Rising from the Ruins
BLOSSOMING AMIDST THE RUBBLE
How Baguio City’s story of recovery is
symbolized by the colorful Panagbenga Festival
BY DARYLL MUTYA II
PHOTOS COURTESY OF BAGUIO CITY TOURISM OFFICE AND MIKE CORTEZ
The Panagbenga Festival is probably the most blooming festival in the country. Each year, thousands of tourists would troop to the City of Pines just to enjoy the festivities and revel in the colorful, flowery
floats that parade its main streets. Yet behind the beauty and the allure of Panagbenga is a story of
valor, perseverance, and redemption. Unknown to many, the Panagbenga is an embodiment of Baguio redeeming itself from the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in 1990.
REMEMBERING THE QUAKE
On July 16, 1990, Baguio City was reduced to rubble after a 7.7-magnitude, 45-second killer quake unexpectedly hit. Followed by numerous aftershocks, the quake was noted to be the deadliest throughout the history of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), accounting for more than 1,600 people dead, hundreds of buildings and roads destroyed, and thousands of families displaced from their own homes. On that fateful day, various narratives from the community would describe how helplessly devastated the city was, and how they needed a lot of help to get back on their feet.
The city knew that rising above the devastation could not be possible without a leader who would
serve as a guiding light to its people—leading, empowering, and unifying them—through the
struggle to rebuild and recover.
STEPS TOWARDS REHABILITATION
Baguio’s rehabilitation from the earthquake has been considered as the greatest legacy of incumbent Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan. It was his first term as mayor at the time when the city was
at its most disaster-stricken and challenging state. Mayor Domogan’s brand of leadership was to be a source of hope back then, the kind of authority that inspired the people to rebuild what was destroyed. “It was a big challeng,” Domogan recalls. By working with various nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and other Local Government Units (LGUs), he was known to have veered away from politics in order to
work efficiently on development projects and programs that would help Baguio and its citizens rise above the effects of disaster.
One of Mayor Domogan’s first steps was to rebuild the city’s roads so as to make it more accessible to all the communities. He also invested in equipment, such as garbage trucks that came all the way from Japan, complemented by a garbage disposal system to aid management of waste. He founded the “Alay sa Kalinisan” program, that aimed to: (1) sustain an efficient solid waste disposal system; (2) monitor and
maintain clean, breathable air; (3) preserve the cleanliness of rivers and potable water; and (4) keep the city green and filled with flowers and trees. Because of this program, Baguio City was inducted into
the National Clean and Green Contest Hall of Fame after being declared champion three years in a row.