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The Day the Earth Shook

Posted by on 16. July 2012

Daylight Saving Time

At the onset of the 90s, the Philippines was experiencing an energy crisis and then President Cory Aquino had the country on Daylight Saving Time (DST).  This was to minimize the use of energy and have the day start earlier by an hour.  It took some time to adjust as waking up, even on normal time, is not as comfortable for an elementary student in the cold climate of Baguio City.  Little would we know that the DST would have a significant impact on our lives.

The Day the Earth Shook

It was a normal day of July 16, 1990 and in the afternoon of that day, our lives would forever be changed.  We just got home from school and was having our afternoon merienda.  At exactly 4:26 pm, the earth shook and this was not the tremor we were used to. It was an intensity 7.7 magnitude earthquake.  My dad, sister and me held on to our heavy marble table but we were still thrown out of our seats as we watched all our appliances fall down one by one.  After the first wave of shakes, which lasted for about a minute, we took a dash to outside the house.  One of the first drill you get to learn about earthquakes is go out to open areas.  My dad even forgot his slippers but went back to retrieve it after the tremors stopped a bit.  On the outside, we saw our relatives and neighbors also out waiting for things to stabilize.     Slowly, we waited for each of the member of the family to come home.  My mom was one of the latest to go home at 6 pm as she came from the store in the Market.  First thing to be grateful for was none of my family and immediate relatives were harmed.  If it wasn’t for DST, it would have been 3:26 pm which meant most elementary students would still be in school during the earthquake.   Things would have been different. Makes you think that things do happen for a reason.  It was also then that my father told me in jest that DST should D’ Life Saving Time instead of Daylight Saving Time.


We learned that some of the big buildings like Hyatt and several other structures fell and had major damages.  Thousands of lives and millions of properties were lost.  The roads leading to Baguio were cut because of landslides and road damages.   There was no means of transportation and people actually had to walk and even had to pass through dangerous terrains and rivers just to get to the next town. We were isolated with food supply diminishing, no electricity and no water.  While the major quake has passed, we were not away from danger yet as there were still aftershock to deal with.  As a result, we had to live as campers outside of our own house and remain alert for any possible aftershocks. We also had to fall in line for relief goods in the Barangay.  This routine stayed for a few months  and one thing that stuck in my mind at this time was everyone was equal.  No one was rich, no one was poor but everybody needed a helping hand.  Gone were the comfort of television and electricity but in exchange you had the warmth of family – bonding, telling stories and playing games.   My older cousins would even tease me that they’d stop school for a year and I won’t graduate elementary that school year which had me saying, NO. I really didn’t want to get left behind even for a year.


School resumed two months after in make shift tents as it would be more resistant to aftershocks.  Something in my brain also got shaken up as after the quake I started getting higher grades (=>).  It was us back trying to go back to our normal lives and recovering from the effects of the earthquake.  The city that once had the luster of being the summer capital was struggling with its major attractions diminished.    It was not an easy recovery but day after day we started rebuilding our lives. Year after year, the city was slowly rediscovering its old charm.  It took years before the city was able to rise again and reclaim its crown as a vacation haven.

Lessons Learned

The earthquake not only showed me that in any given point in time, everybody would be in the same footing but it also showed me how resilient people can get.    This somehow attaches me to my hometown forever cause I’ve been through a lot in this city.  You’ll know how simple life really is when you just have the basic things to hold on to. You get to realize that even at desperate times, you’ll still feel grateful and contented.  22 years after, I still remember vividly what happened that day and I don’t wish to forget as I’ve learned my best lessons at the worst of times.  The city has gone a long way from that fateful day as the tourists that was gone when the city got struck by an intensity 7.7 earthquake is now one again in the city.  Wounds have healed from the day the earth shook but all the lessons remain.

“Life is simple and it’s the complications within us that makes it complicated.”

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