Villamor Golf Course in Pasay, Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong, and Club Intramuros in Manila. You will note that all of them are golf courses, chosen, Coratec said, because they provide lots of open areas to accommodate the homeless. I couldn’t help wondering, though, how we were supposed to make our way to these gathering places, since people would surely be clogging our streets with warm bodies, cars, tricycles and all other possible conveyances.

“We can walk to these places,” Coratec reminded us, recalling how she had walked from Quezon Memorial Circle to Rizal Park with some MMDA personnel just to see if it was at all possible and how much time it would take.

* * *

FOOLISHLY, or perhaps inspired by Coratec’s talk, the hubby and I then decided to take in a movie afterwards. And wouldn’t you know, the movie we chose to watch was “San Andreas.” This was particularly apropos to our situation today since the movie is all about what could possibly happen if the San Andreas Fault in California would begin to move, wreaking

havoc on the US West Coast, all the way from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

And I tell you, what I saw was exciting and edge-of-your-seat riveting, but it didn’t in the least leave me feeling any better about our prospects for survival in the event of a major quake in Metro Manila.

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“San Andreas” stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who plays Ray Gaines, a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter pilot (and Iraq veteran). But when he finds out that his wife

Emma (Carla Gugino) and later, his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) are caught in rubble in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Gaines essentially, in the words of a reviewer, “screws the citizens” and flies his chopper to rescue his family. Was this even allowed? I couldn’t help wondering how many more of the injured and dying he could have loaded in his helicopter on his way to rescue his daughter.

I know, the storytelling needed to focus on one rescuer and his family to create emotional heft and make us moviegoers care about what was happening onscreen. But as it happens, it would seem the many corpses we see along the way are just meant to be props, as are the few people Gaines does help seek shelter when a particularly strong aftershock occurs.

When Gaines and his wife must deal with a tsunami on the way to rescuing their daughter, I couldn’t help feeling that director Brad Peyton and scriptwriter Carlton Cuse were working with a checklist of the usual frightful incidents that take place in the wake of a tremor. Falling buildings, check! Fires and hurricane-force winds, check! Tsunami, of course!

* * *

STILL, “San Andreas” is good enough for a two-hour diversion, although I think we Metro Manilans—and Filipinos for that matter—would be watching the movie with a lot more unease and trepidation than others.

The movie, after all, brings painful reminders of what could take place in case the “Big One” does strike. And it recalls, as well, other natural disasters for which we were neither warned nor prepared. How would we prepare for a disaster on the scale of that depicted in “San Andreas”? The way things stand, barely, if at all.

Which is why all the media hype about an impending earthquake—no matter if it takes place tomorrow or 10 years from now—cannot but make a dent on our consciousness and on our awareness of the imminence of disaster, the “great leveler” in our society riven by social status and power.

Right now, say news reports, the MMDA is in need of about 8,000 volunteers to undergo training in search-and-rescue skills and emergency response. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if each of our families

assigned one member to take this training course, to benefit not just our family members but our neighbors and community as well? Or, we could befriend our very own search-and-rescue helicopter pilot!

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TAGS: Earthquake, nation, news, West Valley Fault
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