Exactly 20 years ago, a 7.8 magnitude Earthquake struck the island of Luzon, Philippines at around 1626H, local time. Luzon, being the main island of the Philippines where Manila is located and a densely populated region survived the calamity but with extensive destruction in properties and claiming approximately 1,600 lives.
Personally, I will never forget that day as long as I lived. The harrowing experience is still vivid in my memories. As a grade school boy, I can’t imagine myself experiencing it far away from my family as what other students experienced. I just finished doing my homework and about to get ready to play outside. My youngest sister who was in primary school then was in their room at that time because she had some tantrums. I can’t remember the cause of her tantrums but I believe it was her first earthquake experience and surely she didn’t know that time what is happening. There was a violent shaking of the ground and as my dad realized it was an earthquake, he told everyone of us to get out of the house to go in front in an open area for safety reasons. We had a bit of hard time opening the door of my sister’s room to take her out cos the house was shaking. We eventually managed to go out safely.
My parents, 2 of my sisters and me hugged each other as the ground is literally rumbling and violently shaking. There was a huge water tank nearby our house which the noise of it’s shaking was quite frightening and imagining if it will fall, what will happen to the residents nearby…my sisters are crying because they thought the earthquake will not stop. It lasted quite long (about 45 secs.). We were quite fortunate that we were already home from school at that time. I heard some children who were in the afternoon session in school panicked when the earthquake strike, many of them cried out of fear.
My 2 brothers were not at home that time. My eldest brother who was already in college that time visited a friend in the UST hospital in Manila with some friends. They said the earthquake was also felt strongly in Manila. Because of the event, everyone had to hurry back home and at the end, my brother and friends had to walk from Espana, Manila to Marikina (approx 21 kms. away) just to reach home. My other brother was staying in my Aunt’s house that time.
There were several aftershocks during the course of the night and extending through the week. There were some days that while doing nothing, I felt dizzy and it seems that the earth is still shaking then. Electricity was cut, schools and offices were closed for several days and the building inspectors had to check schools, offices and public buildings for safety before they allowed entry.
In the news, we saw the massive destruction of the quake most notably of which is in Baguio City and Cabanatuan City. The Hyatt Terraces Hotel, a 5 Star Hotel in Baguio collapsed killing at least 80 people including guests and employees. Many other buildings in Baguio, a popular tourist destination due to its cool climate, pine trees and American inspired architecture collapsed.
In Cabanatuan City, a big school- – Christian College of the Philippines collapsed killing at least 15o people, mostly students. It was such a horrific experience seeing in TV or newspapers video or pictures of children who died in the rubble.
I remembered seeing in the news that Akiko Thompson, a pretty and popular swimmer was stranded in Baguio and finding ways how to go back to Manila. There were other prominent personalities that were affected by the calamity.
There were some survivors in the ruins as well. Some of them survived up to two weeks without eating or drinking. Some claimed that they had to drink their own urine just to survive.
If there is one positive thing that happened in this tragedy, it’s the Filipinos’ nature of “Bayanihan” or helping those in need. Donations and pledges of any kind keep pouring on government agencies and Television Stations. Eye to Eye, a popular public affairs program was the leading and most reliable source of donation during calamities.
Many people preferred sending their donations to this hit TV Programme because the host, Inday Badiday and her crew really go to the affected areas and personally distribute the goods. They also flash on screen the pledges or donations. Some stars volunteered to answer phone calls in their hotline.
As I write this post to remember the frightening yet historical event in our country, please join me in a silent prayer to God asking to spare our country from similar calamities in the future. It is really an experience that one can never forget…