CABANATUAN CITY, PHILIPPINES, JULY 17 -- After conducting an all-night search for survivors of Monday's killer earthquake, a group of Philippine soldiers had just decided to take a break when the Marines -- and the Air Force -- landed.

Bringing cranes, jackhammers, cutting torches and the best supplies available, a group of U.S. Marine and Air Force personnel arrived today in this city of 80,000, located 55 miles north of Manila and close to the quake's epicenter.

The Americans in their full camouflage uniforms stood in sharp contrast to the poorly equipped Philippine rescuers, who labored in T-shirts and jeans. But their equipment and expertise made the Americans welcome in this devastated region, where the earthquake relief effort may help improve U.S.-Philippine relations strained by sensitive military-base negotiations and by Washington's recent recall of all Peace Corps volunteers in the country for security reasons.

Rear Adm. Roger Rich, commander of Subic Bay Naval Base in Olongapo City, brought 53 civil engineers, a medical team and three teams of Seabees here, where a school building collapsed in the quake, killing at least 49 people and trapping perhaps 200 in the rubble. Rescuers pulled out 179 survivors today, officials said.

"{The Americans} need this," said Olongapo City Mayor Richard Gordon, who went to Cabanatuan City with the U.S. Marines. "They don't like being the shooting targets," he said, referring to attacks on American servicemen by Communist rebels demanding the removal of U.S. military facilities from the Philippines.

While Philippine rescuers used parts of iron window grills to climb atop a demolished building at the Philippine Christian College, the Americans scrambled up U.S.-made ladders and went to work with chain saws, crowbars and steel cutters.

The school's eating hall, which was spared by the earthquake, was transformed into a makeshift hospital. Thousands of tons of medical supplies were brought in, and U.S. Navy doctors quickly set up cots for their patients.

Anita Quijano, who survived the ordeal with no visible injuries, was their first patient. "You're doing fine," Dr. Robert Troell whispered to Quijano while an aide took her blood pressure. The smiling doctor told the frail woman, still clutching her umbrella, not to worry. "I don't think there's anything wrong with you," he said reassuringly.

Although the American military dominated the show, Philippine rescuers quietly did their work the only way they knew how. Generally smaller than the Americans, they were able to enter tiny openings to hunt for victims, and with good results -- a man was found alive under a piano.

Not to be outdone, a U.S. Marine corporal found Quijano under a table. "She was just happy to a see a light," he told reporters.