Reflections on Life & History in the Wake of the Philippines Earthquake

Loboc

Heritage conservationists on Tuesday mourned the damage to historic churches in Bohol and Cebu, a major source of tourism income and cultural pride of these provinces.

The Manila-based Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) said the earthquake affected heritage landmarks in Bohol and Cebu, causing total destruction or significant damage to the churches in Baclayon, Dauis, Dimiao, Loay, Loboc, Loon and Maribojoc in Bohol, all national cultural treasures or national historical landmarks; and the Sto. Niño Basilica and Cebu Cathedral in Cebu, among others.

About a month ago, my grandfather and I took a flight out of Manila and touched down in Tagbilaran Airport, located on the island of Bohol. We explored most of the island, enjoying its pristine beaches, well-preserved Spanish-era cathedrals, and its famed geological formations known as the Chocolate Hills. Yesterday, Bohol was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake yesterday, leaving at least 93 people dead in Bohol and the nearby city of Cebu. My initial reaction to this news was to make sure that my family in the Philippines, including my grandparents, were safe. Luckily, they live far away from the areas affected by the quake, so they were unharmed.

My next reaction was to reflect on the fact that rubble and death now covers the very spots where I stood one month ago. I don’t attach any cosmic significance to this coincidence. I don’t feel that I’ve survived an event that others did not, and I definitely don’t feel as though I’ve been “chosen” for life whereas other were “chosen” for death. I also cringe at the idea that this or any other tragedy occurs to send a particular message to me or to anyone else in the world. However, I do value the opportunity to reflect on the so-far consistent reality in which I continue to live as others perish every day. And even though I do not believe that I have been selected for such a privilege or that I “deserve” it, I choose see this tragedy as reminders to make the most of the time I have as a living person, to reflect momentarily on the inevitable death that awaits me and everyone else, and to send vibes of gratitude to the people who have made my life an enjoyable state of being.Bohol

My final reaction to the news of yesterday’s earthquake was to decide how to feel about the collapse of numerous churches built by Spanish conquerors over 400 years ago. When I first arrived in the Philippines this summer, I was still enjoying the afterglow of my experiences in Thailand and Burma — countries where the predominant spiritual force is Buddhism. I saw Buddhist practices (and the animist traditions with which they are often mixed) as remnants of ancient indigenous communal decisions, and therefore as more authentic. I saw Philippine Catholicism, on the other hand, as a result of an invasive decision made by European colonizers that did not take the preference of actual Filipinos into account. As I traveled throughout the Philippines, the sight of every church reminded me of the Spanish colonial enterprise that stunted indigenous Philippine development for centuries, and I wondered what amazing diversity of spiritualities and cultures might have colored the Philippine archipelago if not for European hubris and greed. So when I heard that Spanish churches were destroyed in the Bohol earthquake, part of me cherished this small step toward the Philippines’ natural state. This feeling, however, was short-lived. I told myself that one does not learn from history by ignoring it. Spanish colonialism is a historical fact, and the destruction of a church does not reverse time. Furthermore, it was the very sight of these churches that, in addition to depressing me, also served as a constant reminder to engage with the history of my ancestors. The loss of any number of churches is the loss of the same number of reflective opportunities, and this is truly a tragedy.

Quote taken from here.

More information on the recent earthquake here.

Post submitted by Jacob

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