Sunday, July 16, 2017

Remembering the 1990 Luzon earthquake

July 16, 1990.

It was after school then. My friends, my sister, and I were playing on one of the grassy fields fronting Maquiling School Inc. in the UPLB campus. We were playing tag then, I think, and so we were running around and reaching the line of royal palm trees that the campus is known for.

And then the ground shook...

The driver of the school bus got irked at us because we typically rocked the vehicle until he got dizzy; this time, though, as he turned around to scold us, he saw that the passenger section was empty. And then he realised that an earthquake was happening.

Meanwhile, we didn't even realise that the world was trembling beneath us and the trees were swaying above us until we all stopped running. As kids, we didn't know what was going on so we didn't have much to think about until the driver told us that there was an earthquake.

While the earthquake was happening, my brother was already at home, from kindergarten school. He was having a nap on the living room sofa. The ground shook, the appliances in the house moved, a lantern above his head swayed violently, and the nanny had a panic attack. But my brother slept throughout the whole episode.

My parents, I suppose, were at work. Oddly, I don't remember them talking about this earthquake, which was one of the worst to hit Luzon so far... more than 1,600 people died in this earthquake. I remember how much news was being broadcast about the aftermath of this earthquake, particularly in the Cordillera region. There, the earthquake damage was compounded by the continuous rain and the landslides. Baguio was cut off from the rest of the country when the roads and the airport were damaged.

Recently, I was in Baguio on a day trip with Daddy, Tita Ising, and Tito Sibing. The city was so congested! There were so many cars along the roads surrounding Burnham Park that traffic ground to a halt. There were so many buildings that appeared fragile and old amid more modern-looking facilities. And there was also heavy foot traffic, thanks to the presence of new shopping malls and arcades... I couldn't even see the park anymore!

And my mind kept flashing back to images of rubble and ruin from the 1990 earthquake. This is how far the city has progressed since then. It's been 28 years, if my math serves me right. But looking at the present construction projects by the cliffs and on the sides of the mountains, I kept wondering: will these survive earthquakes that strong?