March 23, 2023

It was the third day of Vacation Church School (VCS). I sat on the last bench at church. The children just finished their storytelling.

Looking around, I saw a familiar figure in front of me. I stood behind her, tapped her shoulder and said, “Hey, you are here. I thought you were at school.” She was about to answer when the shaking started. She stood and reminded the children to calm down and do not panic. I agreed, and told them to apply what they had learned at school when there is an earthquake. I added they remain in their sit and do the duck, cover, and hold. Anyway the earthquake will stop. We are used to slight earthquakes. So we assured them it will cease immediately. I went beside the metal post. Then a strong motion continued. I wrapped my arms on the post to not lose my balance.

At first, the children were calm. But the earthquake made the bungalow church shake and the lights keept on blinking. The teachers per level stood beside their learners. There were three groups. Four to six years old for level 1, seven to nine years old for level 2, and 10 to 12 years old for level 3.

They were grouped according to their age. The teachers-in-charge per level were assisting the children. They were also quite calm also. When outside, I was shocked because the kadkad started to collapse. The ground seemed like a bouncing ball. The electric post was swaying. The old rectory was also shuddering since it is made up of light materials. Everything was shaking violently. There were two teachers-in-charge covering their head exiting the entrance of the rectory. They were preparing and printing activities of the children. I thought it was the end of the world. My calmness turned into fear because of what I saw outside. I cannot explain what I felt. I looked at the children and saw fear, rattle, and panic. Others started to cry. Some were preparing to run and the rest remained on their seat waiting for the instruction on what to do.

The teachers assisting them cannot move because of shock. They kept gazing at each other. Their eyes were teary. We were just staring at each other. Two children stood and began to run, followed by four children. The teachers froze and did not know whether to stop the children or instruct them to calm down. The six children are almost in front of me and the other children stood to follow them. I gained my composure and shouted at them to return to their seat. They stopped for a moment and looked at me. One of them was crying.

I also shouted to the teachers to look at the children and moved to assist the frightened children. If I will let children move out, they might see what I witnessed make them more fearful and run. There was an electric post that might fall. The earthquake ended and I told the children to inhale and exhale. Then, one of us led the prayer to express gratefulness for our protection. Afterwards, we comforted the children.

In school, children do the earthquake drill and they are aware on how to respond. That moment was different because there were children aged four who did not know what to do. Actual scenario differs from the drill. Alertness, quick decision-making, and calmness are greatly needed to avoid disaster from a hazard.