when i applied for my current job, i was asked about my motivation for the job considering that it wasn’t in my field of expertise. my answer was somewhat like this:

“In UP, I was taught that we owe our education to the Filipino people. So it is my duty to serve the people in any way I can. And through scientific research, I think I can serve our country and its people.”

big words. noble words. but hollow and empty at times.

china experienced its largest earthquake in about three decades last monday. and after seeing all the pictures of people, young and old, buried in buildings and rubble, i can’t resist the feeling that what my job does is simply look, wait, and see what happens after an event — an earthquake. how is that serving the Filipino? how is that serving humankind?

it’s a weird trait we, in the disaster research field, have — we get excited whenever something ‘bad’ happens. when there’s an earthquake, my colleagues and i get excited… we look forward to ‘seeing’ the trace of the earthquake. we’re happy we’re getting information! if there’s a storm approaching, people here turn into vampires willing to work overnight to see how the weather changes. but i sometimes forget that in an event-dependent research, people are affected. people die because of what we study.

thousands have died in burma because of the storm and in china after the earthquake. a lot more are still stuck and trying to survive. and as for me, i’ll sit here, look at the data i have and stare at it all day. so much for serving the people.


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