Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Remembering Destructive Earthquakes in the Philippines: 1968, 2012

The 7.1 Magnitude Philippine Earthquake reminded me of these two great earthquakes in the Philippines, which I experienced.

Casiguran or Ruby Tower Earthquake - August 2, 1968 - 7.3 Magnitude

What I remember most about the Ruby Tower Earthquake is my mother and I running down the stairs and being flung from side to side. This happened on Friday, August 2, 1968. I had graduated college from Maryknoll College and was working in the Film Department of the National Media Production Center in Intramuros. The 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit at 4:19 a.m. and my mother woke me up and we ran downstairs and out the house. (We always left our houses when an earthquake struck; and I suppose this was to avoid being trapped should the building collapse.)

The 1968 earthquake caused the collapse of a six-story apartment building in Binondo, the Ruby Tower. The term used then was "pancaked" and pictures of the damaged Ruby Tower showed the floors of the building one on top of the other, like a stack of pancakes.

Two hundred seventy people died and two hundred sixty-one were injured. This is the stark summary of that 1968 earthquake, but to us who lived in those pre-wifi days, it took a while to understand the damage the earthquake caused. It was horrifying to realize people were trapped in the rubble. The digging for survivors took a week. It was all sad and frightening. This incident made me realize just how dangerous earthquakes can be.

The Ruby Tower Earthquake is considered one of the most destructive earthquake in the Philippines. Landslides, fissures, and a tsunami occurred.

Visayas Earthquake - February 6, 2012 6.9 Magnitude

This was a weird experience. I was in Cebu with a house guest, and we were touring Cebu's Historic District.  At 11:49 a.m, we were in the Santo Nino Basilica, when I felt the floor underneath me move. People in church started running out. Being used to earthquakes in California, I calmly told my guest that there seemed to be an earthquake and we should get out.  She and I made our exit. Outside, frightened people stood and watched the church, waiting to see if it would fall. The church held up in 2012, although its belfry collapsed in the October 15, 2013 recent earthquake.

My guest and I tried to see the Santo Nino Museum; it was closed. In fact, people were so panicked, we gave up on visiting any museum. We went to a restaurant near the Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro. We ordered; we ate; and then suddenly people in the restaurant stood up and rushed out of the restaurant. They had heard via texting that a tsunami was on its way.

The restaurant manager chased them to try and get paid; I tried to pay the manager so we could go home. The streets were filled with people, and they were all talking about the impending tsunami. There were people in wheelchairs too. Cars were driving here and there. It was like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

The whole city had gone beserk over the false idea that there would be a tsunami. This panic lasted until nighttime. This earthquake caused deaths and a lot of damage.

This happened just a year after the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, which probably contributed to the panic in Cebu in 2012.

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All for now,

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