Shades of RupingBy Jobers Bersales
Cebu Daily News
When the rains started pouring the other day, my memories brought me back to the evening of Nov. 12, 1990 when Super Typhoon Ruping began battering Cebu City. Last Saturday, I had already begun warning relatives and colleagues much younger than me to prepare as the path of last Tuesday’s super typhoon was following that of Ruping’s and might be just as strong.
All I got were quizzical looks. None of them had memories of Ruping. Worse, all my nephews and nieces had nothing but blank stares when I spoke of Ruping in superlative terms.
Thankfully, Cebu City was spared by Bopha or Pablo, the name it got when it entered Philippine waters. It was one close shave that did not fail, however, to bring back memories of Ruping: of fallen trees and electric posts blocking all the roads; of the airport runways unlit and unable to land airplanes for weeks; of the Mandaue-Mactan Bridge closed to vehicles; of walking to nearby rivers to get a decent bath as the waterworks systems also conked out.
I was on my second year of teaching at the Talamban Campus of the University of San Carlos (USC). The boarding house where I lived in, owned by the Tudtud-Catungal family, was spared but another one behind ours, also owned by the same landed family, had its entire roof blown off, landing next to the same building. It was payday for us at USC that fateful day. There were announcements that a strong typhoon was coming, but that it would pass through Bohol and go north of Cebu, not Cebu City.
But the rains started pouring hard already by mid-morning (unlike this recent one). And, because it was payday, I decided to buy some groceries to stock up on food—buying of all things a lot meat! The rest, they say, is history. By midnight, I was shivering inside my room. I could hear the shouts for help by students on the dormitory building behind where I lived, but what could I do?
Morning came but the rains and the strong winds (reaching up to a gustiness of 280 kph) refused to die down. I had to crawl through a lot of broken tree branches to get out of my room. Then I had to cook all the meat that I bought or they would turn bad. And so we had a small feast amid all the devastation.
But the scene on Banilad Road was of utter destruction. Cebu City was on its knees. In the days that followed, we had to make do with the barest of necessities: no electricity, no water, no classes and no way to get out of the city (and go where? the whole of Cebu island was devastated!) The old folks around muttered bitterly that it reminded them of World War II except that young people like us could sleep on the road and play cards there amid fallen electric poles. I had board mates who even took pictures while sitting on those concrete poles and the high-tension wires much to their delight.
Cebu was so unprepared that no one knew what to do. Later on, it will be known throughout the country how fast Cebu recovered from Ruping, how everyone pulled together. My most enduring memory is how selfless USC had been to its faculty and employees, giving us thousands of pesos in relief assistance over and above our salaries. Christmas turned out to be not as bad as we thought it would.
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Except for the failed sound system, the National Thanksgiving Mass was on the whole a resounding success. Cebu can indeed host nearly a million people in one place for one single event.
Cebu’s Roman Catholic hierarchy is no stranger to hosting gargantuan events like the one last Nov. 30. In1965, it played host, together with the Augustinian Fathers, the 400th anniversary of Evangelization of the Philippines, marking the arrival of the first missionaries who came with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi to spread Christianity to the so-called Far East.
Prior to this, some 300,000 Catholic also converged outside the Cebu Capitol nearly 60 years ago from Nov. 23 to 27, 1954 to mark the Archdiocesan Marian Congress. The next in the horizon is the International Eucharistic Congress in 2016, which will bring in millions more to Cebu. The last one was held in Dublin this year.