Church prepares for earthquake, tsunami

Baclaran Church. Photo by YVETTE B. MORALES
Baclaran Church. Photo by YVETTE B. MORALES


With the threat of tsunami from the Manila Trench and the anticipated 7.2 magnitude earthquake of the West Valley Fault, the Redemptorists of Baclaran have decided to be more proactive instead of reactive in disaster management.

As a first step, the National Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help conducted Friday a disaster preparedness forum for devotees in partnership with the nongovernmental Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development (ACCORD).

The church also plans to conduct an earthquake drill in October as part of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Panimula ito. Gusto naming malaman ano ba yung lindol at yung mga threat sa amin, lalo na ito’y dinarayo ng maraming tao tuwing Miyerkules at Linggo (This is just the beginning. We want to know what earthquake is and the threats we might face, especially because the church is visited by a lot of devotees on Wednesdays and Sundays),” said Carlito Latorre, coordinator of advocacy group Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation under the Baclaran Church.

ACCORD Executive Director Marieta Lupig Alcid said the church is a good venue to conduct disaster preparedness initiatives.

Ang church din ay isang venue for public information, ang lawak lawak ng maaabot niya (The church is also a venue for public information, it can reach out to a lot people),” she said.

Latorre said the Redemptorist fathers want to ensure the safety of churchgoers which number at least 100,000 every Wednesday or Baclaran Day.

Shrine rector Joey Echano also stressed the importance of raising people’s awareness that part of their devotion is taking care of the earth.

Ito ang tugon ng shrine sa lumalalang krisis sa ating kalikasan: climate change, global warming (at mga) epekto nito, mga bagyo baha, kasama na yung lindol (This is the shrine’s answer to the continuous degradation of the environment: climate change, global warming and its effects like typhoons, floods and even earthquakes),” he said.

During the forum, Philippine Volcanology and Seismology supervising science research specialist Joan Salcedo clarified that climate change has nothing to do with the triggering of earthquakes.

Indirect effects such as higher temperatures in evacuation centers would be the likely effect of climate change during earthquakes, she said.

The possible damage to the physical structure of the 57-year-old shrine is also being studied despite the structural testing conducted two years ago.

“It’s not only educating the people. We must also fix the physical structure because what would we tell the churchgoers? ‘You don’t need to evacuate because the church can handle the huge impact of earthquakes.’ But if we aren’t sure and the church collapses, it would be problematic,” Alcid said in Filipino.

Alcid suggested retrofitting, which Rector Echano said would be considered.

In October 2013, historic churches such as the 16th century Basilica Minore Del Sto. Nino and 18th century Sta. Cruz Church were damaged by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol.

(The author is a University of the Philippines student writing for VERA Files as part of her internship.)