WHEN WE are asked to go back to certain events in our lives, what we relate might sound almost unbelievable were it not for records that would prove recalled experience to be as real as the stories we read about only in books.
That is exactly what I felt throughout the six hours I was reliving the years of Pinatubo. I never knew before then that day could turn into night and that the sun would come out again from the black sky that seemed to have enveloped the whole of Pampanga. The sound of raging pyroclastic wave and the surge of destructive lahar were a daily part of our lives for three years. What dry land we walked on could, at a gunshot's warning, turn into a sea of roaring mudflow rushing from the slopes of Pinatubo. There was an ominous symphony of varied liquid sounds rising from the thick, slimy, sticky, steamy currents.
There is only one word for how I managed to get it all on video and stayed calm, that made all the difference during those times: courage. Who has not known fear in their lives? However the balance tips, the stronger qualities we were born with or raised or schooled on decide our lives' path to glory or doom, to failure or success, to life or death.
The footages I recorded during the Pinatubo eruption and its aftermath of devastation in Pampanga and Tarlac say it better than human language. They depict the innate goodness of man: one man running not only for his dear life but also for an old woman's whom he held in his ash-coated arms; men carrying women on makeshift "cleopatric" chairs as they precariously waded waist-deep in steamy, sticky lahar flow; men reaching the safety of the riverbank but running back into the raging lahar stream to lift a carabao struggling against sure death; men building footbridges everytime the attack of steaming lahar paused so that others may walk across safely above the sticky mud of the ever expanding river.
Vivid moments, all powered by one word: courage. They all happened against a backdrop of milling people, understandably stunned, scared, or both. Everyone could have done the same, only a few made the choice. But the selfless feat of a few individuals was enough to keep us moving on, to inspire us to dare some more, to lift the heart and soul, to believe that there is so much to live for.