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Monday, July 16, 2007

That "faith-full" July 16 Earthquake

I WAS ABOUT to close my browser but I shocked to learn that Japan has been hit by an earthquake. Read more about this news.

On July 16, 1990, I was in La Trinidad, Benguet serving as one of the Guidance Counselors in San Jose High School. The second year high school history teacher was not able to have his class that day and it was a common practice in the school to make the students busy. With no other teacher to pitch in his class, I did a homeroom activity instead.

One of the topics of the homeroom activity was "faith". In giving my synthesis during the processing, I shared what my theology professor taught us back in college:

"That faith like riding a jeepney going to school, without the fear or paranoia that you will be mugged or meet an accident."

Then I gave my example:

"It is also like sitting here in this classroom that you will not even think that that concrete beam right above you would not fall right this moment."

The sophomore class understood what I said and they shared the same, and so we ended up our emergency homeroom class at 3:00 PM. Immediately after, I went to the Guidance Office in the third floor. There, I met several seniors who seem to have a penchant for the Guidance Office and made it their tambayan.

Before I could even sit , I heard a loud and disturbing rumbling noise from a distance. We were 100 meters from the highway, and the thought of a roaring Peterbilt truck would not be a possibility. (Benguet Corporation have huge Peterbilt trucks for their mining operations). The roaring and rumbling sound became louder like a huge Peterbilt coming closer. We all asked: “Ano yun?!” Before we could figure it out, however, a strong jolt already shook us, making us unbalanced and some to fall on the floor. Then another jolt! Then, we realized it was an earthquake. It was 3:26PM (DST), July 16, 1990.

I immediately ordered everyone to go down and out of the building! But in the second floor, the strongest jolt happened. Everything was swaying, cracking, falling, that even some debris fell on us, and the students and teachers were already screaming. We thought we would be buried alive in that building. We had no choice but to take refuge in one corner infront of the library, not realizing that it had glass panels. We were stuck! And we even saw the librarian trying to keep the book shelves from falling. It was the time when one of the male teachers summoned the librarian to get out of the room. What was more horrible was the fact that there were four pre-school pupils playing infront of the library and were already screaming and crying in fear. But the quake never stopped. So we decided for a moment to cover the kids with out bodies hoping it would protect them and the jolts would stop. It never stopped. Out of instinct, the male teacher and I decided to carry the kids out of the building. With two kids tucked in my arms, constant shaking, and falling debris, made it more difficult to negotiate the stairs. Outside the building, we met the crying, praying and screaming students and teachers on the open ground.

For a while, we thought everyone was fine. Then one girl came to us crying, and told us one of the her friends was left in their room. The strong quakes have subsided a bit. But the aftershocks were still strong to make you fall. We did not waste any time. Together with the male teacher and two senior male students, we went back to the building for a rescue. Apparently, the door was jammed and stuck that made it difficult for the girl to come out. We kicked the door until it opened. Rescuing the girl was more difficult because she was already in a state of shock and kept on screaming. She would not want to come out, so we practically dragged her out of the building. On the open grounds, she lost her consciousness.

The powerful temblor measured 7.7 in the Richter scale and lasted for 45 seconds.

When the aftershocks subsided, the school principal let us go home.

A week later, I returned to the school, and I had goose bumps all over my body with what I saw. The concrete beam which I pointed during my homeroom class, was the only one which fell. Was it foreboding? I fear not. I just thought that I had a more concrete lesson about faith.

I could only look back now, and say this famous line in Baguio once again: "I survived July 16!"

This blog entry is also posted at: PinoyBlogoSphere

7 people have commented. Leave your comments too!:

hello po,,I'm a Josean right now, 3rd Year High School. I was not born in the year 1990's but I was aware about the earthquake..Sir, what a nice story you had written, as i was reading it, as if I was in your shoes during your experience..What an amazing true story you had shared sir, I am amazed!!-Dwight Dangilan

pls email me sir

sir, i would like to know more about your experience..Dwight Dangilan

'tis my second time to read this article. and i do love to read it over and over again. there are many points for personal reflection eh.

i came upon this page for the 2nd time 'cause my josean student encourages his schoolmates in friendster to read this. well, he sure knows where to find a good read.

keep on blogging and inspire more, sir! :D

btw, am an alumni of san jose and currently teaching CLE to sophomore students. ;-)

I was a student of San Jose High School, but I stopped studying right now. Anyway some of my old teachers we're telling this story, also my mom. Wow that is a hell experience. One of our teacher also said that there was a trapped girl "naka wheel chair pa nga daw ung babae eh". So from now on, if there will be a earthquake the principal will announce that will go home.

Dwight, Sally and TipSCEE, thanks for taking some time reading this. It is a very old blog entry and I never thought it would reach you.

Thank you!

Sir, I would like your permission to publish this Blog entry in the school's publication..Josean's Lightstream this coming school year. I would like all Joseans to read your experience. Thank you sir,,Truly yours..Dwight Dangilan--incoming 4th yr student..^^

Hello Dwight! Sure you may. Thanks!

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