The 1990 Luzon earthquake: Life after tragedy
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Raffy Resuello, an administrative staff of a city councilor, uses only his right hand in carrying out clerical and office services.
He never goes out without a jacket to cover his shoulder. But it's not Baguio's cold weather that prompts him to do this. He lost his left arm on July 16, 1990.
Resuello was attending his class on commerce and management at the fourth floor of the University of Baguio with 49 other classmates when the killer quake struck North and Central Luzon.
He was 21 years old then, a member of the graduating class taking up Bachelor of Science in Management.
“In the middle of the class, we felt the first tremor and we shrugged it off, thinking that it’s just one of the ordinary earth movements common in Baguio,” Resuello recounts.
However, the shaking continued and became even stronger.
“After a few seconds, we were already panicking and almost at the same time, we all tried to run to the exit,” he narrates. But the corridor and the stairways were already crammed with students and teachers running for their lives.
Then the fourth floor of the 8-storey building collapsed. Resuello and most of his classmates were trapped inside. It was already getting dark outside as it began to rain.
“My left arm was caught between [huge chunks] of cement that I was not able to move. All I saw was the ceiling and the floor only about two feet away, while the fluorescent [light] was on my head,” Resuello recounts.
He remembers the fate of one of his classmates. Gina Paat died after being struck by a metal bar in the abdomen.
“We were shouting and calling for help but it's as if nobody heard us. We assumed that the whole building collapsed.” They were trapped under chunks of cement and debris for 3 to 4 hours.
Finally, the rescuers came. “There was this joy inside of me that I am still alive although my arms are covered with blood due to broken glass and cement. I looked at my left arm, walang pakiramdam tapos 'yung right arm ko nakabaon yung wrist watch ko sa flesh (it felt numb; my wrist watch was embedded in the flesh of my right arm).”
He remembers how his rescuer, Francis Navarete, brought him immediately to the Saint Louis Hospital. He had to be treated at the hospital parking lot since the facility was already full of earthquake victims.
“When I looked around, I saw lots of lifeless bodies piled and covered with black bags,” he says, adding that there were also those with amputated limbs while others had bandages on their heads.
Resuello's left arm was amputated on his second day at the hospital. He realized then that he will be disabled for the rest of his life, but it was far better than being dead.
“Losing an arm versus losing my life – I thought I am still lucky,” he says, smiling.
After the quake, the university implemented a take home learning system to allow students with injuries to fully recover. Formal classes resumed in October 1990.
“When we returned to school, we learned that more than 20 of our classmates died in the earthquake,” Resuello says.
He wanted to pursue a career in Manila but his plan didn't pan out. “As a fresh graduate, I had high hopes and dreams of working in Manila but my disability became a factor,” he says.
Resuello then decided to go home to Binalonan, Pangasinan, where he managed a poultry enterprise as well as their family fishpond.
He kept the livestock business for 3 years, then returned to Baguio to work as an underwriter for a life insurance company.
Eventually, Resuello married Mary Jane Austria, a college classmate who survived the 1990 quake without any injuries. They are now blessed with two children – Ron Jacob and Rona Jenica.
While his earthquake trauma remains, Resuello has embraced an advocacy of donating blood to the Philippine Red Cross and other organizations to help individuals in dire medical situations such as calamities. – Rappler.com