A sanctuary is demand-driven
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - October 22, 2020 - 12:00am

There were two business firms in Cebu City that were established arguably ahead of their time. When the term mall was yet unheard of, White Gold Inc., (then headed by Joseph Gaisano because Peter Gaisano is the present CEO) built a massive multi-level structure not far away from port area of the city. Earlier than that when I was in my college years in the 1970s, Cathay Hardware Inc (of Antonio Chua Ng Koa) erected an imposing structure near the Plaza Independencia. Both White Gold and Cathay Hardware opened spacious air-conditioned sales areas when air conditioning was a novelty. Many people would go to these stores more to marvel at the unique way of displaying goods than to patronize the boutiques and shops there. In terms of acreage, presentation of merchandise, variety of products, customer service and shopping-friendly accommodation, both White Gold and Cathay Hardware were, reckoning as of the present, ahead of their time.

I remember this phrase when, a friend of mine, Atty Fritz V. Quinanola, reacted to an article I wrote many years ago. My topic was about a peoples’ sanctuary. It was unheard of to many. Lawyer Quinanola, then not yet the police general that he eventually became, said that my column suggesting to the city government the establishment of a form of a refuge, a shelter or a solace for people suffering from cataclysm was ultra-imaginative and quite difficult, if not impossible to do. His most ponderous argument was that the idea of building a sanctuary was just ahead of time.

What then was my concept? Realistically, it was not an idea ahead of its time. It was, in fact, demand-driven. The sanctuary I had in mind was firstly, a place where victims of calamities would be immediately accommodated away from the scenes of disasters.  For instance, there were hundreds of victims of the destructive fire that levelled a major portion of Barangay Kamagayan  bounded by Sanciangco, Junquera and P. del Rosario Streets in 1977. Their charred homes were no places to stay. As soon as the fire was put out, the victims rushed with whatever they saved from the conflagration to their ashen homes. When typhoon Ruping flattened about eighty per cent of the city’s residential homes in 1991, thousands were also rendered homeless. Their wrecked houses offered protection from the elements. The sanctuary I thought of would provide immediate shelter to such victims of tragedies and, more importantly, attend to their basic needs.

Secondly, the sanctuary I am imagining will serve as base of operation, a kind of command center for emergency responders, relief and rescue teams, frontliners and security authorities. Police and firemen, paramedics, doctors and nurses among others can synchronize they’re actions when they are housed in one roof. They can serve better the victims of calamities when these people are relocated to the sanctuary and within their peripheral vision.

We all saw the need to relocate victims of earthquakes, fires, typhoons and other unforeseen events, but we refused to meet the demand. Building a center of refuge years ago, was ahead of its time. But when CoViD 19 struck, we hastened to erect isolation centers to the tune of hundreds of million pesos. If only a sanctuary was built, like I have written a number of times in the past, we could have, perhaps, saved lives and minimized expenses. Indeed, building now such a refuge is no longer ahead of time.

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