JULY is truly a memorable month not because of my natal day and that of my daughter and grandson but also of that strong earthquake that created a massive devastation in Baguio in 1990. Because of my eventual documentations of its massive damages, I was often asked by the City Government to mount a photo exhibit at the lobby of the city hall.
As Frank Cimatu observes, there is something unique about how people in Baguio mourn. "30 years is too long but people today still narrate stories in timelines based on pre or post-earthquake. People will always refer to that side of the market "burnt area" even when the fire took place in 1975."
As we commemorate the great killer quake this week, journalists, survivors and interviewees of a documentary film by Angelo Aurelio will be viewing a premiere showing and I'm sure this will rekindle that nostalgic moment that happened 30 years ago.
We, in the Baguio media circle, also commemorate the quake by planting trees in memory of our departed members with a traditional ritual led by a mambunong or ritual priest.
Out of the blue, I also asked my daughter Tam Jewel who now works in Manila to write something about our esteemed elder Ramon Dacawi who left us not too long ago. She wrote "It's the 7th month of the year and 2020 sure is a game changer. Thought it was random of my dad to ask me to write a piece about the #1990KillerEarthquake, but as I began to write, it finally sank in -- It's 2020! ?On July 16th, #Baguio marks the 30th year since "that big one."
Every local has a story to tell about the earthquake that once devastated Baguio. One of them is the story of my birth which has been told by my parents countless times. While knowing their side of the tale, I found the accounts of others present then valuable and meaningful. I remember being told that they were in the office when the earthquake struck and my mom is almost due to give birth. With the quake's magnitude, everyone just found themselves all hugging each other.
While unforgettable, it's also an event that led to Baguio's rebirth. The event necessitated the inclusion of disaster preparedness and rehabilitation plans in government and in many offices in the country. Several environmental advocacies were also then initiated.
Someone who always had Baguio on his mind was Ramon Dacawi a.k.a. Mondax/Manong Mon. He dedicated his life to journalism and to his beloved city. Around this time of the year, and on many other occasions throughout, Manong Mon always brought the local government, the local media, volunteers and students together - be it an activity in the forest or a heritage walk around the city center.
Manong Mon lived such a remarkable life, that even after his passing, his legacy must live on.
To Manong Mon -- I grew up tagging along with my parents, and took part in some of the things they did. Whenever my parents met with you and the "media guys," I knew something good and/or interesting was brewing. Come to think of it, I credit my sense of duty, volunteerism and humanity to my mom, dad and YOU.
The world and our beloved Baguio is in the middle of fighting a pandemic, and it's sad that we aren't able to bring everyone together and hold an activity at Busol Watershed this year. But we hope that this "new normal," this pause and this change brings healing to our city and all of its residents. Without even thinking about it, I am sure that you're looking after our beloved Baguio from up above.
My daughter Tam who is now turning 30 and her younger sister Inah Felice has joined us at the Busol and Buyog watersheds during out tree planting activities, as well as the Urban Heritage Walk that came as an offshoot of our efforts to instill environmental and historical awareness to young children of Baguio.
Just this weekend, after attending a mass at the Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat Center, our group composed of Mayor Benjamin and Arlene Magalong, Andy and Nannette Filler, former Tourism Board Chief Operating Officer Marie Venus Q. Tan, my wife, family members and friends was toured by Jesuit priest Fr. Jose Quilongquilong at the rehabilitated structures for retreat and conferences. What is not known to many is that the facilities at Mirador Hill still have an operational cistern that accumulates rainwater that flows from roofs down to gutters and connecting pipes for use in comfort rooms and for gardening. I cannot forget what Fr. Quilongquilong mentioned when he said that the whole place which was built in 1907 is a true Heritage Site and historical place as it still has a rotating roof-deck observatory that can be redeveloped, it still has the first ever communication hub used by the pioneering tele-comm service provided and the place was used by Imperial Japanese Forces during the Second World War.