April 10, 2017

Intensity Six

Photo by wifey. We were taking a break at the resort's
swimming pool (upper right) when the first quake struck
at around 3 pm.
Last April 8, my wife and I experienced the strongest and most destructive earthquake by far.

We were in a resort in Bagalangit, Mabini, Batangas for a weekend get-together with wifey's former officemates. The sun and sea were perfect for kayaking and snorkeling so that's exactly what we did shortly after lunch.

We were taking a break at the resort's swimming pool when the first earthquake struck at 3:07 pm. I was then at the 5-foot deep portion of the pool. The water around me seemed to boil, and my feet couldn't get a grip of the floor. As I was stuck there, I saw a mother move at superhuman speed towards her son in the pool, while wifey rushed to secure another child.

The first earthquake faded, and I was able to get out of the pool. We were gathering our wits when the second, much stronger wave of tremor hit us. Sounds of rocks and broken tiles hitting the concrete floor filled the entire resort. The water from the pool and jacuzzi next to us were overflowing and splashing around us. We ducked under the beach table and waited for the shaking to stop.

We rushed to the hotel as soon as the shaking stopped. The stairs were strewn with broken concrete and decorative rocks that got dislodged from the walls. The employees herded us to the open lawn next to the parking area. They gave us water, monobloc chairs and towels as we waited for the aftershocks.

The third quake was strong enough to shake the lamp posts, prompting us to relocate to another spot. The employees were calling out room numbers, and were escorting the guests to collect their belongings from the room.

The hotel staff accompanied me into our room at the second floor while wifey waited in the open area. She kept urging me to move quickly as we grabbed our personal belongings and stuff them in our bags.

We were halfway done when the fourth quake happened. The staff shouted for us to run outside the room. We met with other employees at the hallway, and waited for the shaking to stop.

After that, the staff must have had a fresh dose of adrenaline. She finished up with all of wifey's belongings in a flash and before I know it, she was out of the room with all our bags. Mercifully, she stopped a good distance away from the group to let me tidy up our unzipped bags, with our assorted underwear dangling in plain view.

The following minutes were spent waiting for the aftershocks to fade, and for news on whether it was already safe to leave.

Our get-together would have to be cut very short; nothing to do but bid everyone safe travels before heading out in a convoy back to Metro Manila.

The fifth and final quake we felt was when we were standstill in traffic leaving Mabini.

Thank goodness no one was seriously hurt.

The fear is something else. It would be a while before we visit this beautiful place again.