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Thursday, July 29, 2021
PAMPANGA

Pelayo: Commemorating the Pinatubo eruption

The Fort

IT IS only through studying history where we can develop an understanding of why things and current status are the way they are.

I'm grateful that the Pampanga local government unit (LGU) made an effort to request MalacaƱang to proclaim June 15 a holiday in the province to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Pinatubo eruption.

The provincial government also created a "Pinatubo Anniversary Special" on its official Facebook page. I could only hope that my home city of Angeles did the same.

The tragedy is still fresh in my memory. On that fateful day, my father (Dr. Jose Pelayo, Sr.) and I woke up early in the morning to jog and walk around Astro Park (now Bayanihan Park) in Balibago. It was a typical sunrise. The sky was blue, the streets were busy, and the people did what they usually do on a regular day.

After jogging, we went home for breakfast. My father went to his clinic, my sister prepared for a friend's debut party at Wok restaurant, and I stayed at home with my mom.

At 11 a.m., it began to rain. We knew about the typhoon, but we were not aware of what's about to happen next. Strong winds started to blow. And at noon, what was a clear blue sky suddenly turned into pitch-black darkness.

With neither cellphones nor internet, we were relieved when my father and sister arrived home safely. We were all together bracing for the worst.

There was no electricity and no water supply. The only time that we were able to see the outside was when the lightning strikes flashes of fiery red and it felt like they were really close to us as the sound of thunder came as soon as the lightning struck.

The smell of sulfur was all over the place. And while the ashfall was covering the landscape, tiny rocks begin to fall and every drop of these volcanic rocks can be heard from the roof. My dad picked one and handed it to me -- it weighed very light.

While listening to my father's battery-operated portable AM radio, we learned that the Abacan Bridge had collapsed, Shanghai Restaurant engulfed with flames, and that the steel roof of the Philippine Rabbit Terminal collapsed as well.

About a year before the eruption (July 16, 1990), Luzon experienced a strong quake, but on June 15 and the days after, I got numb to the tremors caused by numerous volcanic earthquakes.

It was only the beginning of a very challenging life for most of us AngeleƱos who experienced the wrath of Pinatubo in the early 90s. I honestly felt it was the end.

Every day was a battle after the eruption. Going to school was challenging. Lahar sirens were traumatizing. A simple rain created panic in people.

Thirty years after, we've come a long way. The 'Pajero" that we used to refer to as the ride every time we cross the river, regained its glory by being one of the luxury vehicles in Asia. Some of the pinaTABO boys who helped in maintaining the makeshift footbridge must be parents by now. And the roads along Tabun, Kapaya Uno and Kapaya Dos are now free from dust and mud from frequent passing of vehicles when they were used as alternate routes.

We survived Pinatubo, but I pray that no Filipino will ever experience that horrific disaster again.


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