AS A child who grew up in Baguio from the early sixties to the seventies, I cannot recall any big events like the Charter Day celebrations and festivities other than the Fourth of July Independence Day and Labor Day programs. My late father was a government health worker sanitizing and disinfecting creeks, canals and trash bins to avert the spread of the dreaded Malaria back in the days and we often see him joining the nurses and physicians toting his spray can on the Baguio Health Department float during civic parades. Another most awaited contingent during street parades then was the moving tableau of American soldiers in WW2 uniform with a lookalike of Gen. Douglas MacArthur with his iconic airman shades and corncob pipe.
During Independence Day Celebrations, we often see strips of red white and blue cloths and the Philippine flag displayed all over the stretch of Session Road and Harrison Road and programs usually follow at the Melvin Jones football ground. At that period, there were still Americans living in Baguio including servicemen of the Camp John Hay.
During civic parades, marchers really walk smart and in cadence to the beat of marching bands and at that time, the Baguio General Hospital had a school of nursing and the participants also walked like the men in uniforms.
When I was a Grade-3 pupil sometime in late 1969 at the Baguio Tech Elementary School near our residence at Bonifacio Road, technical students made a wooden replica of Apollo 11's Lunar Module that I was told was the centerpiece of Baguio Tech, now University of Baguio for that year's main civic parade. It can be recalled that in 1969, Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon with the Lunar Module and planted the American Flag. Young as I was at that year, I can still recall seeing the silvery lunar module imitation made of painted plywood because I often see technical students with their instructors piecing the contraption together until I finally realized several later that it had something to do with man's triumph in exploring outside space.
The recent event that we attended at the Sunshine Park to commemorate National Heroes Day with the unveiling of a Kalasag mural by Baguio artists was another rekindling of past celebrations as it honors the heroic deeds of Filipino heroes that sparked with the cry of Pugad Lawin at the turn of the 19th Century led by Andres Bonifacio.
Indeed, the Kalasag mural is a fitting tribute honoring the country's frontliners who are leading the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Eight young artists belonging to the Pasakalye group of artists and a top graduate of the UP-Baguio College of Fine Arts depicted in brilliant colors the various men and women involved in healthcare, security and other professions performing not only their sworn and obligatory tasks and duties but as also their personal and unselfish role to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Sunshine Park that is located near the Baguio Convention Center, UP-Baguio, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Baguio Museum and a park known as Pine Trees of the World has become a fitting venue for artists and artisans alike to showcase their crafts. Even Baguio's Nightingale and songstress Ingrid Payaket sang her first original composition about modern day heroes such as frontliners at the park during the unveiling of the Kalasag mural.
Baguio was a big lure to a lot of tourists and there were art events and cultural performances being supported by the Philippine Tourism Authority including the Grand Canao that became a bit controversial. I was already in college studying in Manila during the late 70s and I remember attending concerts at the Sunshine Park by the PTA Band that also featured local folk singers like Bubut Olarte, Conrad Marzan and the Bag-iw band composed of musicians from the Carantes clan.
Now that I am nearing my senior years and soon to be considered as among the elders in the media and arts community, I look forward to more art encounters, cultural events and even multi-media exposures and presentations of Baguio's past and present as we embrace the so-called new normal. Much has been said about the symbolism of the Kalasag and heroisms of frontliners but let us not put our guards down by also protecting our own selves and observing necessary health protocols and safety guidelines.