BAGUIO CITY?The summer capital celebrated its last earthquake memorial on Sunday to urge residents to remember the lessons of the July 16, 1990, killer earthquake and not the devastation it brought to the city.
Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon said it is the bad memory that people end up recalling during these memorials.
Cenzon said people even gave too much credit to the faulty prediction picked up by the media that a magnitude 8.8 earthquake would supposedly hit the Philippines on July 18.
The bishop on Sunday led prayers during the last program that the city government will officially sponsor about the earthquake.
It was 18 years ago, on July 16, when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake and strong successive aftershocks devastated Baguio City, Nueva Ecija and Dagupan City.
Due to bad weather, the city?s earthquake memorial on July 16 was rescheduled to Sunday on Session Road, which was closed to traffic.
Instead of exhibits that show photographs of a devastated city, the city government commissioned private emergency response groups to build wall-climbing facilities and treat children to a slide.
Isagani Liporada, a staff member of the city public information office, said city administrator Peter Fianza wanted the memorial to depart from previous earthquake programs.
?We want the event to recall the survivors also ? We want to discourage people from obsessing about the dead,? Liporada said.
The city government did not include the traditional ?Atang ti Karurua (spirit offering)? in its official commemoration program.
Local artists usually take center stage every July 16 because of the ?atang,? a ritual started in 1991 by the late visual artist Roberto Villanueva to honor earthquake victims.
From 1991 to 2007, local artists created small ?spirit boats? which they released on July 16 at Burnham Lake as ?atang? (Ilocano for offering) at past 3 p.m., the time when the quake struck.
The earthquake shook the city at 4:26 p.m. but the country was observing the daylight savings time then, placing the exact occurrence of the quake at 3:26 p.m.
Local artists believed that the ?atang? would assure Baguio that the dead would never be forgotten. They suspended the ritual in Burnham Park on July 16 because of continuous rains in the city.
Instead, filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik mounted an art installation to commemorate the quake at the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, which would be opened for public viewing on July 23.
Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan, who attended the earthquake memorial on Sunday, said the best lesson from the earthquake was the community effort that helped local officials and the national government rebuild the city.
He was referring to the first Baguio NGO Congress, which was organized by residents and Baguio businessmen shortly after the 1990 earthquake.
Congress participants pitched ideas about rebuilding the city and formulated various policies, including an anti-gambling policy adopted by the city council and a plan to restrict building height to only four stories.
The congress also supported an urban development plan calling for the decentralization of Baguio investments to its neighboring Benguet towns. This, however, was never implemented.
Gilbert Gano, an Ifugao stone sculptor who has been participating in the ?atang? since 2001, said he respected the city?s decision to forego the memorial for earthquake victims this year.
Gano and several local artists on Wednesday butchered a chicken for an Ifugao sacrificial ritual called ?halute? to bid the dead a safe journey to the afterlife.
He said he did not want to be indifferent to the memories of earthquake victims.
?I respect the city government?s theme of moving on. But how can we move on if we do not look back?? Gano said. Vincent Cabreza and Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon