Tracey Vopni, her husband Mike and their two children Caitlin and James are on a five-month trip around the world and were together on the island of Bohol when the 7.2 magnitude quake hit.
The four escaped physically unharmed, but huddled in the doorway of a small bungalow on the edge of a river for safety.
"You just have to wait, there's nothing... You couldn't move," Vopni told CBC News.
"The bungalow was being tossed back and forth...The floor started to buckle. It started to cave into the water."
Vopni said it was the most terrifying one minute of her life.
"I thought we were going to die. I really did. I've never felt how I felt. It was a frightening few moments."
Worrying about a possible tsunami, the four then fled to higher ground.
"It was really awful - churches, buildings crumpled to the ground. People just huddled outside and praying outside their houses. Lots of collapsed buildings," she said.
Vopni said she'd never experienced anything like it, and hopes never to do so again.
"It was the longest time of my life, watching my two kids looking at mom saying they don't wanna die yet. So it was a horrible, horrible day," she said.
Locals on the island helped the family find food and shelter after the earthquake. The Vopnis are hoping to leave the country later this week.
The Philippine archipelago is located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common.
At least 110 people are so far thought to have died in the Tuesday's quake.