Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


First 24 Hours—Philippines 2012–Earthquake! Tsunami warning! And the conference hasn’t even begun yet

On my way to the meeting of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists.

The flights to Tokyo and then Manila were uneventful.  A bit of a delay as I realized that a rendezvous with Cathy C. was not  going to be easy, since her airline uses a different terminal, and waiting for a shuttle seemed even longer than the shuttle ride would have been.   It was after 10 PM Sunday when I got to the Lotus Garden Hotel.  Many other visitors had arrived the day before and spent the day at museums and attending worship at the only UU congregation in Metro Manila, in the poor neighborhood of Bicutan.  Rev. Brian, from Canada, is president of the ICUU.  There’s a short video of him at worship, showing some of the international crowd and the 20 women and 30 kids of the Bicutan congregation, at this YouTube link.  That night the group visited a biweekly UU discussion group—not quite a congregation–in the liberal suburb of Quezon City.  As I recall from last year, it includes young adult professionals, including some expats.

After checking in I went out in the street to change some money—at a “money changer,” all of which are small store fronts, all Muslim-run.   Some of them have a can for donations to support a mosque.  42.70 Philippine pesos to $1 US was the best rate I found.

The buffet breakfast looked more like American dinner—chicken a la king, rice, soup, etc.  Next to it was the “Filipino Corner” with some fried fish and other items.  But lots of fruit, a young chef making omelets, and  bread for toasting—the whitest slices, with white crust, that I’ve ever seen.

After breakfast, we went back to the airport and flew Cebu Pacific airways to Dumaguete City, on Negros Island.  Cebu Pacific makes Southwest Airlines look like luxury service.  On its website, after you buy your cheap airfare, you pay for your choice of seats, and pay for your luggage.  Still, the total cost was cheap.

As we were on our way, an earthquake struck north of Negros Island—6.8 on the Richter scale, followed by an aftershock.  Nihal told us this after we landed and got in the vans to come to the South Sea Hotel Resort.  We had a buffet lunch on the patio near the ocean at 1 PM.  Fortunately, the cooks had prepared it before the quake, as they had all run away from their posts.  (For dinner, we learned, hotel would solve this problem by taking us to a restaurant in town that it owned.)

Lunch conversation centered on whether the water just over the wall would turn into a tsunami.  A local UU had posted notice of a tsunami warning on Facebook.  A scientist in our group from Norway looked up the quake at the U. S. Geological Survey website, and told us its epicenter was about 70 kilometers north of our island.

I asked if my second-floor room would be high enough if we needed to run for it.  One said yes and asked how much I’d charge to let others in.  I said:  “$50 now, and $100 to get in.”

After lunch and a nap, I found out how to walk into town.  Many of the stores were shuttered, and I couldn’t find a tee-shirt that said Philippines on it—plenty of other things, though.  Someone told me the closings were a result of the quakes and tsunami fear.

At dinner I sat next to Rev. Fred, who had been at a UU Women’s Conference at the campus of Silliman University.  He said that after the earthquake the Negros Oriental provincial governor had declared a Level 2 tsunami warning.  Everyone fled, and the streets and roads were packed and chaotic.

Dinner at Kri restaurant was a bit loud, and more of us showed up than the owner had expected, so a few of us had to wait for more food to come out.

Last March in Dumaguete, my group stayed in a hotel in town.  I had conversations with the night security guard, a young Filipino who told me he had gone to the UU church with a parent, but later he began attending a more conservative church.  His name was Emerson.  Today, before I headed into town, I passed a group of young people at the resort, and one of them stopped and called me by name “Mr. Roger?”   It was Emerson.  He pulled out my business card, on which I had written Ralph Waldo Emerson and the essay title “Self-Reliance.”  He was happy to be a security guard no longer, but to be assistant cook at Kri restaurant.  So I saw him again after dinner tonight.

I’m finishing this blog post in the resort’s bar, with a lot of European and British UUs.  I’m turning in now, hoping to get on a regular sleep schedule.

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