Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I was roused from sleep by the sound of creaking wood, as well as by the gentle yet highly unusual swaying of the bedroom. It felt as if I were aboard an ageing wooden boat. The thought of my father who was buried only a day or two immediately came to mind. I suspected that he might have returned to haunt us. But why in such horrific manner?

Suddenly my eldest brother, Junior, came to turn on the light in the bedroom. And with alarming urgency, he ushered me and my visiting cousins out of the bedroom and into the living room.
It was then I realized that this was something beyond some ghostly visitation.

Through the huge windows of the living room, what greeted me was an eerie sight: In the middle of the night, the whole neighborhood was up with their lights on; silently looking out their windows as if expecting a major parade about to pass.

And then suddenly, another tremor shook the earth. But this time, there were screams that echoed from every direction. We stood there terrified; others cried while crouched in a corner. My religious aunt repeatedly shrilled that the world was about to meet its apocalyptic end; heightening the already distressful situation. She finally stopped when Tia Inez hurled a rubber slipper at the back of her head.

It was August 2, 1968. An earthquake that registered 7.7 on the Richter scale hit Metro Manila and the rest of Central and Northern Luzon killing 1,700 people; injuring 3,000 individuals; and displacing 148,000 more in Luzon. Estimates of property and infrastructure damage were placed at $2 billion.

Manila was the hardest hit with reports of 268 people killed and 261 more injured. The buildings near the mouth of Pasig River with huge alluvial deposits suffered the most damages. Some of them were irreparable, while others required mere cosmetic mending.

But far from the river, over on Doroteo Jose and Teodora Alonzo streets in Sta. Cruz, Manila,
the six-story Ruby Tower apartment-building collapsed. Reports of 260 people buried alive by its rubble filled the headlines. Allegations ensued that the building was poorly built; that low-grade materials were used extensively in its construction. Soon thereafter, rumors emerged that its owners and builders hurriedly left the country to avoid criminal prosecutions.

And from that time on, on account of this disaster, every time I see a high-rise building being built, I always say a little prayer; hoping that a tragedy akin to Ruby Tower would never recur in Manila or anywhere else.


posted by Señor Enrique at 8:43 AM


Anonymous sardonicnell said...

i can still remember the earthquake back in manila, that was really scary. i do hope and pray that it won't happen again. i've been here in sfo for many years and we've been hit by quite a few earth shakes as well, but so far the memory of the last manila earthquake was much more intense.

August 21, 2007 10:13 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

So we were not too far from each other during the 1968 earthquake. I was in bed in my uncle's house in Retiro St., Sta Mesa Heights. I believe it was pre-dawn when it happened. And we dutifully went back to sleep after the last aftershocks.

And I was in San Francisco when the Loma Prieta earthquake occurred. Our Daly City house was no more than a mile away from the San Andreas fault that winds out into the Pacific Ocean.

As a kid growing up in Mis. Oriental, we also witnessed the Camiguin volcanic eruption which was no more than 50 kilometers away and which caused destructive seismic shocks in the Mindanao mainland.

All these being part of the Pacific ring of fire, so earthquakes are common expectations.

August 21, 2007 11:09 AM  

Blogger carlotta said...

the first earthquake i've experienced is the one back in 1990. i remember getting a plate of biko for merienda but because the ground was already shaking, i had to run out of the house. when the shaking stopped, i could not eat the biko anymore. :D

August 21, 2007 12:43 PM  

Anonymous Luke said...

wow, a terrifying story...beautiful shot.

August 21, 2007 3:17 PM  

Anonymous kyels said...

Yes, I believe that it was a terrifying experience indeed. Hopefully, it won't happen again.

Beautiful shot; totally love it.


August 21, 2007 4:43 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That earthquake of '68 was the most traumatic I've ever experienced when it comes to natural disasters, Nell, but I have seen a lot worse on TV news coverages from Japan, Mexico, South America, and etc.

New York has its share of tremors but never as shattering as those in San Francisco.

August 21, 2007 5:08 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Was the Loma Prieta earthquake the one that caused the tragic collapse of certain parts of a San Francisco freeway?

Yes, being in this "ring of fire" contributed to experiencing other devastating earthquakes. Besides the Ruby Tower incident, there were supposedly more than 6,000 people who perished when a tsunami caused by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in the Moro Gulf hit in 1976. There was also the July 16, 1990 earthquake; devastation from which, according to government statistics, is so far unequaled in deaths, property damage and psychological shock.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo also produced massive devastations. Frightening what nature sometimes bring to humankind.

August 21, 2007 5:20 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You must have been traumatized by that event, Carla. Such things are really often hard to describe -- the fright, shock, and sense of utter vulnerability.

August 21, 2007 5:24 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks, Luke.

That image, by the way, was a reflection from a puddle that appears in the first picture -- which a lot of readers like -- that is in a photo essay of a previous entry:


Tremors from a major earthquakes are indeed frightening.

August 21, 2007 5:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I hope so, too, Kyels. I think the world has enough as it is.

Yes, as much as I love that picture, it does remind me of that devastating 1968 earthquake. And this may be the reason why I often feel queasy whenever I find myself inside a towering building.

August 21, 2007 5:32 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philippines as we know is in the ring of fire.We've had our share of terrible earthquakes in our history.I guess topics like this should remind people that earthquakes are bound to happen again and are we prepared.High rise buildings and earthquakes are not a good combination.Your picture suddenly becomes scary because of the topic,well done Senor.


August 21, 2007 8:10 PM  

Blogger ScroochChronicles said...

My friend is one of the survivors of the Ruby Tower tragedy. He was a baby then and he survived because his yaya covered him with her body to protect him from all the rubble. Sadly, his yaya died.

I helped do some relief work after the 1990 earthquake. We went to La Union and Pangasinan and I've never seen so much anguish since. It was horrible. I also remember the strong aftershocks in La Union and we saw mountains crumbling in front of us!!

August 21, 2007 8:24 PM  

Anonymous lino said...

hmmm, my biggest earthquake experience was the one that happened in july 1990(?)... i remember we were rehersing for our choir, it so happened that the sopranos was rehersing their part when the quake started, we hurriedly went out of the music hall and wait till the quake subsided... then we made a joke that it was the sopranos high pitched voice that caused the quake.... :)

August 21, 2007 8:39 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Are we really prepared for such disasters? Now, this becomes a major question in which owners of hi-rise office and apartment buildings must be able to answer.

Sure they are glitzy and powerful looking, but are the tenants, guests, employees and anyone else going in and out of those structures provided with failsafe alternatives toward safety in the event of devastating natural disasters.

Thanks for making us think about this, IndioBravo.

August 21, 2007 8:59 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The current mining disasters in the States and China were also partly responsible for making me write about the Ruby Tower incident, Scrooch. I get weak in the knees just to think of how I'd react if buried alive in some rubble.

Your friend is very fortunate to have survived Ruby Tower. I'm sure there is a purpose destined for him to accomplish in his lifetime.

I'm not too knowledgeable about the details of the 1990 earthquake since I was living in NYC at that time, but will surely try to learn more about it now.

Highly admirable of you to have participated in relief work. Must have been fulfilling despite the dangers involved.

August 21, 2007 9:08 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Believe it or not, Lino, laughter is sometimes the only way for young people to cope with such traumatizing episodes.

After the earthquake, almost everyone of us came up with a joke -- not to disrespect the victims. You see, somehow laughter helped us assuage the trauma we were subjected to. I guess, in our own limited ways, that was the best we could come up with to facilitate self-preservation. Unlike in the States, there were no psychologists provided by the government to help us.

So, those sopranos probably provided the much needed impetus, eh :)

August 21, 2007 9:27 PM  

Blogger pusa said...

why is it that i didnt know anything about this ruby tower incident... once again thank you señor for educating me.

by the way, thank you for your comments on my blog, i should have followed your advised early on and used the camera to take away the stress!!!

August 21, 2007 11:06 PM  

Blogger Ebb Tide said...

I enjoy reading your article on the'68 earthquake in Manila. I was still there during that time. Being a Filipino made me tough during earthquakes. We had a big earthquake here in So. California in 1996 called the "Northridge Earthquake" at (6.7). It happened before dawn and was really scary. The movement was like a shaking roller coaster and very long. It was so dark we couldn't see anything. After the earthquake our bedroom looked like a bomb exploded around us. The worst thing that happened was the major freeway going up North#5, which was half mile away from home collapsed. Amazingly, this freeway was rebuild in just 3 months.

August 22, 2007 12:23 AM  

Blogger dave (",) said...

I was in preparatory school in Bicol when the 1990 Bagiuo quake occured. We felt it at intensity three, and I remember getting dizzy. Still it was an upsetting experience for us six year olds.

I still can't get over the fact that I received an emailed prediction about the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, only that the seer got some details wrong.

Speaking of buildings under construction, here's a man-made disaster waiting to happen: along C5, there's one being constructed, 20-storeys high and still rising. The thing is, it's directly under the path of airplanes going to and from NAIA (give or take 50 meters, not enough leeway I must say). How's that for a local version of 9/11?

August 22, 2007 2:35 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

So I guess, in some humble way, this entry serves a purpose - to remind those not aware of it, the tragic effect of the earthquake of 1968.

My pleasure, Pusa. Photography is an effective stress-relieving measure for me :)

August 22, 2007 6:51 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I just checked out Northridge Earthquake in Wikipedia, Ebb Tide. It must've have been a terrifying experience, indeed. Whoa!

I cringe at the thought of driving on a freeway or bridge and have it suddenly collapse under me.

Thank God that you and your loved ones survived it all right.

August 22, 2007 7:15 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

And no one has reminded the owner/developer of the potential danger that structure might create, Dave? Unbelievable! I can't understand the sheer arrogance and indifference of people sometimes.

That was some scary prediction you got, Dave. I'm speechless.

August 22, 2007 7:22 AM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Reading your first sentences I was already fearing for the worst and I was going to switch to INQ7.net to read the latest news...

Nice post processing on your image. You are starting to be a photoshop wizard.

August 22, 2007 7:50 AM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

Gosh, I can never forget my experience of the July 16, 1990 earthquake that shook Luzon. I was very thankful that I was not giving birth at the hospital that time, as it was my due date. I was pregnant with Gem. I gave birth on the 31st, but there were still aftershocks. I think this was the earthquake with the most number of after shocks, lasting for months!

I remember hearing news that the casualties in Baguio City (reaching 1,000!) were lined up in the streets, thus giving the whole city a deathly stench. We had no electricity for weeks! It was a nightmare!

Take a look here, Eric, to see how nightmarish that earthquake was!


August 22, 2007 8:32 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Got you on this one, Sidney -- absolutely no Photoshop post processing done on this photo. However, I applied basic contrast enhancement on it with Picasa2.

This image was a reflection from a puddle - see first photo of the entry:


Hehehe ...

I still have no Photoshop, but I have a wonderful tutorial book :)

By the way, Aperture has a tool, Loop, which could be used to zoom in on images and detect if it has been digitally manipulated or enhanced. Heard contest judges use this tool to weed out and disqualify such entries.

August 22, 2007 9:58 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wow! That was indeed a devastating earthquake, Rhoda. Even just reading about it in Wikipedia was iunsettling enough.

You were very lucky, as you said, not to be inside the hospital at that very moment.

I really hope we don't ever experience similar catastrophes.

August 22, 2007 10:06 AM  

Anonymous Ferdz said...

What a terrifying memory. Yes I believe that was the one of the strongest earthquake to hit the metro. And being a kid, that memory does linger when you grow up.

August 22, 2007 4:02 PM  

Anonymous Jayred said...

I was not yet born when this happened. However, I do remember the earthquake on July 16, 1990. It was my 20th birthday. I woke up with an asthma, and with the realization that an Akyat Bahay gang broke into our family home! But I still went to work that day. In the afternoon, there was an earthquake, and everyone in the office (we were on the third floor of the office building) panicked. I was left alone to turn off the computers (I remember being so calm). :-)


Great shot! Was this taken in Manila or in Makati? Did you do some post-processing to achieve that effect?

August 22, 2007 4:20 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

If you want I can lent you my Photoshop CD so that you can copy it on your computer. I still think Photoshop is the best post processing tool around.
Sayang if you don't use the book ! ;-)

August 22, 2007 4:50 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Yes, Eric, Loma Prieta was the SF earthquake in 1989 where a segment of the Bay Bridge collapsed.

But the collosal possibility of mass deaths was in Candlestick Park Stadium, where the World Series was being played. Imagine over 40,000 people gathered in that one place piled together in tiers. And I was at home watching the start of the game.

August 22, 2007 11:25 PM  

Blogger Inkblots said...

My parents and my elder kins always relate this story to me. They called it "Ruby Tower" eartquake becuase I guess the hardest hit was then Ruby Tower.

Although I wasn't born yet. My mom was 8 months on the way when this happened. And I become the butt of jokes when they tell stories about this earthquake. They say I am an earthquake baby, so does my personality--or more aptly in Tagalog: "Batang Nilindol" kaya daw ako ganito ngayon. Haay! It is so hard being the youngest! But I just laugh it off nowadays.

by the way, I had a similar experience which I also blogged in July 16 (anniversary of earthquake). I was in Baguio then.

August 22, 2007 11:42 PM  

Blogger Inkblots said...

Oh...I thought it was "grain" you put through photoshop! Great shot indeed!

August 22, 2007 11:43 PM  

Blogger Dhon Jason said...

You scared me, hehe. kala ko kelan lang. (i said to myself-"wala naman ah, nde ko to alam, nde ko rin naramdaman.") I love the photo ;-)

August 23, 2007 5:46 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

This will forever be etched in my memory, Ferdz; truly terrifying. Tama ka!

August 23, 2007 7:31 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wow! Admirable, indeed, of your gut feel, Jayred -- that somehow, despite the frightening scenario, you remained calm knowing that things will be all right.

This photo was taken in Greenbelt One in Makati. Only used the contrast feature of Picasa2 to create a sombre feel to it.

August 23, 2007 7:35 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I will never put that wonderful book to waste, Sidney. I just put a time frame for myself to develop my composition skills for as much as possible before I start dabbling with Photoshop. I agree, it is the most superior post processing program ever created :)

August 23, 2007 7:37 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The mere thought of a collapsing stadium gave me the goosebumps, Amadeo.

Scenes of collapsed bridges and freeways made me uncomfortable whenever driving through Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, though it's not even as long as the Golden Gate Bridge.

August 23, 2007 7:42 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Ding ... interesting how that devastating '68 earthquake became generically known as the Ruby Tower incident.

Also, whenever I meet Manilenyo folks my age these days, I'd sometimes bring up Ruby Tower. You can imagine how engaging the ensuing conversations. I guess, tragedies unite humankind in some peculiar ways.

I will check out your July 16 post.

Pareho pala tayong bunso :)

Thanks, Picasa2 lang gamit ko dyan ... hehehe!

August 23, 2007 7:48 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

This happened when your parents were mere young kids occupied with play, Dhon ... hehehe. Many many years before you were even thought of :)

Maraming salamat!

August 23, 2007 7:51 AM  

Blogger BW said...

I remember the scary earthquakes in Manila. People were scared and ran out into the streets fearful that their houses might crumble. The sight of people not properly dressed just trying to run outside. I even saw people na may sipilyo at colgate ang bungaga at nakalimutan ng tanggalin sa pagmamadali :)

August 23, 2007 10:38 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"I even saw people na may sipilyo at colgate ang bungaga at nakalimutan ng tanggalin sa pagmamadali..."

I had to hold back my laughter, BW, because what you witnessed proves that sheer terror could simply obliterate one's sense of self.

August 23, 2007 11:38 AM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

I have no memory of the 1968 earthquake din but like Jayred, I would not forget the July 16,1990 earthquake...it was also my birthday! I was in 4th grade then, my classmates finished singing happy birthday and then the earth shooked...so were shocked, I saw one of our teacher clinging to 'dear' poste outside our classroom...I still remember the news coverage back then, showing kids and people under rubble being interviewed =(

BTw, The photo really fits your story.....but I was laughing my heart out with the rubber tsinelas!!! lolz.

August 23, 2007 2:11 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

It's even more incredibly frightening for kids to experience something like a major earthquake, G. Mirage. They'll take that horrific experience with them to adulthood for certain.

My Tia Inez was a character to reckon with. I'm preparing a post about her.

August 23, 2007 2:55 PM  

Blogger dodongflores said...


August 23, 2007 4:39 PM  

Anonymous Toe said...

If it weren't for the gravity of the situation, Tita Inez throwing her slipper at your aunt would have been funny.

My goodness, what a terrifying experience!

August 23, 2007 5:45 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My Tia Inez was very protective of the kids and my religious aunt was needlessly exacerbating the already frightful circumstance. Everyone who saw that flying slipper had fun bringing it up during family gatherings for the ensuing many years. I got a weird family, Toe ... hehehe.

August 23, 2007 6:08 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wassup, Dodong? Hehehe :)

August 23, 2007 6:10 PM  

Anonymous SexyMom said...

i was in tarlac then, 10 years old (now everyone knows my age). nowadays we hear of earthquakes in almost every part of the country. it cannot be avoided, we are in the pacific ring of fire (do i have the right term?), so we should just always be ready for anything.

August 26, 2007 1:44 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

And I wonder, Dine, if our government has emergency service units/programs ready to cope with such disasters. Nonetheless, it's a scary prospect :(

August 27, 2007 7:05 AM  

Blogger The Rhapsody Brat said...

like the other posters here, your mention of what happened to the Ruby Towers reminded me of what i saw on TV during the aftermath of the 1990 earthquake (which happened just a day after my 7th birthday).

i remember watching the news on Channel 2 and seeing the coverage of the rescue attempts at the Central Colleges of the Philippines (was it in cabanatuan?). the building had collapsed and there were students trapped. i can remember one girl reaching out to the rescuers while another person was near her, flat down, not moving. they were both covered in debris. up to now i kept hoping that that other person was alive.

by the way, the pic accompanying your post was perfect. ;p

August 31, 2007 3:26 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

As much as I try to avoid watching the gruesome aftermath of cataclysmic events on TV, somehow, I find myself riveted, Rhapsody Brat -- like those destructions caused by the earthquakes in California with some parts of the freeway giving or collapsing like pancakes on top of one another. Really hope we see no more such calamities.

Many thanks!

September 01, 2007 7:50 AM  

Blogger Joyz Anne said...

Senor Enrique,

Not sure if this blog is still active since the last post was in 2009, but I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm currently developing an article on Makati City's earthquake preparedness and I'm thinking of using the Ruby Tower incident as one of my news pegs.

In this regard, would it be all right to use your photo? We would credit you, of course. Please do let me know ASAP as we're closing the pages for next week's issue tomorrow night. Thank you! :)

March 01, 2011 10:11 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes you may use my photo as long as I'm given credit. Could you mention my blog as well?

Please let me know which publication and issue date so I may get a copy.


March 02, 2011 11:40 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

gud day sir, did you know that a part of the ruby tower "foundation" land is being sold to a private individual! how come a foundation is being sold? just an inquiry tnx

September 17, 2012 7:28 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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