Catajan: The story of us

STORIES begin somewhere and mine started when the earth shook.

The July quake was the day before the birthday of my cousin, who is the only friend I had when I started school here. I repeat, my only friend.

In the mornings, we would go to school together, beating the 7:30 bell at the all-girls school which was still at Assumption road and walked home

Yes, we were a tight group of two. I don’t know what kind of losers we were, being cousins who lived in the same compound and best friends who went to the same school, but we didn’t care.

Naturally, we were together at the time of the great quake of the 1990’s, the city was under Daylight Savings Time [DST], I forgot why really and am too lazy to google research this small detail. The point is, it set back time for an hour.

That day, we were on our way home, aboard a jeepney at Session road, by LA [La Azotea], it was traffic and we were sitting at the far end of the jeep, looking out the blare the rush hour brought when suddenly, we heard a loud noise, we thought was a gunshot and started to slowly panic.

Later, we realized the sound was the sharp thud of bricks on the pavement from the building which was swaying because of the shakes

And then we started the journey home, it was weird that we managed to ride the same jeep going home and found everyone out in the streets.

My brother had to be coaxed to go down the house as we lived on the second floor.

When all was safe and accounted for, tents were set up and we had to live in these makeshift homes for weeks.

The tale of the quake was slowly falling into place for many whose narratives revolved around the days when the city was in ruins.

The smell of death and grief was everywhere.

My grandmother who was on her way to the city via bus had to climb three mountains only to be turned back and walk the same mountains to return to Manila.

We had to be airlifted to the lowlands when an aunt managed to hitch a ride with the military to the city aboard cargo planes.

We eventually came back when school started, again our classrooms were tents set up outside the campus to save us if another shake hit.

Ruins surrounded the city as life started to go back to normal.

But it was never normal after that.

It was the time I realized I wanted to become a journalist.

Thirty years after, people commemorate the quake of 1990 like it was yesterday.

I become a journalist and July serves as a reminder why.


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