Exactly 30 years ago today, Metro Manila and parts of Luzon were shaken by a jolt that would come down as among those “where were you” moments if you’re old enough to be aware of what happened that manic Monday. I was in sixth grade when that 45-second earthquake that killed around 1,600 took everyone by surprise.
Hearing music leads us to certain songs we forever associate with particular memories.
One track stood still to remind me of that disaster—Taylor Dayne’s “Love Will Lead You Back.” I checked on the history of this hit and a couple of pieces of information made it logical for my memory bank to single it out. January of that year, this Diane Warren-written gem off Dayne’s 1989 American album Can’t Fight Fate, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, and then by April it reached number one and spent 15 weeks in the top 40. That should put it among the most played songs on Philippine radio before the 1990 Luzon earthquake struck at 4:26 p.m. Daylight Saving Time.
I could still vividly recall part of the news coverage on some of the hardest-hit areas. Two collapsed buildings were the center of attraction: Hyatt Terraces Baguio Hotel and Christian College of the Philippines in Cabanatuan City. While there were at least 80 fatalities in the summer capital hotel, one cook Pedrito Dy was said to have survived drinking rainwater while entombed underneath the rubble for 14 days. High school student Robin Garcia, killed by an aftershock, was cited as a hero in Nueva Ecija for saving eight students and teachers from that fallen six-story concrete. Though, a girl student captured by camera dying on the weight of her school’s shattered pieces was the image embedded in my head to the sound of Dayne’s hit which years later was covered by Filipina singer Kyla.
Inside the St. James School, Quezon City classroom where I was, it was a quiet late afternoon wrap up as I suddenly felt the swaying, looked at a post, and saw it moving in queer motion. Our class adviser, Ms. Remedios Buluran, told us to keep still and she started reciting a prayer. Her voice should I say was calming and it helped us not panic a bit. I couldn’t recall any of my classmates coming out of the room, though there were students along the corridor who rushed to the stairs. It was the only noise I heard during those scary seconds.
Our school closed last year and was torn down. But I thank God it withstood that “Big One” three decades back.
The Back to the Future trilogy is now on Netflix. If we can transport ourselves back in time, someone must have done it by this time to save the world from disasters or the current pandemic. But at least, music is strong enough to make us recall something poignantly. As the chorus of that song says, “One of these days,” something “will lead you back.”
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