Just this morning, Philippines was again hit by an earthquake. A magnitude of 6.4 hit Mindoro province and about 3-4 in the National Capital Region.
At this very moment, there are still no reports of casualties or damages in Mindoro but I do really hope that there are none.
When I felt it this morning, I can't help but remember what happened back in 1990, when Philippines was hit by a magnitude of 7-8.8. Dagupan and Baguio City being the center and the NCR about 6.7 to 7. something.
During that time, my father had a project in Baguio City. Around 30-40 of our workers were there including two of my cousins who were the project engineers and my sick Aunt who was having a vacation. We had no idea then that Baguio City was the worst that was hit because we, ourselves, were devastated and panicked here in Manila. My parents including one of my brothers, his wife and their newly born 3 mos. old baby, were in our home while I and my other brother were in school.
I can vividly recall...
My classmates and I, including our major subject professor, were in the 3rd floor of the Fine Arts building. Ten minutes before it happened, we were rushing with our working drawings because we had to submit it at exactly 3:00 pm, when I noticed that there were so many cockroaches crawling on the window sill of our classroom. I looked and wondered but before I could tell my seat mate, I felt that there was someone dribbling a basketball so hard and so loud in the background that I couldn't concentrate... I shouted and said "What the.." then it started shaking.
The shaking was slow at first. Then it got so.. I really can't explain how it felt. I just heard the voice of my professor shouting, "Common girls, under your tables. Now!" We did as we were told. I tried to stay calm and said to myself over and over again not to panic.. The shaking didn't stop. It just got worse and worse. It will stop for a few seconds then what's next is more horrifying than the last. I heard my classmates crying, I heard shouts everywhere asking for help. I saw through the door students running. Then I saw some of my classmates head out the door including our professor. It was then that I realized that we were only three left in the classroom. Each under our own drafting tables. I could see the intense terror in their eyes. I asked them to come near me. When they were near, I told them that we'll find the best timing to get out of the classroom. One aftershock after the other.. I couldn't wait. My head was spinning. I could no longer hear voices in the background. It was then that I got scared. I thought that we're the only ones left on that floor. It was time to move.
The three of us held hands. I told them that whatever happens, we'll get out of there... When one aftershock stopped, I shouted, Now!.. Then we ran. But before we got near the stairs, another strong aftershock. There was no more time to think, I told them not to stop but to be careful not to fall either. One step at a time.. one step at a time. Right timing was needed. There were some students who were careless going down the stairs. We saw them fell and got hurt. Again, I told myself not to panic. One step at a time.. At that time, even if I wanted to stop to help some stand up, I couldn't. I just heard myself saying "come on, stand up, one more floor.. One last floor..
I felt myself calm again when we were already in ground floor corridor. I saw teachers, professors, and nuns guiding the students out of the building. Telling us to hurry but to stay calm. I didn't see my two classmates anymore. All I heard were cries, calling of mommies.. I tried to look around. I didn't see anyone without tears in the eyes.
At last I was outside of the building. I saw some friends. That time there were still strong aftershocks. But maybe we got so used to it that even if the earth was trembling, we were able to walk calmly. We got out of the campus and saw other students. There were so many. Our school had three nearby universities so you can just imagine how many people were outside. Strong aftershocks continued. We saw tall buildings swaying. Cars moving backwards and forwards. We heard stories of professors who jumped out of the building and died, students who died in stampedes.. There was chaos everywhere I looked.
And then I thought of my family. I wondered how they were. But there was no way to contact them right that moment. There was no power. Phone lines were dead. I wanted to go home right away but it was not possible. My school is about 50 km far from my house. I knew that no one will be able to fetch me. I stayed with my friends. We stayed just exactly where we were. There was nowhere to go. We had to wait for so many hours to ride the bus. It was useless trying to board a bus because traffic wasn't moving.
It was the next day when I reached home, after eight hours bus travel (regular travel time fr. my house to school is just an hour). At last I was home. They were so happy to see me alive and without any injury. My brother was there too and it was so good to see that nothing bad happened to anyone in the family. The house had no damage either. We exchanged stories. The only source of news is the radio. We only heard news about what happened in the national capital region and the nearby provinces. There was still no source of communications from other regions. From NCR alone, death toll already reached thousands.
Electricity in our area was restored after three days. It was only then that we learned what happened in Baguio and Dagupan. The news were so devastating. Those places were still in chaos. There were still no means of power and communication. Death toll was estimated as hundred thousands. My father was so worried. He had no idea about his workers, my aunt and my cousins.
After a couple of weeks, Baguio and Dagupan was already in television. The sight of what happened there was so disturbing. You can compare it to what recently happened in Haiti. From what I saw, what happened there is worse than what happened in Haiti. Father tried all means to contact my cousins and workers. After few more weeks, my cousin was able to contact us. It was so good to hear that no serious damage happened to anyone of them. Just few bruises, and the bunk house where the workers stayed collapsed. Nonetheless, no one was seriously hurt. But all of them wanted to go home right away. According to my cousin, each day that passed was also 1 hairline away from sanity. I could just imagine what they went through...
There were several earthquakes that hit Philippines after 1990 but nothing compared to that. And every time I feel the earth shaking, these memories come alive and haunts me. I tried to watch video clips of Haiti earthquake but I wasn't able to watch long enough.. My two cousins by the way are now in Canada. And no worker, who worked there in 1990 wants to go back.
I actually have a project in Baguio now. The place is of course a lot better now after what happened twenty years ago.
We should really take care of Mother Earth. What's happening now globally is already a warning to us. Be aware of the earthquakes that's hitting the countries one after the other. Maldives, Haiti, Chile, Japan, and today Philippines..