I was a young student from the Ateneo Grade School at the time. I had huge fights with my mom. I did not like her very much because I wanted to be more independent, and I felt she was controlling my life. I compared her to the mother of my best friend, whom I thought was so cool. You see, my best friend was allowed to ride his bike around their neighborhood, and my mom thought that it was not safe for me to do the same thing. She only let me ride my bike inside our small garage when the cars were out. That really sucked.
There were so many things my other friends were allowed to do that I envied, and for this I hated my mom.
There were so many things my other friends were allowed to do that I envied, and for this I hated my mom. One afternoon, when she picked me up from school, we had a huge argument inside the car. All of us know that arguing with your mother is a no-win situation, and you can imagine how terrible I felt during that time. At one point in our journey, I was really tempted to just go outside of the car when it was stalled and run away from home. Thankfully, my logic prevailed and I was able to stop myself from doing so. I thought about how I wouldn’t last outside of our house without any money, and I would just return home looking extremely stupid.
When we got home, I immediately went to my room and started moping. I planned not to speak to my mom for the next few days as a form of protest for my lack of freedom. All of a sudden, between 4 to 4:30 in the afternoon, the ground started shaking violently. It started to move forward and backward for a few seconds, then it stopped momentarily. Then it started to move sideways for a few seconds. Afterwards it started to shake in a circular motion. The stuff inside of our house started to topple to the ground. Our dog outside was barking wildly.
Then, contrary to what was common sense, my mom instinctively ran from outside of our house into my room. She hugged me real tight and was saying some Hail Marys. When the shaking finally stopped after what seemed like an eternity, we were both stunned silent. My plan of protest was destroyed by the strongest earthquake we had experienced in our lives.
That day was July 16, 1990. What happened is now known as the Luzon Earthquake. Its epicenter was located in Nueva Ecija, and it registered a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Among the hardest hit were Baguio City, Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija, and Dagupan City in Pangasinan, aside from Metro Manila. A total of around 369 million US dollars worth of damages were estimated, about 17 billion pesos today. 2,412 people were left dead.
She hugged me real tight and was saying some Hail Marys.
One of the notable stories of this tragic day in Philippine History is the destruction of the Hyatt Terraces Hotel in Baguio City. At least 80 hotel employees and guests died in the quake. Three people were successfully pulled out after being trapped under the rubble for nearly two weeks. They reportedly survived by drinking their own urine and rainwater. During the time, the 14-day ordeal of one of the survivors, a hotel cook named Pedrito Dy, was cited as a World Record for the longest time anyone survived after being buried beneath rubble.
I love my mom very much. I look back at our fights and realize that she never deserved my anger or hate. I realize how trivial my reasons were for despising her back then. She loves me very much and just wants me to be safe. And when faced in a life-or-death situation, she would risk her own life to protect me. I begin to wonder why I even thought that any other mom was cooler for me.
I am sharing this story because I fear that none of you students today have ever experienced anything like the Luzon Earthquake. You most likely haven’t been born yet at the time. Let us use this moment to reflect on what is really important to us in this life when we are faced by an imminent threat we really have no control over. Let us use this moment to pray to God who is the only one we can truly depend on.
(Excerpt from the Prayer of St. Ignatius, drawn from the Spiritual Exercises’ Eternal Lord of All Things)
“Eternal Lord of all things, I feel your gaze on me. I sense that your Mother stands near, watching and that with you are all the great beings of heaven: angels and powers and martyrs and saints. Lord Jesus, I think you have put a desire in me. If you will help me, please, I would like to make my offering. I want it to be my desire and my choice, provided that you want it, too, to live my life as you lived yours.”