Surviving 2 Natural Disasters: 1990 Earthquake and Mt. Pinatubo eruption

This article goes back to memory lane when I had to ask myself twice: Will I still be able to reach the day of my birthday alive?It narrates my childhood experience surviving 2 natural disasters: 1990 earthquake and Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

16th of July 1990 Luzon, Philippines

It was my first time to experience an earthquake. We were answering an exercise book in our classroom when the earthquake was felt. My classmates and I were all shocked staring at each other. The class president screamed “ Earthquake! Duck!”

We immediately went under our desks. Our class teacher was outside then, so when she entered the room, I saw her crying. She told us to go out immediately. There was only one door in our room. Good thing nobody pushed each other.

We were running while the ground was still shaking. Looking back, it was difficult to run in a straight line while the ground moved. Our class was the first one to arrive at the open space of the school. It was the advantage of being on the ground floor.

However, we heard the screams of the other students going down the stairs from the 2nd to the 5th floor of the school building. They told us afterward that as if the building was swaying back and forth.

According to the article in the New York Times (published July 17, 1990), the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter Scale lasting 45 seconds. Aftershocks followed.

I saw my fellow children started crying but I didn’t. I was stunned. Too shocked to even react. I thought I was going to die. The end of the world has come. I was wrong.

Classes were suspended because the building inspectors had to check for days just to be sure the school buildings were safe.

I remembered my parents turn on the television every night just to be updated with the news. I didn’t understand most of it but I remembered the photos and videos the disaster had caused.

There were a lot of structures that collapsed. A lot of people died or were critically injured. The survivors from the rubble were all working on the top floors. It dawned on me that if the school building collapsed, we were on the ground floor. We could have been buried alive!

It was a lot to take in. Seeing people crying on TV because their loved ones were found dead or still missing or critically fighting for their lives made me cry. I had a delayed reaction. Lucky for me I could live another day.

Photo by Katherine Hanlon

Filipinos have a strong faith in the Lord. It helps in enduring hardships no matter how bad the situation is.  I remembered offering prayers when we went back to school. Donations were given and distributed to the places that were hit hard by the earthquake. Assistance was given by many countries.

Obviously, I reached the day of my birthday alive and well. Thank God.

 15th of June 1991 Mt. Pinatubo Eruption

Other Filipinos experienced worse than what I did. This is my story.

We were looking up at the sky. There was a huge gray cloud and it was the explosion of Mt. Pinatubo. During that moment, I thought our home (in Pampanga) was safe because Mt. Pinatubo was in another province – Zambales. I was wrong… again.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet, the Mt. Pinatubo eruption is the second-largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. When even more highly gas-charged magma reached Pinatubo’s surface on June 15, the volcano exploded in a cataclysmic eruption that ejected more than 1 cubic mile (5 cubic kilometers) of material. The ash cloud from this climactic eruption rose 22 miles (35 kilometers) into the air.

It started to get dark late in the afternoon. I remembered the roosters crowing. There was no electricity. It was pitch black outside the house. My parents asked me if I wanted to play Scrabble with them. Maybe, it was their way to divert my thinking.

I don’t remember if we finished the game but they started to think about evacuating our home and go to our relatives living far away. With the darkness came ashfall and rain. It was more dangerous to go out of the house driving with no street lights to guide you. Furthermore, rain and ash mixed together created a cement-like mixture which was difficult to remove on the windshields. It was not a good plan to leave.

Then it happened again – Earthquake. The memory of last year became vivid again. It was not just a one-time experience. The earthquakes became frequent.

Photo by Melanie Wasser

Out of fear, our neighbors decided to stay with us at home – the mother and two children. We all huddled up together in the living room by spreading a huge rug and a thick blanket to sleep in.

We ate dinner together in the dining area.We froze and looked at each other when an earthquake was felt. When the tremor stopped, we continued our meal. The quakes became regular, we didn’t bother anymore to stop eating. Imagine eating your dinner but at the same time thinking if it will be your last.

Our parents told us to get some sleep but we couldn’t. Lying down on the blanket in the living area with my playmates, I saw the chandelier swaying like a pendulum while the earthquakes continued. My playmates and I were all noisy chatters but that time we were all quiet, listening, observing what was happening.

During that moment, I thought IT WAS THE END OF THE WORLD. I was asking the same question the previous year. Will I ever be able to reach the day of my birthday alive? I prayed to God in the midst of the tremors I felt. “ Please Lord, make it stop.” Exhausted, I fell asleep at last.

While we were sleeping, my father and a family friend decided to go up the roofs to remove the mixed ash and rain by using shovels. There was a huge possibility that the roofs will collapse because of the weight. There was a storm during that time that caused the continuous rainfall.

I felt relieved to see the morning light the following day. There was no electricity yet but there was daylight. The earthquakes stopped. Looking back, I deeply appreciated it. I saw what looked like sand piled up around the house and the neighbors’ homes as well as on the streets. We came out safe. Others were unfortunate.

The eruption produced high-speed avalanches of hot ash and gas (pyroclastic flows), giant mudflows (lahars), and a cloud of volcanic ash hundreds of miles across.

(Source: https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs113-97/)

Many people lost their lives, properties and sources of income. The aftermath of the eruption continued for years because of the lahars. It destroyed numerous homes and farmlands.

At present, the province of Pampanga is an example of the resiliency and courage of Filipinos to rise up out of the disasters. The last time I visited, it is already a metropolis and future site of an international airport.

Never in my wildest imagination will I witness two natural disasters in two consecutive years. Both of them near my birthday.

Yes, of course, I was able to reach the day of my birthday alive and well. Praise God.

Reminiscing these memories made me appreciate my life more. I was able to grow up, get a job, travel and have a family. It is so easy to take for granted things especially when you are busy with responsibilities as an adult.

I was given the opportunity to LIVE… LONGER than the rest who didn’t make it. For that, I am thankful.

lady with raised arms at the beach

Cravings, Emotions and Filipino Food

Halo-halo

When you have cravings, there are emotions attached to it.

Suddenly craving for an ice cream? Everything fell into place and you want to celebrate!

rainbow ice cream
Happy eating!

Dying to eat chocolate? You just want to shove the piece in your mouth because you are upset.

chocolate waffle
Looks delicious… yes it is.

Angry at someone? You see yourself getting the potato chips in your pantry because you want to release stress.

Feeling bored? There is a bottle of wine somewhere…

There are various reasons why we crave a particular food or drink. I will not discuss alcoholic drinks, coffee or soft drinks.

I want to focus more on FOOD.

CAKE – This is always present on special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, mother’s day and other special days. In spite of that, when you feel you are an actor in a drama series, the cake is one of the options for stress eating. I could already hear the song “All By Myself”.

ube cake
So happy to see you!

There was one night when I craved for Ube Cake. It is a purple yam cake with macapuno (coconut sport)  in it. Oh, it was one of those nights I couldn’t do anything about it! I do not know how to bake it or if the ingredients are available at the Asian store. I only see it when a talented guest shares this treat in the party.

ICE CREAM – There is something about ice cream that makes you want to eat more. I couldn’t sleep one night and went to the freezer to get two scoops of Rocky Road ice cream. I asked myself, WHY AM I DOING THIS? My mind didn’t even bother to answer and just gave in to temptation.

rocky road ice cream
Eating ice cream with family and another one for midnight snack

What is your tempting ice cream treat? Vanilla? Strawberry? Chocolate? Special flavors like pistachio ice cream perhaps? It even tastes better with an ice cream cone, just like the good old days of childhood. Yum.

CHICKEN – There are two types of chicken I CRAVE: Chickenjoy from the Filipino fast-food chain JOLLIBEE and the spicy chicken from KFC. At the moment, I could not eat chickenjoy here in Australia because it does not have a  Jollibee branch yet. However, I see myself most Tuesdays falling in line at a KFC branch ordering the Cheap Tuesday option.

three boys with Jollibee
We miss you Jollibee especially your chickenjoy.

CHOCOLATE – This is my weakness, is it yours too? There are days I do not even look for it in the pantry or not even eat it for days even if it is just within my grasp. When the craving starts, as if I am a little child coming back to the pantry eating a part bit by bit.

MEAT: BEEF? PORK?  MUTTON? This is not much of a craving for me but other people are craving for these. Do you want it grilled or barbecued? Fried? Baked? Stewed? Eat the jiggly  fats that come with it? Mmmmm…

LECHON
Lechon, where art thou lechon?

POTATO CHIPS – You are not much of a fan of sweet food but you suddenly get uneasy when you crave for something SALTY. Disgust fills your mind when you open the cupboards or the pantry without potato chips. You promised yourself in the grocery store that you will start a healthy life by not buying potato chips. You breathe in and breathe out and close the pantry.

Boy Bawang Cornick
We travel for half an hour just to get one of these!

Stop it. Hold it. I could go on and on with the other food cravings. Don’t make me start with pizza. Let’s go a bit deeper with this. Something familiar.

Furthermore, there is another cause why we desire a particular food: HOMESICKNESS.

–  It was part of your childhood.

–  Father or mother used to cook it for you.

– You associate it with a friend back then.

– It is the food that you devoured during a special occasion in the past.

– Foodstuff that reminds you of home miles and miles away.

Good for you if you can buy it in the shops or the ingredients are available and you can cook it from scratch. Other times, you just have to grin and bear it. Wait for the chance to visit your country of origin and eat it all you want until you can’t take it anymore.

Here are the  Filipino foods that I craved once or twice or more.

Taho – I grew up eating this for breakfast during my childhood years. It is made up of soft tofu with caramel and sago pearls.  Most of the time, the peddler shouted TAHOin front of our house so I asked my grandmother to buy some for me. The answer was always yes. *grinning*

I ate this in front of the house with my childhood friend who was still wearing her pajamas. We didn’t even wash our faces or combed our hair but we were already outside eating taho for breakfast.

Taho
One TAHO for me and one for you

Philippine Mangoes – I already ate different types of mangoes but my heart still craves for Philippine mangoes. Maybe, it is the taste I grew up with or the special memories associated while eating it. Looking back, I always ate mangoes with my loved ones.

Philippine mangoes
I want to eat you all!

Lumpiang sariwa / Fresh spring rolls – The fresh spring rolls prepared by the experts will make you forget your diet. Different vegetables are wrapped in a soft white wrapper then topping it with sweet sauce and peanuts. The secret here why it is so delicious is the sauce that comes with it

one fresh spring roll
The last fresh spring roll… mmm.

Banana cue – This was my afternoon snack growing up. Deep fried bananaplantains with brown sugar are the best! My friends and I devoured it while drinking coconut juice.

two banana cue
Banana cue, when can I eat you again?

Chicharon/ Pork crackling – Dipping this in vinegar and stopping yourself finish the pack is an effort. Hearing the crunch of the pork crackling in every bite and catching up with friends is a match wherever you are.

chicharon/pork crackling
It takes self-discipline to stop eating this.

Balut – fertilized duck egg. Do I have to say more? It is best to eat it with salt or vinegar. It is not for the faint of heart. Legend has it that even the most adventurous, thrill-seeking food lovers have said NO THANK YOU to this.

Balut
I am challenging you to eat BALUT.

Dinuguan – is pork blood stew. I do not know how to cook this but every time I see it in parties, I always taste it initially. When my son first saw me with this, he exclaimed: “ Mum, you are eating dirty food!”   NO, I AM NOT.

Dinuguan
Dinuguan by Nelia

Pandesal – It is a part of breakfast of every Filipino family. You buy it in a bakery early in the morning then fill it with your favorite peanut butter, margarine or cheese. When I was young, the pandesal was bigger. Nowadays, it became smaller and more expensive.

Hot pandesal for breakfast = good start of the day

Leche flan and polvoron – My mother rarely prepared these special treats so when she did, I was in sweets heaven.Leche flan needs 10 egg yolks, condensed milk and evaporated milk. These ingredients are expensive for simple folks. I controlled myself eating the whole serving so I could eat it for days.

3 leche flan
Party Leche flan… I know you want it.

Polvoron is another one. Mama didn’t bother anymore wrapping the treat. She just put it in a big container and gave me a spoon. How I loved eating polvoronwhile watching my favorite cartoons! Be careful eating it or else you might cough and scatter the powder all over the place.

sweet polvoron
Polvoron (right)

Halo-halo – It is a Filipino dessert with shaved ice, evaporated milk, sweet beans and bananas, jelly, leche flan and other ingredients. Halo-halo becomes special because of the other ingredients you decide to mix.

Example, other people put macapuno (coconut sport)  in it or vanilla ice cream on top or jackfruit. It depends upon the preparation and available ingredients. Delicious!

Halo-halo
HALO-HALO: Mix all the ingredients then eat.

Kakanin – Filipino delicacies or rice treats

To prepare these treats, patience is needed because there is a lot of mixing involved. I am still a work in progress in cooking. The last time I made one, it got burnt. I rather eat the food prepared by someone who knows what they are doing. If you are interested to cook Filipino kakanin then here is the website for you.  Click here.

KAKANIN/ RICE CAKES
Examples of KAKANIN/RICE CAKES
sapin-sapin
Sapin-sapin: layer upon layer of sweet sticky food
colorful puto
Colorful puto by Joselito

Tamales or Bobotu to Kapampangans- There is the feeling of anticipation every time I remove the banana leaf wrapper from the tamales. Will the tamales be huge like the wrapper or is it small? My father loves tamales and I love it too.

Tamales wrapped in banana leaves
Surprise! Huge tamales in the house!

Street food – OH YESSS. Air pollution from the public vehicles didn’t stop me from eating street food. I only ate siomai (dim sum dumplings) and quail eggs. I was not adventurous enough to eat the grilled organs of the pig.

street food on a stick
Street food on a stick. Yum!

Pancit Malabon –  Savory noodles with toppings like smoked fish, eggs and sea food ( shrimp, oysters, mussels)

Pancit Malabon
A plate of this and you are good to go!

Reno – It is a canned good of liver spread. Yes, we do love this and we put it in Caldereta or Beef stew.

Reno, you will always be special.

To sum it up, there will always be a time that you start to crave for something. Sometimes it is okay to give in to the temptation. Just have the discipline to STOP yourself when you know enough is enough.  My enough is when my belt needs to get loose. *giggling*

A friend once  told me ”  JUST BUY A BIGGER T-SHIRT  if you don’t fit in it anymore.” Funny yes. In the long run, it will not be.

There you have it, folks. At the moment, I am craving for BALUT.  How about you? What are you craving for?