San Pedro: The Shaker Revisited-A A +A
Check and Balance
Sunday, July 22, 2012
UP in the Cordilleras, the pines tress heaved, jolting up and down as the earth ruptures beneath pulsating from the shaker’s epicenter in Rizal, Nueva Ecija all the way to Dagupan and Baguio City. In a matter of seconds, more than 1,000 were dead and more people trapped in rubbles will die in a matter of days.
Twenty-two years ago, I witnessed the 7.7-magnitude killer earthquake that struck the Summer Capital and changed my view of the fragile human life forever. Past 4 p.m. on July 16, 1990, I was on my way to the Engineer’s Hill near my place of work at the Pagcor Casino then at the Hyatt Terraces. It was an extremely cold ordinary day because the day before it rained pellets of ice, an eerie prelude to the hundreds of death that will come later in a few minutes.
And then it happened. The mythological God of the Sea that is Poseidon unleashed his outrage that ruptured a 125-kilometer stretch from Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon up to the Cordilleras.
The Summer Capital was inaccessible from the three access roads – Kennon Road, Marcos Highway and Naguilian Road, most of which had been blocked by heavy landslides. It took several days before relief came in from around the world. By then, the decomposing bodies filled the air.
After assuring that my sister was safe, I rushed to the Hyatt Terraces – where most of my co-workers at the casino perished. When the rumbling stopped we rushed inside the now accordion-like tower of Hyatt Terraces to take out the dead. Two of my buddies were among those killed – Mr. Sarmiento of Floridablanca and Raul Pasion, my High School classmate at the Holy Angel College. I remember the young Liza San Juan who also perished at the tower where trapped kids will also soon die after several days. It broke my heart hearing their voices from thick slabs of floors but we cannot do anything.
I remember the unsung heroes – the Cordillera miners – who unselfishly crawled beneath the slabs even while the earth still rumbled intermittently. They were the real heroes of the Baguio earthquake aftermath. Their experience was unmatched and their bravery had been put to test during the rush to save lives.
Elsewhere, Baguio City was like in a war-zone. At least 28 buildings collapsed that prompted residents to sleep outside. I once slept at the greens of Camp John Hay amid the rubbles of Hyatt Terraces in the background. To the faceless miners of the Cordilleras, the US military sentries at Camp John Hay and to Rommel Dimarucut and his family – my gratitude to all of you.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on July 23, 2012.