Last April 4, a magnitude 5.4 earthquake hit the province of Batangas, and tremors were felt in Metro Manila and the rest of the southern part of Luzon island. A series of aftershocks that would continue throughout the next four days was capped with more powerful twin earthquakes that hit the same province on April 8. The twin earthquakes, measured at magnitude 5.6 and 6, respectively, by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), were then followed by two other earthquakes measured at magnitude 4.1 and 4.7.
Though PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum Jr. has said that there is “no connection” between the earthquake swarm in Batangas with the feared “Big One”, citizens online and offline havepointed out how rather ominous the recent events have been in relation to the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that is projected to occur within this lifetime. The recent events have brought into light, in addition to a renewed focus and heightened attention on the Big One, calls for more knowledge sharing efforts and drills to educate the public, among other initiatives.
Studies from as early as 2004 have hypothesized that the Marikina Valley Fault System—which was responsible for the last significant earthquake in Metro Manila, measured at magnitude 7.5 and recorded nearly 360 years ago—is due to generate another earthquake just as powerful as the last one to hit Manila all those years ago in 1658. The now famed West Valley Fault is part of the Marikina Valley Fault System, which traverses Metro Manila and several nearby provinces—leading many to create the link between the Batangas earthquake swarm and the feared Big One.
On April 8, several universities and establishments conducted emergency evacuation measures and stopped normal operations shortly after the twin earthquakes hit past 3 pm. In DLSU, final exams were cancelled as students, faculty, and staff were asked to vacate the buildings for their respective evacuation centers. While some students quickly complied after feeling the ground shake, several others, many among them in the middle of taking their final examinations, were adamant about leaving their respective classrooms. Apparently, there had been confusion since some students had reportedly been unable to feel the earthquake, which led them to believe it was only a simulation or a drill.
This brings to light a problem that has been persisting for quite some time now: the urgency, or its lack thereof, with which the Lasallian community responds to the threats of an earthquake, real or simulated. Though very clearly, safety of the people was on the line during the evacuation which happened on April 8, several members of the community did not act with the urgency that is expected of them in times of calamities such as this month’s earthquake swarm. This was reminiscent of how, just last year, during the second Metro Manila Shake Drill, DLSU’s own Security Office OIC Dr. Jocelyn Dayanan pointed out how students lacked a sense of urgency in following the standard procedures for the drill.
Ultimately, we will never know when the next calamity will strike, but now more than ever, we need to come together as a community. Last week’s earthquake swarm should therefore augment and intensify what systems and standard procedures we have in place, and reinforce in the community an even greater sense of urgency for what might possibly come in this lifetime.
When studies also point out that Metro Manila is not sufficiently prepared for such a powerful earthquake, with threats of widespread fire, loss of electricity, and liquefaction risk, among others, there is very little that we can do in order to prepare. However, this very little chance that we have just might be our ticket to survival.