It’s been 20 years now since the unforgettable catastrophe of June 15, 1991. My father was a native of San Marcelino, the town where Mt. Pinatubo is. When I heard that the explosion brought a major catastrophe, I asked a cousin if It’s possible to come and volunteer to help relatives. He told me coming is useless since all the roads around the province were blocked by ashfall and debris. Our relatives whose houses were damaged were walking for miles ‘like zombies’ trying to find food,water, and necessities.
I remember coming home from an office overtime (as usual) a few days after the eruption. My father told me that relatives from San Marcelino whose house was also destroyed are coming and would sleep with us for the night. To make them comfortable, I offered my bed and went back to my office where I could sleep anytime. Talking with the relatives could be done in the morning.
I was finally able to visit Pinatubo after two years. As I approach the provinces, I saw more and more gray lands covered with lahar. You feel as if you’re in another planet. There were still so many evidences of destruction many miles even before reaching San Marcelino. The majority of houses were still in ruins. In San Marcelino, the pile of lahar or volcanic sand was still about a six-inches high. While my cousins and I were drinking at the lawn, they noticed I was barefooted and asked why. I said the volcanic sand felt good on my feet like beach sand (later, lahar proved to be precious and became business material).
This disaster brought solid proof of man’s resiliency and survival skills. Imagine yourself virtually stranded without food, water, and power source. There was no recorded history of Pinatubo until 1991. Prof. Chris Newhall claims that the chain of events can be traced back to the 7.8 magnitude Baguio earthquake of 1990. Baguio is just about 100km away from Pinatubo. The Pinatubo disaster caused more than 200,000 people to evacuate and damaged more than 73,000 homes.
The shocking account of Peter Galace in rdasia.com inspired me to write about this.