I
 suddenly found myself on my hands and knees under the plastic table, clutching hands with two of my co-workers who were also crouched on the floor. Someone started chanting Our Lord's Prayer and she was soon joined by others. Things started crashing to the floor. I closed my eyes and started praying fervently, thinking of my parents back home. It was only later on, when the ground stopped shaking, that I realized my face was wet with tears. 

Just a few minutes before that, we were in a serious meeting inside our regional director's office located at the third floor of a four-floor building in Cebu. The entire facade of the building is made of glass panels. 

First, it was just a slight movement, a small shifting under our feet. When it started to feel like the floor was heaving, I remember meeting our Cebu Infocen Manager Fayette's eyes as realization hit us. "Earthquake!" 

We immediately crawled under the table, about 7 of us, while the others sought safety in other places inside the room. It was the most unforgettable moment of my life, to date. I seriously thought that the floor would open up and swallow us all. 

You see, the floor felt fluid and feeble, like it was made of cardboard instead of concrete. I have experienced earthquakes in the past (my 2nd floor bedroom wall would make squeaking sounds during those times when Dumaguete City was hit by minor tremors), but nothing as strong as a 6.9, which was reported to be the intensity felt in Cebu City at that time. 

It would later be reported that the tremors lasted for 30 seconds. It felt like forever for me. 


That's where we sought refuge when the quake happened, crawling under those tables. 





When the quake stopped, we finally had the presence of mind to rush down downstairs and run out of the building, where many of the building offices' workers were already huddled, scared and confused. We all were. When we reached outside, we saw a crack on one of the glass panels on the office where we were all in. 

Someone said the earthquake was also felt in Dumaguete City. I quickly called up my folks back home and it was a relief to hear my Dad on the line. They were fine, our dogs freaked out for a moment, and the only damages were my Mom's mugs and a mirror that fell on the floor during the quake. 

Had those tremors continued on for minutes, the damages would have been worse. That floor might actually have opened up. 

The view from our glass-covered office. Most of the workers inside the building already rushed out 
while we were still huddled under our office tables. 

With our job being the government's communicators, the need to know and inform quickly kicked in. Calls to PHIVOLCS and disaster emergency offices were made right there and then outside the building just minutes after we rushed out. Our cellphones buzzed nonstop with texts and calls asking for information about what happened and what to do next. It felt surreal for me. 

A lady points up at a crack that has begun to form on one of the glass panels. 
This panel happened to be on the glass wall of our director's office. Scary.

When our director finally told us to go and leave for our respective provinces, 6 of us crammed into our office vehicle so we can catch the 3:00 ferry. On our way there, along the Osmena Boulevard, we were met with crawling traffic and people running on the streets. 

At first it was only a few persons we barely noticed it. But soon more people were running in the opposite direction of where we were going. Some were pointing at something then turning back and running. 

We saw one lady running with her hands holding on to her head that was still wrapped in a parlor's towel and plastic cap. She must have rushed out of the salon after she heard people screaming "tsunami!" outside. 

We knew there was already a tsunami alert on place after the quake, but we knew it was just an alert, not an alarm. The SOP is for Phivolcs to issue one right after an earthquake, then lift it if nothing happens after 2 hours. 

But like what one stated on Facebook, someone cried "wolf" and everything went south. People were running away from the port area, where we were headed. The bumper-to-bumper traffic worsened as vehicles ahead of us started making U-turns. Frightened pedestrians running on the sidewalks spilled out into the highway, clogging the traffic even more. Some were barefoot, having lost their shoes or slippers in their panic. We passed by two flyovers that were packed with people. Pandemonium on the streets. I almost expected to see gigantic waves crashing on the street up ahead. But there was none in sight. 

Here's a video of how the panic on the streets went down, like a scene straight out from one of those end-of-the-world movies:

video


When we reached the Cebu's port, it was eerily silent. The streets leading there was empty of people. It was like a ghost town. We saw a couple of foreign tourists sitting on the ground outside the terminal building. The shipping line offices have shutdown due to the circulating text messages warning of a tsunami. All ferry trips were cancelled. 

Desperate to go home, three of us took the risk of taking the land trip route. We caught a Ceres bus that would ride on a barge at the southernmost tip of the Cebu island and cross the sea all the way to Amlan in Negros Oriental island. It was already 3:00 pm at that time, and I knew it would be dark by the time we reach Oslob, and there was no guarantee that there would be a barge waiting for us there.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I was worried for my Mom and Dad, especially since aftershocks were still being reported in Dumaguete. Plus I had a flight out to Manila from Dumaguete to catch early the next day. My ticket was already bought and paid for. I simply must reach home that night, no question about it. 

To cut it short, I got home at around 11:30 pm. I still had a big luggage to pack for my 8:40 am flight the next day. I must have slept for only around 2 hours that night. 

(to be continued)











22 comments:

  1. grabe! what an experience!!! nabitin ako..

    ang galing mo magkwento!!! parang feeling ako andun din ako sa site, to think hindi ako taga bisaya.. pero feeling ko naintindihan ko lahat sinabi sa video...

    grabe!!! kakakaba! God bless our land please, no more earthquakes!

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    1. Thank you Gemma! That's the best compliment a writer can get- to be able to pull the reader in to experience the moment. Blush naman ako nyan hehe. And I second the motion- no more quakes, please!

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  2. Buti you all are OK. I know how frightening it was. Been experiencing earthquake in our province when I was young. Same here, everytime may ganito, I always think of my family, hoping that they are ok. Good at walang nangayring masama sainyo! :)

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    1. Thanks! The scariest feeling talaga to be away from your loved ones when disaster strikes.

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  3. Yikes. Good thing you guys were safe

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  4. When I experience a strong earthquake sometime in 1999 or 2000 in Manila, it scared the hell out of me because I felt all the building around me would collapse. I could only feel how you felt during the time and the panic about the tsunami is pretty but normal.

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    1. But there really shouldn't have been a panic in the first place, ideally. Daming tao nawalan ng things, at nagkasugat from the pandemonium. Meron lang talagang walang magawa sa buhay nila kundi mag-text ng hindi naman totoo.

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  5. I was in Cebu when that Earthquake struck Visayas,now Im here in Surigao City first week q palng dito na magnitude 5.7 na agad,,,

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  6. Earthquake is something that we cannot predict nor get ready for. It's pretty scary and I don't think I could still have that presence of mind. I'd probably scream myself to death. Thank God you're all okay.

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  7. it's really a scary experience, this could test my insanity if I were in Cebu

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  8. It's really frightening when a sudden tremor hits around the city.
    Good thing you're safe and sound. Thanks God!

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  9. Naks may bitin factor haha. nice narrative. Glad you guys are safe.

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  10. nakakabitin naman waaaa... we are glad all of you are safe

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  11. I still remember when I was in Baguio City last July 16, 1990...w experienced a 7.8 earthquake and it was scary. Thank God we're alive. God bless you.

    Ritchell

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  12. A friend of mine was in cebu when that earthquake happened. It was really scary daw.. Thank God for your safety! :) hope it won't happen again.

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  13. glad your alright... I hope people won't only remember God in times of trouble. my prayers are with you all. Yahweh bless.

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  14. glad ur ok, scary nga esp plastic lang ung table...

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  15. your narration is superb clear visualiation and emotions hayz heartbeat

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  16. I myself never saw the earthquake coming too, especially in places where the probability of quakes is low. Thank God you're safe.

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  17. Glad that you are alright. Pray!

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  18. Nice post, reading this makes me feel like I'm in the actual scene. :)

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  19. I was very super nervous that time then..i was thinking of my mom and my 1year old daughter...
    after kumalma halos hindi ako makadial sa nginig..

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