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I Had My First Earthquake Experience—It Was a Psychologically Terrifying One

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck the northwestern part of Luzon, one of the three main islands of the Philippines, on the afternoon of April 22, 2019. I was one of those who experienced the shock.

St. Catherine Parish Church in Porac, Pampanga

The day was April 22, 2019. It seemed like a normal day for me and my mother. We did the usual kind of stuff such as household chores, playing games on our gadgets, spending time on social media, and lazing around. We had our plans arranged for the week so that we wouldn’t be lost in path and we could be able to accomplish our goals. When the afternoon came at almost 5 PM, we were preparing to go out to buy some of the stuff we needed. My mother was in the bathroom while I was in the living room, walking around and chatting with my friends from abroad as well as playing a game on my tablet.

I lived in a condominium in Parañaque City, Metro Manila. This was the capital region of the Philippines and perhaps the economic center of this island country. When it was around five in the afternoon, however, I felt that my legs shook suddenly for no reason and that the floor I was standing upon was vibrating. I fell down on the floor of my home and my head started to feel dizzy, as if I was being shaken. I thought it was just due to the extreme heat that had been plaguing this country since the beginning of the dry season. When my brain made sense that even some of the things in our home also trembled, that was the only time I realised that an earthquake was already happening in our place. I became shocked and went panicking. But instead of running around like a frantic chicken, I crawled on the floor quickly, leaving my phone and my tablet behind on the computer table, and went under the table of our living room swiftly for safety, since this was the procedure we were taught to do in case an earthquake occurs in our disaster readiness and risk reduction subject back in grade 12. I was worried for my mother, who was still inside the bathroom when the earthquake struck. I kept calling her “Ma! Ma!” while tucked inside the table. My mother responded back by calling my name. When the earthquake had stopped, I slowly went out of the table and saw my mom get out of the bathroom. It only lasted for around one to two minutes, but the effects were far reaching in our community. The university near our condominium building, which was a famous university offering tourism and aeronautics-related degrees, rang the long bell and many of the students inside the university were evacuated quickly and went outside. 

The vibrations of the earth may have stopped, but I was still trembling and in severe panic. It was my first time experiencing this kind of natural hazard. I already saw typhoons and floods. But I had never felt an earthquake until the April 22 quake happened. My mother and I were rushing to get out of the building, getting our phones and a bottle of water. I even accidentally screamed at her when she asked me for a long towel to cover herself since she only wore a sando and and a pair of shorts. In the end, I picked it up for her and we immediately went down. Our neighbours living in the different floors of our condominium buildings also exited their homes. We all descended the stairs, with the fear still inside of our heads. Many of the residents of the condominiums in our community, as well as the students of the adjacent university living in the community and somewhere else congregated themselves outside the condominium buildings. We saw some of our neighbours outside the building and standing under the shade of a tall tree planted on a mini-garden common in our community. It was a time for all of us to chat about the earthquake, which shook and shocked the entire neighbourhood. We even had a chance to pick some calamansi in the mini garden for ourselves, possibly to relieve ourselves of the disaster that happened earlier that day. The earthquake affected me rather psychologically and even physiologically. I felt deranged and I was continually losing balance. But I tried to keep my posture and remain standing, no matter how hard it was. 

It took us almost an hour before the entire community went back into their homes one by one, including us. Still, the fear of aftershocks kept us on high alert. I informed my friends from abroad about the earthquake, and most of them were also surprised and saddened about the incident. My aunt, who is working in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, Metro Manila, called me minutes after we had gone home to check our condition. We watched the evening news when the time passed and we saw how devastating the earthquake was. The epicenter of the earthquake centered near a town in Zambales, a province in the Philippines located in northwestern Luzon. In the nearby province of Pampanga, a province known for its established and unique cuisine, structures were destroyed, cracks showed on the roads, vehicles were put down like toys, and an old church in another city in the province devastated due to the disaster. On social media, I saw posts about the earthquake all over the place. Some were serious, some were not. But all of them talked about the earthquake. The magnitude 6.1 earthquake that struck northwestern Luzon and affected other parts of the island (including Metro Manila), killing 11 people and injuring dozens more, was an event I could never forget and even until now. As I was writing the article, the effects of “earthquake dizziness” still affected me. Vertigo still keeps spinning on my head, I lose balance occasionally, and I always sense as if there is some sort of strong external movement, even if there is no movement at all. The impact of the earthquake to me was not damage to property or the loss of a loved one, but a psychological condition which I hope would soon abate as the time passes by.

Update:

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Philippines on April 23, 2019, the day after the 6.1 magnitude earthquake in Luzon had occurred. The epicenter is located some kilometres away from Tacloban City, which was once on the news for being the most affected in the country when Typhoon Haiyan struck the country in 2013. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the April 23 Samar earthquake is not related to the April 22 Zambales earthquake.

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