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Sunday, March 13, 2011

When We Least Expect It: Japan Tsunami

"You know, I'm heartbroken by this tragedy. I think when you see what's happening in Japan, you are reminded that, for all our differences in culture or language or religion, that ultimately humanity is one". - President Obama 

I must admit it - I along with countless others here in Saudi Arabia was feeling nervous and a little paranoid in the lead-up to the well-publicized "Day of Rage" that supposedly took place yesterday March 11, 2010. Thankfully enough, it failed to materialize and subsequently gained a reputation as the "day of little rage", in reference to the group of very few disenchanted citizens who nevertheless showed up in their otherwise subdued rage in the quiet town of Qatif in the Eastern province. With Saudi Arabia assuredly spared from man-made turmoil, half a world apart in Japan, disaster struck in an utterly devastating and heartbreaking episode caught and beamed worldwide.

Scenes from the moments of destruction were of unbelievable proportion that even apocalyptic movies in Hollywood would pale in comparison. You will totally run out of words for it. I could not believe my eyes I was watching live footages of a raging ten-meter tsunami ravaging towns, communities, an airport and homes with such fury and destruction in its wake. What if I or my loved ones were in one of those running cars in the highways that got outsprinted and swallowed by the mighty wall of waters? And the boats and vehicles that got tossed about in such furious power of raging waters really provided a gripping display of might that once again proved every human being is an utterly helpless creation.

Thousands are believed to have been buried alive in the mud. But make no mistake. Japan is considered as the most high-tech nation on the planet. Every building and structure in Japan is designed to be quake-proof. Its people are well-prepared in times of earthquakes that occur every now and then. One foreigner even described it as a daily occurrence that every jolt in the building just goes unnoticed. This has become an experience one certainly has to live with when in Japan. If one wonders why Japan is one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world - it is because Japan is at the center of the "Ring of Fire" in the Pacific Rim along with some countries in the Pacific including the Philippines. And this hard fact has taught Japanese citizens to be smart and resilient in times such as these.

Friday's earthquake in Japan will certainly go down as the strongest recorded in its history with its tremor registered at magnitude 8.9 in the Richter scale. With a country that prides itself on how to get people to places within the minute or two even in the most perilous circumstances, no one could have predicted the scale of devastation it would cause, not even the Japanese themselves. If they could laugh off earthquakes in cities where tall buildings show proof of man's genius, another angel of death couldn't pass them over without leaving harrowing scenes of death. People in Japan are still grappling to comprehend how an earthquake could have triggered a tsunami that could be so devastating that have killed thousands. This is a very difficult time for all the Japanese people who were caught offguard by such a tragedy. And let us understand the number of dead was somehow minimized because most of them were prepared and well-drilled.

Japan has been known for its reputation for being one of the greatest donors of humanitarian aid in every catastrophe elsewhere - and one of the quickest too - but at the aftermath of this unheard of devastation in its own- it is Japan's turn to receive an outpouring of condolences from all over the world. With the Japanese people known for their resilience and unparalleled discipline, no one casts a doubt that it could easily rise up from the rubble of destruction given its history. But a strong underlying question surely casts a doubt as to the other nations' capability to rise up when it is their time to face the same situation - because it's only a matter of time. And what's next?

What if the same happens in the Philippines? As much as I would like to avoid this question, still reality hangs tough that it is not a remote possibility. We are not as prepared and ripe to face this kind of catastrophe, much less our  resources available are inadequate. While first-world countries are obsessed with upgrading their capabilities to counter such catastrophe to its minimal effect, in the Philippines our officials are equally obsessed with squandering state coffers to their end. The greed and gluttony in the government routinely prevails over the very few with honest and truthful intents. With all these tales and scenes of destruction facing us everyday, still we have fellow human beings choosing to drown themselves with greed oblivious of what tomorrow may bring.

As I try to ponder on the ruthlessness of nature whereby we are reduced to being helpless spectators when it unleashes its fury, I cannot help but wonder how human beings can be so greedy  when all the riches in this world can be easily reduced to rubbles and turned to a swathe of debris when it is retribution time. How much wealth would compensate for this life when we are faced with certain death?  Not even the powers and glitters of our riches could buy us refuge to shield us from the sting of death.  How many 'lesser' people die daily in their tens or hundreds fighting for their rights to live decent lives yet deprived of them by the 'greater' ones?  Not even the Ben Alis and Mubaraks of this world nor the arrogant Gadhafis in all their powers and riches will be able to stake their claim in the fight for incorruptibility - for the greedy will only have his days numbered before he is put to shame.

"Life is too short".  For most of us, it has become a cliche lost in the maze of the relevant. But when confronted with grim realities, where do we really go? And so we realized, life indeed is short. For those of us who believe there's a Force behind all these that controls the future, we can only pray away that we be spared from the same predicament. And for those who find it weird that this theory carries some weight - live your life to the fullest - but don't stop searching for an answer to this paradox - so that when in the midst of tragedy - you already have the answer - and peace will come - who knows?


DonPepe1972 said...

What happened recently in Japan scares me so much. It's like the Earth is saying "my time is coming,the end is near", but then again what can we do, we can't fight nature, we only have our prayers as our weapon.

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