When I saw the picture below on facebook & read some of my college friends’ comments, it brought back vivid memories of the earthquake I experienced back in July 16, 1990.
At the time I was a senior at Saint Louis University in Baguio City. Although it was a Monday, we had no classes because there was a strike at our school.
According to various sources, the earthquake struck at 4:26 PM and was a magnitude 7.7 on the Richter scale. I lived in a two story, L-shaped wooden boarding house. The bedrooms were on the 2nd floor, & I remember I was napping at the time when it happened. I woke up to the gentle side-to-side motion of the quake. It didn’t really alarm me because I had felt a very minor earthquake like that several days earlier, and nothing really happened then. But what happened next was what frightened me. Immediately after, the earth started to move in an up & down motion, & our books, toiletries & other knicknacks that were on shelves fell off. I looked out the window & saw trees swaying in the distance, heard the creaking & rumbling of our wooden boarding house & saw our water tank tilt to its side. Then there was an eerie silence…and then screams.
Mylene, my rommate who was a freshman in college, started crying & panicking. We tried to open the door but couldn’t get out, the earthquake had jammed our wooden door’s lock into place. We passed through the small adjoining hallway that had a restroom in the middle and which also connected our room to another bedroom, but couldn’t get out because it was locked on the other side. Fortunately, a boardmate of ours came upstairs & opened the door for us.
We had a receiving room on our second floor that had a huge window overlooking our front yard. Assumption Road and the University of Baguio was right in front of us. I looked out & couldn’t believe what I saw. There were two newly constructed upper floors, & both had collapsed. I could see body parts hanging out, & the screams were louder now as people at that school & on the streets were seeing what I was seeing. I felt numb & shell-shocked, my knees were trembling at what I had just seen as I went downstairs and out onto our front yard.
Once outside on our front yard, I looked around & saw that our L-shaped boarding house had separated at where the L shape intersected. There was grim news for the family that lived in our compound. They had a small eatery at the FRB Hotel (pictured above), a circular shaped hotel which was on the corner of Assumption & General Luna Road. The eldest daughter & the brother were manning the eatery. When the earthquake happened, the eldest daughter pushed the brother out the door just as the FRB hotel partially collapsed on its side.
The next couple of days went by in a blur. I remember walking probably like an hour with Ate May & Mylene to Eric’s (my boyfriend at the time) boarding house to see if he was ok. He lived there together with a friend Daniel. After that, Eric, Floyd, Ate May, Mylene & I camped out in a tent at Burnham Park for two – three days. We almost had a fire incident in our tent one night. We woke up to the smell of burnt plastic because Floyd left a candle burning on top of an umbrella handle . We laughed about it back then & still do now. When we got word that there was a C130, a US military transport aircraft, that would fly people from Loakan Airport in Baguio to Villamor Air Base in Manila, we promptly boarded the jeepney that took us to Loakan. From Villamor Air Base, Eric, Floyd & I boarded a bus that took us to Olongapo.
I went back to Baguio around end August as classes resumed September. Ate May & I decided to move to a new boarding house. In fact we moved twice during those last few months prior to me graduating from college.
Its been 26 years since it happened, but I will never forget that day.