ITBAYAT, Batanes, Philippines — Built and designed to withstand typhoons and unpredictable weather, the traditional Ivatan houses have endured the test of time.
With their distinct architectural design, these heritage dwellings are mostly made of wood, thatch, lime and stone.
Tourists flock to this northernmost town in the Philippines to get a glimpse of local culture and these uniquely shaped shelters. But many of the coral limestone structures crumbled when powerful twin earthquakes jolted the province on July 27.
Amstel Mirabueno, an Ivatan in his mid-20s, recalled waking up to pitch-black darkness during the early morning temblor. His family of six struggled to get out of their two-story limestone house, which gradually caved in.
His mother, Dionisia, was one of the first patients treated at Itbayat District Hospital for profuse bleeding from a head injury.
“We are all alive and that’s a miracle,” Amstel told the Inquirer.
Itbayat was rattled by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake at 7:37 a.m. on July 27, about three hours after a 5.4-magnitude quake roused villagers from their sleep.
The offshore quake’s center was 21 kilometers northwest of the town, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
The day before, a 4.7-magnitude tremor also jolted the island at 4:13 p.m., which gave Eileen Manzo a niggling feeling inside.
Manzo thought that the mild shaking of the ground would lead to a stronger quake, so she dropped her plan for a sleepover at her partner’s stone house in Barangay Santa Lucia, formerly Kauhauhasan.
That night, she packed a small bag and brought her two children to their old house in Barangay Hinyato.
Instead of sleeping at their ancestral stone house, she stayed with her mother, Adelina, at their store, which is made of wood and galvanized iron.
Manzo’s intuition proved right. After the twin quakes shook the town, the family’s ancestral house collapsed along with other old dwellings.
Though badly shaken, Manzo and her mother were thankful for being given another lease on life.
The quake also ruined the stone house of Manzo’s partner, John Wayne Gutierrez, who was among the survivors.
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