Sunday, 20 October 2013


Chronology be damned!

All of my other experiences in the Philippines paled in comparison to being shook for nearly a minute by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake which hit Bohol at around 8:15am October 15th.  So, I will write about this now and I will take some time to fill in details of my trip to Bohol and subsequent arrival and 6 days in Bangkok in a few days.  

When the earthquake hit, I was just finishing having a shower in my hotel room on the third floor of the Diamond Suites and Residences Hotel in Cebu City... less than 80 km away from the epicentre of the quake!  Having experienced one smaller, shorter quake in Indonesia in June I knew immediately what was going on.  I called out to my cousin, Emma, "is this an earthquake?" which, interestingly, are the exact same words I said the first time I felt an earthquake.  I got out of the shower, wrapped a towel around myself, opened the bathroom door and told Emma to stand in the doorway with me.  The room was shaking and rocking significantly and there were small bits of plaster dropping down from the walls and ceiling and all the lights went out for a moment.  The shaking stopped after about a minute and the lights flickered back on.  Emma was really freaked out and just wanted to get out of the building. She went out in the hallway to ask people if they were ok and to ask what we should do.  I got dressed and wanted to pack my bags.  It was nearly 8:30 and we had a flight to catch at 11:30 so I wanted to be at the airport within an hour.  Emma sensibly was anxious to go outside and get off the third floor.  I felt a bit more anxious myself when I looked out the window to see a crowd of people on the street looking up at our hotel and pointing!  We ran down the stairs and outside.  There were bits of broken tiles and cement here and there and a large concrete wall on the roof of the hotel was cracked and looked ready to fall.  

We decided to get our bags, check out, and make our way to the airport.  Checkout went smoothly and the hotel staff helped us flag down a cab to the airport.  We got news for our taxi driver on the way informing us of 4 fatalities in Cebu City, and that parts of the roof of the airport terminal had collapsed.  At one point the taxi had to drive across a long bridge to get to Lapu Lapu city/Mactan Island where the airport is.  This made me really nervous.  I didn't want to be anywhere near that bridge if an aftershock hit!  We made it to the airport around 9:30am and got dropped off but the terminal was closed while they checked the structure for damage.  We waited outside with our bags until about 10 and then went inside with the rest of the crowd and began the long process of lining up.  While we were queued up we could see piles of plaster and broken ceiling tiles, broken tiles, and broken cement in places around the airport where damage had occurred.  We had to walk to a different terminal because one of the runways was cracked during the quake and could no longer be used, we had to have all our luggage hand-searched since there were no x-ray machines, then we had to collect manually made luggage tags and boarding passes before finally clombing onto the plane at about 1pm.  We didn't take off until 2pm so we missed our connecting flight in Manilla which left at 2:15pm for Bangkok.  Once we arrived in Manilla, we were placed on the next flight to Bangkok which left at around 7pm.  We arrived in Bangkok very travel weary (except Emma was jacked on the adrenaline still I think!) and my bag was missing.  We waited another 20min and it turned up so we finally headed to our hotel and checked in at around midnight...nearly 16 hours since our alarming wake up call!  Emma was still feeling jumpy so we walked to a nearby pub for two beers before hitting the hay...phew!

Tragically, this earthquake has resulted in 185 fatalities to date and 9 people are still missing.  Aftershocks are still occurring in the area, some up to magnitudes over 5, which threaten already weakened structures.  A number of historic churches (one was nearly 400 years old!) were damaged or totally destroyed by the quake and a lot of people lost their homes.  The whole experience was brought closer to home because a few of the churches that were damaged or destroyed, we had toured and photographed only days before.  Very sad for those living there and very scary for us to experience.  Timing is everything, Emma and I were on the island of Bohol for 5 days staying about 40km from the epicenter but we were lucky enough to have left by ferry at 4:30pm, only 16 hours prior to the earthquake.  Had we not already left Bohol, we surely would have had a much scarier experience.  Ironically, our seat numbers on the ferry from Bohol were both in row 13.

Where the quake was

Where we were

Where we could have been (eep)

San Pedro Church in Loboc

The bell tower in Loboc

Baclayon Church - considered one of the oldest church in the Philippines and the best preserved (before the earthquake)

Loon's "Our Lady of Light" Church... completely destroyed

Definitely not to make light of the situation but.... another site we toured in Bohol was a Tarsier Sanctuary.  Tarsiers are the smallest known primate in the world weighing only 80-160g and measuring only 7.5-16cm tall.  Other interesting facts: These strange looking critters have enormous eyes, can rotate their heads 180 degrees (compared to humans mere 90 degrees), and their third finger (tarsus bone) is longer than their whole upper arm which gives them their name.  They are endangered and it is no wonder!  They are hopeless!  The ones we saw at the sanctuary had leaves around them formed into a sunshade.  I asked if the shelters were pre-built and then the Tarsiers utilized them during the day since they are nocturnal....nope...the staff at the sanctuary build shelters around the Tarsiers each day to protect them from wind, sun, and rain... HOPELESS!  Also, we were cautioned to use low voices and not to use camera flashes because Tarsiers easily become stressed and have been known to become suicidal due to stress.  Apparently they will beat their little heads against a tree branch until they die!  I had to laugh when I found this postcard yesterday and thought...

"Oh No!  The earthquake probably stressed the Tarsiers out...I wonder if they have all killed themselves by now!"


1 comment:

  1. Wow, quite the geologic, cultural and zoological experience all packed into 5 days!