Earthquake Shatters Our SM City Shopping Spree in Iloilo!


Monday, February 6, 2012. Iloilo. SM City. Third floor. 11:49 am. My asawa had already handed the cashier her SM Advantage Card and pulled out some cash to pay for an overpriced bed sheet and pillow set. I’m a few meters away, arms folded, not happy because I found another set 200 pesos cheaper with more pillow cases than her purchase. Of course, I’m totally ignored when I advise her that she should at least check out the linens I had spotted. I’m just the husband. But when the whole floor began to shake and rumble, differences of opinion over who has the better deal suddenly didn’t seem to matter anymore.Iloilo City earthquake aftermath

I instantly shouted “earthquake” as screams and cries for help erupted through out the third floor. The shaking intensified and dishes from the nearby housewares department  flew off the shelves and crashed to the floor.

My asawa was in a state of shock. She had  survived the Sept. 21, 1999,  7.6 Jiji earthquake (second deadliest quake in Taiwan history, killing2,415 people) while working as a caretaker and domestic helper for a family on the 11th floor of an apartment building in Taipei City as an Overseas Filipino Worker, OFW. My spouse started towards me but suddenly rushed back to the cashier’s counter!

The Sainted Patient Wife hadn’t been able to pay for her bedsheet and pillow case purchase yet. She must of wanted them pretty badly. The cashier said “Ma’am, Ma’am, it’s OK, it’s OK, just  go! Just go!”

I told Melinda to get down as I scanned the ceiling above us intent to get away from any light fixtures that could rain glass down on us. She crouched down beside me, and I held her as she loudly cried out: “LORD JESUS, PLEASE HELP US! LORD JESUS, PLEASE HELP US!” The sales associate that had helped my asawa with her purchase crouched down beside us.


Little did I know that I had I had instinctively followed one of the recommended first rules when an earthquake hits, and that is to drop to the ground and stay away from light fixtures and glass. Having been through several tornado scares back in Illinois, that just seemed to make common sense.

Everything continued to shake and rumble around us. I checked my watch. I doubt that the whole earthquake event had lasted more than a minute or so, once the tremor had stopped I knew we had to get out quickly before the aftershocks kicked in. I asked my asawa for her camera as I wanted to get some quick shots of the interior, but a nearby sales girl had wisely directed us to the employee’s exit area and asked a security guard if we could use the stairway.

Of course the guard let us pass, and guided by SM management we joined the hundreds of employees escaping the building, but all done in an orderly fashion. I highly commend  the management and the employee staff at SM City in Iloilo. It was evident they had an evacuation plan in place, and they implemented it efficiently and professionally. I was extremely impressed by the actions they took during this emergency. 


We stood in the back of SM City where employees from each department were gathered with their respective department. Hundreds of workers were still exiting the building.  A manager was shouting instructions through a bullhorn, but we were unable to hear what she was saying.

My asawa and I decided to stay and see if the mall was going to reopen. Of course that didn’t seem to make much sense because the threat of aftershocks was still possible. At 12:20 pm, about 20 minutes after we had made our exit, a collective scream came from the huddled employees on the parking lot as one of several major aftershocks hit. The wisest decision was to go home and forget about finishing our shopping no matter how badly my spouse wanted those new set of linens.

The magnitude 6.9 quake was tectonic in origin with a depth of 10 kilometers and with the epicenter located between Cebu and Negros islands, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs). The 12:20 pm aftershock was registered at 5.6. More aftershocks followed, with a 6.2 jolt at 6:10 pm that literally moved the computer chair I was seated on, and I weigh 200 pounds DSC

At the time of this post, at least 52 people had been killed during this earthquake as a result of landslides and collapsed homes, but that figure is expected to rise. 29 missing people in the quake-triggered landslide in  Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, are  presumed dead.

I’ll have more on this story in the next post as we made our way out of the SM City parking lot  to try and reach our home. That was another adventure entirely as one huge traffic jam gripped Iloilo City as schools canceled classes and other offices closed. The aftershocks continue as I write this article, and we are keeping a vigilant eye on the situation. Those new bed sheets will have to wait another day.

Author: The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO" aka "THE CRUSTY OLD EXPAT." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 19 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Shepherd called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people in the last two years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

34 thoughts on “Earthquake Shatters Our SM City Shopping Spree in Iloilo!

  1. I monitored the earthquake here in San Diego, as far as I know Iloilo had minimal damaged and no human casualty. In negros , a lot of people died. Correct me if I am wrong but so far that’s the data I had. Hope and pray everything is okay in Iloilo. My mother just live a mile from SM City and my sister live in Arevalo. Regards.

    1. That’s the info I have also, Reynaldo. No human casualties in Iloilo, but thirty-nine people were reported killed in Guihulngan in Negros, which bore the brunt of the major damage. Your Mother and sister do not live far from us really. So far I haven’t felt any major aftershocks for awhile. Hopefully things have settled down.

  2. Glad to hear you guys are ok. I was reading this news on the internet yesterday when I learned that it also struck Ilo Ilo, I will never forget the biggest earthquake that I have experienced in my life so far, it was the July 1990 Manila earthquake at 7.2 on the richter’s. I was a young working lad during that time in an office in Quiapo when the whole building shook just an hour or two after lunch break. Me and some of my office mates ran down the stairs (it was only a 2-storey old building) and out of the building when I saw the whole Pasig River waves from side to side. It was scary!

    1. Thanks, Jonathan. But you made it through a 7.2 in Manila? Now that’s scary! I’m hoping this will be the last big one my asawa and I will ever go through again.

      1. Yep, and I don’t want to experience that again ever! Unfortunately, that fault line is the famous Marikina Valley fault line stretching to the city of Manila all the way to the south areas of Muntinlupa, Laguna etc. According to PHILVOCS they’re just waiting for another jeer because it’s a very active fault line and been inactive for more than 20 years now since its last movement.

        1. Checked out that link, Jonathan, thanks. That was one massive earthquake! And since it’s situated on an active fault line, that doesn’t sound too promising, either. I just discovered that we’re on a fault line, also, the West Panay Fault. Just have to wait and see. Told my asawa we should go back to SM City today, but she’s a little leery. One of our major malls in Iloilo, Robinsons Mall, did have some slight damage, but we should be OK. Take care.

    1. Dave & Jonathan,

      I read an article on the 1990 Manila Earthquake. I read in an article that it is one reason for Mount Pinatubo awaking from a long slumber.

      Dave … I’m glad you and Melinda are OK. Jho called home to her parents in Leyte after we heard about it to make sure that our family and friends were safe. Thanks for the first hand account of the earthquake.

      1. Thanks, Jack, we’re doing great. Going back to SM City today, hopefully no major aftershocks, it’s been pretty quiet. Glad to hear that family and friends in Leyte are safe. Take care.

  3. I’m in Cebu and the quake was strongly felt in Cebu City. The earthquake was a jolting action, with sharp and quick shaking that lasted for about 30 seconds. Pretty scary actually, but no damage in Cebu.

  4. Glad you both made it through with only a few jitters. Last summer here in the oklahoma city area (tornado alley) we had several bad tornadoes F3 & F4, pucker factor times 10 to say the least. Survived those with only a scratch, then out of no where we get hit with a friggin earthquake…shook pretty darn good…scared the wife..told her it was just the dog with gas :). Two years ago while vacationing in cavite at “island cove”, got a call…”uncle john the roof on your house is gone and most of your windows busted out, and your truck destroyed”. Needless to say panic set in, “omg i need to get home” was the first thought. So after about 20 minutes of panic and stress, I called back and ask them to secure my abode, which thankfully they did. I calmed down, ordered up a round of SMG products, and after consuming said products the world was right again :). Stay Safe !!

    1. Yeah, that’s tornado alley, John D. I wanted to go on one of those storm chaser tours when we lived back in Illinois, but my wife thought I was crazy (her assesment of my mental faculties hasn’t changed in the Philippines, either. :-)) Glad you made it through the tornadoes, but sorry to hear about your home in the Philippines. You took the best course of action, however, nothing helps like a “few” bottles of San Miguel Pale Pilsen or a few kicks from the Horse. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Now you are doing on-the-spot eyewitness reporting! You should be getting paid! The wife drew my attention to the TV last night as the earthquake headline scrolled by during our newscast. I’ve never experienced an earthquake, just some tornado scares, so wonder what life in the Phils. will bring, as you are finding out! Glad you two are safe and sound!

    1. Thanks, Ice Man. I always remind the asawa to bring her camera. Never know what will happen, but I sure didn’t expect an earthquake. I was just sorry I couldn’t get any pictures of the interior before we were ushered out of the building, but the smart thing to do was get out ASAP.

  6. Good to know you’re calm, rational and assertive during times like these dave, you sounded like a military type of guy with your actions. The quake originated in the Tanon strait, between the islands of negros and cebu and its a newly discovered fault line. The official announcement coming from Phivolcs (the phil. counterpart of the USGS) is that there will be a couple more aftershocks for the rest of the week. According to geologists, aftershocks are good, because this will mean that the next earthquake will be weaker as compared to an earthquake with no aftershock because then, in this scenario, the next quake will gather up all the stored energy and result to a much more powerful, more violent quake. With this in mind, do keep safe and alert for the rest of the week dave. Godspeed to you and SPW.

    1. Thanks, Kaltehitze, for your concern. I did discover from today’s edition of The Daily Guardian with a story by Tara Yap, that we are on the West Panay Fault, which recorded the strongest earthquake in Philippines history in 1948 which registered at 8.3.

      I really didn’t panic and wasn’t frightened. Poor SPW was loudly praying (always a good thing) and since she had already gone through the Taiwan earthquake in September 1999, was understandably shaken up. I kept a clear head, and again, I commend the management of SM City for their swift action in getting everyone out of the building quickly and professionally.

      Good to know that info about the aftershocks. Haven’t felt anything the past 24 hours, but will keep vigilant. Take care.

  7. By the way, if only I was around with you guys during that time, I would’ve comforted the ladies ‘coz based on the pics above, it sure looked like they all needed some comfort. I would’ve hugged as many as possible. =)

  8. Dave,
    Glad to see you took charge and protected Melinda and warned the other people. Sounds like everyone was wel trained there. The main thing everyone is fine. We just need to pray for the people in Negro’s. It’s so sad that it happened. Last couple of months have not been kind for the filipino people. Take care my friend and You and Melinda please stay safe.

    1. We’re fortunate to have made it out of the building safely, Papa Duck. Again, I have nothing but the highest praise for the management of SM City in Iloilo who did an excellent job of evacuating the building. I was impressed. As a former member of my company’s safety committee, I was one of those resposible for making sure everyone had left our area safely during fire and tornado drills. I think some of that training must have kicked in and stayed with me. Thanks for your concern and take care also.

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