16 July 2010

Remembering the July 16, 1990 Baguio City earthquake

Wow, has it been 20 years since that fateful day?

July 16, 1990 is one unforgettable day for the people of Baguio (and for Dagupan and Manila too, for the shock was felt all the way there), for on that day our lives were turned upside down, and for 45 seconds we were harshly reminded that no matter how technologically advanced we become, no matter how rich we get, no matter who we become in society, everything can change in the blink of an eye.

The magnitude 7.7 earthquake levelled many buildings in Baguio City. May perished, and the city was cut off from the rest of the country as roads were severely damaged. My personal account of the earthquake is documented in a 2007 post in my other blog.

In the days following the earthquake, people set-up tents in Burnham Park and on roads. We lived near Camp 8 at Kennon Road at that time, and the road to the city was literally gone due to a massive landslide. If we needed to stock up on canned goods and rice, we had to hike through the mud. I remember going to Sunshine Grocery near Burnham Park, which had one window open and that was where people crowded to buy food.

I remember meeting up with my good friend Leo and together we hiked from Camp 8 all the way to San Roque (near Lourdes Grotto) to see how our friend Sonny is. Sonny was studying in UB at that time and we saw a floor of the building where he had classes in had collapsed. We were glad to see he was well, but his experience in the earthquake was traumatizing. In their classroom, students were doused with bottles of formaldehyde. Sonny remembered running through the stairs. There was blood on his shoes and pants. And then he couldn't remember how he got home.

Many thanks to Eddie Tanguilig for giving me permission to post the photos below.

When I was in Second year high school, we had friends who had a sari-sari store near Hyatt Hotel.  We used to hike from the city all the way here and spend the afternoon.  Now, the area is a bare field.  It has been on sale for a long time but nobody's buying.  Might be because of rumors of ghosts roaming the area.  The sister of a colleague in SLU died here.

Skyworld Condominium.  On that floor that's level with the ground was a huge toy store.  They sold boxes of Macross toys and I used to windowshop here every so often back in grade school because we lived very near here before.  A Shakey's restaurant was also located here.  I still remember another store near the Session Road entrance selling lots of ET merchandise.

This was the road we took when we went to see Sonny.  Across the street from St. Vincent Church is a funeral parlor.  There were so many dead that they could not cope with the demand.  They had to cordon off part of the street and enclose this area with sack, but we still saw feet sticking out of the blankets from within.

After 20 years, people would have learned much from this. But construction in Baguio City has accelerated much recently. This is of grave concern, especially since we have seen how landslides can topple everything in its path, and a lot of roads in Baguio were simply carved off hillsides.

Other photos can be found at the City of Pines website.

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