Looking back, it was exactly 4:26 p.m. on Monday, 16 July 1990, that a killer earthquake unexpectedly hit and extensively devastated the City of Baguio. As reported, the powerful temblor measured 7.7 in the open-ended Richter scale and lasted for 45 seconds. It was said to be the most destructive earthquake on record within the Cordillera Region. There were numerous aftershocks that followed and the strongest, which occured at 3:15 a.m. of July 18, lasted for eight seconds ... and measured 5.3 on the Richer scale.
Fearing for their lives, many of Baguio's 120,000 people slept outdoors on Monday night. The city suffered the most in terms of destruction to properties and numerous deaths. Many commercial and government buildings, hotels, inns, and residences were heavily damaged. The death toll continued to rise as rescuers pulled more bodies from the rubbles. It was estimated that as many as 1,000 people were trapped and killed in damaged buildings.
The five-star Hyatt Terraces Plaza sustained the worst damage when its terraced front collapsed onto the lobby area, killing about 50 people. The Baguio Park Hotel along Harrison Road was a total wreck. The luxurious Nevada Hotel which is located right across from the main gate of Camp John Hay was ripped in half by the quake, leaving a huge gash in the middle of the structure. The Saint Vincent Catholic Church along Naguilian Road was spared by the strong quake, however a portion of its retaining wall and parking area was damaged and collapsed to the road below. The church, which has withstood typhoons, bombings during the 2nd World War, and other disasters, suffered only minor damage.
At the University of Baguio (UB), it was initially reported that 23 people, mostly students, were killed when the supporting structure of the commerce building gave way. Nearby the FRB Building also crumbled to the ground. The FRB building and UB are both owned by Fernando Bautista, Sr. and his family. The Philippine Military Academy at Fort Del Pilar was also one of the worst hit portions in the city. The parade ground mushroomed into a tent city where cadets pitched tents after their barracks was destroyed. There were many other buildings and familiar landmarks of Baguio which were damaged and classified as hazards. These included the Skyworld Condominium and Commercial Center along Session Road, The Royal Inn at Magsaysay Avenue, and the controversial Baguio Hilltop Hotel which was constructed on a hill behind the Baguio Public Market. Because of the extensive devastation, Baguio City was described to be a virtual "war zone." Also, it was running low on water, fuel, food, and other miscellaneous basic necessities to include much-needed medicines for the injured and sick people.
Rescue crews and relief supplies began to trickle into Baguio as hope faded for hundreds of people believed trapped under collapsed buildings as a result of Monday's earthquake. Thousands of residents of the city huddled in tattered tents and makeshift shelters in parks and streets. Drenched by daily rains, many complained that they had no food, water or medicine. Doctors working under umbrellas and sheets of plastic had treated nearly 800 of the injured. The city's three hospitals were all damaged and without power. Aftershocks continued throughout the day. Without electric power, rescue work at the Hyatt Terraces and Nevada hotels stopped as daylight faded. Almost no rescue operations were evident at the 20 other hotels and at schools, office buildings and factories.
The three main access roads to Baguio were blocked by landslides that hundreds of motorists were stuck along the highways. The roads were totally impassable to vehicular traffic. People desiring to leave the city had no other alternative but to hike down Kennon Road, Marcos Highway, or Naguilian Road. Different portions of Kennon Road were blocked by landslides. This condition also made the delivery of critically needed aid to the city impossible. Loakan airport had to be temporarily closed to commercial flights to allow food, supplies, equipment, and rescue personnel to be transported by air using military and some privately-owned aircraft.
The following 40 photographs show the extensive damage on buildings, structures, facilities, and roads as a result of this killer earthquake that hit Baguio City which the residents hope and pray will never ever happen again (Note: Click on any "thumbnail image" to view the photo in a larger format, then use the BACK button of your browser to return to this page).
Following are news articles about the devastating earthquake that hit Baguio City last July 16, 1990. These were provided through the courtesy of the BAGUIO MIDLAND COURIER, a weekly publication based in the Baguio City - which in 1989-90 was adjudged as the "Most Outstanding Provincial Newspaper." These were front-page news and lead stories published in their issues for July 22 & 29 and August 5, 1990.EARTHQUAKE-RELATED NEWS ITEMS
- Two Quakes in 54 Seconds
- DOH Floods Baguio With Relief And Medicine
- Retrieval Work Halted
- Condemned Buildings Listed
- Generous Residents Set Up Hot Kitchens
- Residents Warned On Epidemic
- Modular Program For Schools Urged
- Damage Estimated At P1.3 Billion in Benguet Towns
With this presentation, it is hoped that you will have a better understanding of the pain and suffering the residents and visitors of Baguio went through during the days of the devastating earthquake of 1990. It is probably not that easy for those who were not there during those very difficult weeks to really understand and feel the agony, fear, and frustration of those who went through the ordeal. By knowing the facts and seeing things for yourself, you will probably learn to admire the courage and determination of the people of Baguio to go on with their lives ... inspite of the odds.
It has been more than a decade since the City of Baguio was devastated by the earthquake. So much has changed since that time. The residents who suffered have apparently recovered and went on with their lives. The city is back once again to the usual and normal conditions and problems ... heavy traffic caused by the numerous vehicles and the difficulty of finding a parking space in the downtown area, the continued rise in cost of consumer items, perennial water shortage, the ever-increasing student population, the crowd of people coming up to the city on holidays such as during the holy week, etc. In September of 2000 and October of 2003, I have taken a number of photographs of the way Baguio City looks now. And you might want to look at it. These are portrayed in other parts of this Website. See for yourself the difference and the many changes that came about since that unfortunate incident in 1990. From the new photographs you won't probably see any trace of the damage brought about by the that killer quake.