TUBA, Benguet – Front liners who risked their lives to battle the Covid-19 pandemic were honored as modern age heroes during the 31st commemoration of the July 16, 1990 earthquake at the Shrine of Brown Madonna at barangay Tadiangan here today.
Fritzgerald Padilla, son of the late former city councilor and city tourism officer Narciso Padilla, led officials from the Police Regional Office – Cordillera, Community Defense Center, army reserves, the Baguio City Fire Station and the Office of the City Social and Welfare Development led by its head Betty Fangasan during the tribute of the heroes of the 1990 earthquake and dedication to front line workers of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With tears in my eyes, my mind shouts, we will not slow down, we will never surrender,” said the younger Padilla in a poem entitled “With Love and Life We Fight, 488 days” he composed three days before the event and which Fangasan read during the dedication to the “men and women in the frontlines of this (Covid-19) fight.”
Padilla said that 488 days is the exact time that has elapsed since the city and the whole country was placed under community quarantine due to Covid-19 in March 17 last year.
“We have been worried sick since the city was placed under community quarantine and are afraid for our love ones who go out to work,” he said during the event.
He added that frontliners – medical, police, and others – have are forced to brave this fear of contracting the disease.
“We have to be ready at all times. But we are now more equipped to help those if something like an earthquake will happen,” said sergeant Bernard Bravo, who was on first month as a fireman in 1990 when the earthquake struck that killed hundreds of Baguio people and flattened many buildings and structures in the city.
He said that they were ill-prepared and were lacking the equipment to put a well-coordinated rescue operation on that fateful afternoon which was made eeire when a strong rain that ensued after the initial tremors that were followed by aftershocks that were almost as strong as the first ones.
“I was just in my first month as a fireman and now we have to lead rescue operations in a city badly damaged by the temblor,” he added in a mix of Filipino and English.
The tribute has been done by the late Padilla and Fangasan every July 16 when they go around town to put wreaths on places that were destroyed by the earthquake, like the former Hyatt Terraces, the former Hilltop Hotel, Nevada Square, among others.
It was stopped momentarily in 2019 when the older Padilla died succumbed to massive heart failure and the younger Padilla started taking over the reins of running his father’s events.
It was not also held last year when the city was still under enhanced community quarantine.
The young Padilla has introduced improvements on the shrine the past months leading to the earthquake tribute, including the sprucing of the gardens at the entrance, the cleaning of the July 16, 1990 marker and the mini-chapel and the shrine itself inside the 40 feet long cavern.