Remembering July 16, 1990 Killer Earthquake

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…

After Ondoy, here comes Pepeng…who’s next?

The last quarter of the year seemed to bring the most calamities and catastrophes in the Philippines and the world. A string of very strong earthquakes had been rocking Asia and the Pacific from Indonesia, to Samoa to Vanuatu even Jolo, Philippines. Very strong typhoons have been visiting the Philippines and nearby countries almost simultaneously. The disasters brought about by these natural disturbances are alarming.

Thousands of people died in Padang and the damage to properties are widespread. Same with Samoa and American Samoa wherein hundres of people die in the Earthquake plus Tsunami it generated. In the Philippines, the death in Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) is over 500 and as I read the news online, reports confirmed that there are 264 deaths in Typhoon Pepeng’s  (Parma) wrath and counting especially since rescuers have to dig through the massive landslide and floodings in Benguet and Pangasinan provinces and many other areas of Northern Luzon.

Many residents fear that the big dams in the area are damaged due to the big volume of rains. However, the government assured that the Dams specifically San Roque, remained strong and firm.

I saw a news article in ABS-CBN news website of SM Rosales Pangasinan being submerged in water up to the 2nd level. The news reported that over 1,000 people are either staying in the higher floors of the mall or on the roof when the flood waters rose very fast. This scenario is very much alike what happened in the Metro during the onslaught of Ondoy’s presence in the country.

Now it is imminent, the effects of Climate change is already affecting people’s daily lives. The compelling question is how the Government can at least assure the people that they are given assistance to rebuild their homes and livelihood. Of course as a citizen of the world, everyone has to have its fair share of responsibility. But the Government should impose stricter policies to help prevent continued denudation of the forests, initiate better garbage collection and disposal thru the local governments as well as have mass cleaning and re-forestration projects. The government should be busy on helping the nation instead of being more of a liability as what many Filipinos perceived them to be.

We don’t know what comes next after Pepeng. The least we can do is pray. As a nation, we have to move forward. We don’t know what’s gonna happen next and we should all be prepared. This actually applies not only to us Filipinos but anywhere in the world what with disasters frequently happening in many nations of the world today.