Memories of Bohol and the 1990 Killer Quake

Who ate my chocolate hills?

Who ate my chocolate hill?

It was one of those unplanned trips in 2011 when me and family went to Bohol for a visit. We stayed in my husband’s grandfather’s house in Getafe which is one and a half hours from Tagbilaran City.

My husband’s grandfather’s house is big and is located in a family compound. The source of water is limited to a well that is at least one kilometer from the old man’s house so water is a luxury in that area. Cellphone signal for Smart subscriber is poor and most of the people at the compound is using Globe. The air is so fresh and clean but humidity is high so my hair easily gets sticky. The beaches in Talibon are not yet well-developed but the place is well-maintained so I have no problem with that. The biggest bonus is the luxury of eating fresh prawns everyday at half the price in Manila!

Oh, Bohol, I fell in love with you the moment I set foot on you on February 2011! Everybody seemed to be happy and welcoming. It would break my heart to see you ruined if we happen to be given a chance to be back there in 2014. Last Tuesday, an officemate informed me about the earthquake and when I saw the damage through the internet, I checked on my sister-in-law in Cebu if they were safe. (Yes, they were!)

So far, the earthquake that traumatized me was the 1990 killer quake that hit Central and Northen Luzon. I was alone in the house when I felt the tremor. The first thing that came to my mind was my parents and my brother’s safety. The two-week class suspension then gave me the opportunity to watch all kinds of news about the damage in Baguio, Cabanatuan and Dagupan.

I can still remember how a young teenage student, whose lower body was trapped under the rubbles, died two days after a brief TV interview. (Talk about the LIVE coverage, huh!) Baguio, a famous tourist destination in the Philippines, was a total wreck! (They managed to bounce back fast; there little traces of the earthquake when I went there in 1994)

The earthquakes that I experienced in Baguio where more of vertical movements so I didn’t find it alarming at all. But experts said that a vertical movement is more damaging than a horizontal one just like what happened in 1990.

It’s saddening to lose the centuries-old churches in Bohol which are considered to be tourist attraction because of their historical value. There are roads to repair and citizens to be financially assisted, too. Sagbayan and Carmen, two of Bohol’s tourist destinations are affected so income from tourism is not reliable at this point.

Baguio was quick to recover because tourism was not just its main source of income. They have well-established universities like University of Baguio, Baguio Colleges Foundation (University of the Cordillera) and Saint Louis University so the place is highly commercial with the influx of students from local and abroad. They have large companies like Texas Instruments and Moog. Aside from the city government’s budget, the likelihood of faster restoration is high for high-profile places.

The same cannot be said about Bohol where tourism, fishing and agriculture is the main source of livelihood. I hope that donations will reach the affected citizens on time. Yes, Bohol and Cebu can rise again.

Typhoon Memories

It’s 9:15PM, typhoon Santi looks like it’s gonna give us a hard time tomorrow when it lands on Aurora. Too bad, I won’t enjoy the long weekend that much. Yes, our HR swapped the October 15 holiday to October 14. Maybe there will be a little sunshine on Sunday. Who knows?

There are good memories that I remember during typhoons. The earliest typhoon memory is when I was only four years old. My father would get out of our house to go to Mama Dely’s (my grandmother’s sister) store to buy two large packs of Kiddie Curlz. Maybe it was his way of comforting us during the gloomy season. Our house was not comfortable to live in during the wet season. Humidity inside the house was high and everything seemed to be wet to the touch. The noisy sounds of frogs were like a group of young kids practicing a song.From where I grew up, the area was the catch basin of Balanga so everything around the house was water. A school of fish was a common sight. When I grew a little older, grade school in particular, I realized that there was nothing cool about typhoons. I hated the dampness inside the house. I hated the improvised walkway from the front door of our house to the gate. If there was something good about the typhoon, it was our little gathering at the living room for small talks because either Mama would not allow us to watch TV due to heavy lightning or there was no electricity. My brother and I would try to scare one another until his jokes would get on my nerves.

I was a high school freshman at T.Del when the heavy winds embarassed me by lifting up my green skirt to the full view of the people near the Balanga Arcade.

“So what? I am wearing shorts!” I repeatedly said to the onlookers. Two decades later, I realize that who the hell are they to deserve my explanation? Lol! Maybe I was being conservative two decades ago.

As if I was not embarassed enough, I was forced to remove my shoes and walk a few meters to our house barefooted. Some schoolmates saw me and teased me about it. Again, two decades later, I realize that who are they to react that way?

Baguio shocked me with the pestering sound of the typhoon winds. It was similar to the sound of wolves and it scared the hell out of me! Being young and naive, two of my dormmates went to sleep with me at the living room. In the middle of the night, the lady dormmate went back to our room and I was left sleeping beside the male dormmate! Our caretaker saw the two of us sharing a Uratex foam at the living room and she awakened us. Being stubborn and non-malicious, I told her that I was scared to sleep at my room. The caretaker had no choice but join us at the living room to sleep. I did not get her concern then because sleeping beside my male dormmate was nothing to me; he was like a brother.

Ah, the best typhoon memory in Baguio was when my brother and I got stranded in October 1998.We were running out of grocery and food when a good-natured neighbor gave us a big cabbage. We made that into cabbage soup and we survived one and a half days on that (with rice and fish, of course). My then boyfriend checked us and I cried the moment I saw him! Hahaha! I was so emotionally harassed and I was pining to go home only to be stranded with a little cash left.

October 2011 (?), election time, I was forced to take the SBMA-Morong route instead of the Layak route because of the floodings in Dinalupihan. It was my first time to see Morong and I appreciated the simplicity of the place.

Of course, who could ever forget Ondoy? I was supposed to give birth on the 3rd week of September but good thing I had my CS on the 2nd week. When the bridge connecting to Catmon and Patag was disconnected, transportation was paralyzed. We had to walk on a temporary bridge and take a ride from the other side of the bridge. Hassle! Just imagine the pain that I had to endure just to go to the bank because I had to withdraw manually since the ATM’s were not available then.

Typhoon Santi, please give me a good typhoon memory. Don’t be too harsh on us, please?

My Romance With Charles Vath

Tall and big

Tall and big

I never failed to visit Charles Vath in all my years of stay in Baguio. There was something in Charles that kept me coming back day after day. Charles intimidated me on our first meeting. How could somebody so famous and big accommodate a simple college girl like me? Walking around Charles’ place was like understanding his rich past and the honors that came with it.

“Impressed?” he asked when I stood beside his antique collection.

Oh, the artistic treasures of Baguio was just within my reach!

“You could see my own printing press at the ground floor,” he said.

I wondered how did he know my penchant for books and reading materials. Were my actions and gazes too predictable or enough of a give-away to show how I was feeling inside?

Charles led me to the upper floors to read more books. He showed me an old copy of Shakespeare’s book and started to read the sonnets. I blushed and turned myself away.

The daily meet ups at Charles’ place became a routine. I would go there to make my assignments, to review for the exams and to kill time when bored. My romance with Charles Vath had a timeline and I knew that this special relationship would only last for five years; unless circumstances would force me to go beyond that.

I have yet to see another Charles Vath who would be a source of reference and hard work for students of this generation when the easier way is to click one’s mouse to google.

I have yet to see another Charles Vath who would home a region’s artistic relics and be a shelter to thousands of books.

I have yet to see another Charles Vath so big and tall; mighty and majestic.

My romance with Charles Vath ended in March 2000. If there is one place in my alma mater that I miss so much other than the Otto Hahn Building, it would definitely be the Charles Vath Library Building.

Dorm Sweet Dorm

My second home--Baguio.

My second home–Baguio.

It was May, 1994. All my things were packed and squeezed into the tiny compartment of my grandmother’s owner-type jeep. We drove into my grandmother’s place to say good-bye. My grandmother went out of her house to meet us. Tears were slowly building up to her eyes. She was the type of person who could hold a tear. I went out of the vehicle to hug her and kiss her. I knew that my grandmother preferred me to stay and study in a local school. I loved her so much but I just couldn’t afford to miss the opportunity to start a new chapter of my life away from home. She told me to take care of myself…ah, I was teary-eyed at this point.

It was my first time to live my life independently. It was my first time to go to Baguio. My youngest brother who was two years old at that time was seated beside me. It was deja vu last Saturday when Chariz waved good-bye to her young brothers. While we were driving up the Marcos Highway, I could feel the highland air greeting me. I was just so excited to see the city.

Forty-five minutes later, we were there at the heart of the city. Baguio did not fail my expectations. We went to the boarding house referred to by a neighbor. I proceeded to the balcony to see more of the place. The thick white fog welcomed me. My mother told me that it was fog and not smoke as I initially thought.

The whole family was with me during my enrollment. When it was time for my family to go back home, reality quickly settled in. I would be away from my family for the first time in my life. I would be sharing a room with five other strangers. I would terribly miss my family no matter how imperfect our relationship was.

I cried silently. My father saw me and tapped me on the shoulder. My mother cried, too.

“This is what you wanted eh,” she said.

I hugged everyone except my second brother and then they left. I was left alone in the room with no one to turn to. Occasionally, the caretaker would knock on my door to check on me. Since I was on a board and lodging scheme, I was burning time and hoped that the days would pass by quickly.

Kids today are luckier to have their own cellphone and computer for email and chatting; they can communicate with their families easily. During my time, I was relying on the landline for communication. There was even a time when I sent snail mails to my family and friends.

The biggest challenge was adapting to Northen Luzon’s culture and my boardmate’s peculiarity, as well. Nevertheless, I forged genuine friendships with some of them. Friendship that I treasure up to now.

How could I forget my dormmates who:
1. Lent me her necklace when I went out on a date with an ROTC officer during his Sponsorship Night.
2. Scolded me when I was being too childish.
3. Gave me sound advice about some infatuations.
4. Shared food with me.
5. Accompanied me at the Hangar Market to get my allowance.
6. Accompanied me at the bus station every time I would go home.
7. Helped me with my Technical Drawing subject.



Two hearts are better than one.

Two hearts are better than one.

“Happy Valentine’s, Ma’am!”

I smiled and greeted my officemate back. Oh, so it’s Valentine’s Day, I almost forgot. The cafeteria has plastic roses for sale. I asked the cashier if they have chocolates for sale. She said they don’t sell chocolates. The majority in our company’s workforce including me do not “celebrate” Valentine’s Day.

My best Valentine’s happened when I was in college. It was the first time I spent my Valentine’s with a boyfriend. We just invited our friends to have a group date in Mister Donut in Session Road. My then boyfriend gave me three red roses and a Valentine card. After that, our group went to Burnham Park to simply stroll. What would you expect from a group of young and penniless college students? The celebration was so simple yet we were so happy.

I was 17 at that time and I believed in fairy tales. Three years later, I celebrated Valentine’s with the same boyfriend but the happines was no longer there. Reality came in and I realized that we were just celebrating Valentine’s just for the sake of celebrating it. The love was still there but the irreconcilable differences were also very apparent. We had a Valentine photo together and my face looked old and miserable.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day just for the sake of not being left out. That thinking spilled over to my next relationship and I could feel that the pressure to please me was too much for him to bear.

The fear of being left out—it kills. It really hurts. But people who are afraid of being alone are those who have insecurity issues. In the first place, who said that Valentine’s Day is just for couples? What about the singles who want to enjoy the day? Go out and enjoy if you are one of those who celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’ll just be happy to be spending the night with my family. I may not call it Valentine’s Day but Family Day everyday!