Bill for Pinatubo Memorial Day pushed in Congress

    CLARK FREEPORT – Amid a search for a baby born on USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier evacuating thousands of Americans from their former US base here in 1991, the Pampanga provincial board has unanimously passed a resolution declaring every June 15 to 21 as Mt. Pinatubo Eruption Commemoration Week.

    In Congress, this move has been complemented by House Bill 3948 seeking to declare every June 15 as Mt. Pinatubo Memorial Day nationwide, and a non-working holiday in Pampanga.

    This, even as Mabalacat town tourism officer and local historian Guy Hilbero said he and Prof. Robbie Tantingco, head of the Kapampangan department of the Holy Angel University, have launched a search for Abraham Valencia Pineda who was born on board USS Abraham Lincoln after whom he was named, on June 22, 1991, a few days after Mt. Pinatubo’s “big bang” earlier on June 15.

    His birth was documented in a photo spread on the first pages of the 1992 yearbook of USS Abraham Lincoln.

    “Abraham’s birth on the warship is of historical interest because the USS Abraham Lincoln was on its maiden mission to carry out what was described the largest peacetime sealift evacuation of the American military fleeing from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo,” Hilbero said.

    The evacuation was dubbed Operation Fiery Vigil. The yearbook noted that “a 23-ship armada, led by USS Lincoln, moved nearly 18,000 people during 10 days of operations”, even as it noted that “the climax of the evacuation came June 22 when Abraham Valencia Pineda was born on board the ship to a couple being evacuated. It wasn’t clear whether the baby was Amerasian.

    Hilbero also noted that “the US Navy itself celebrated his birth on the warship by noting in its yearbook that the baby became the warship’s “youngest honorary crewmember.”

    Hilbero and Tantingco want Abraham, now 21 years old, featured in a book to be titled “A Volcano in Our Backyard: Pinatubo Stories” which they are writing in time for deadline on the first commemoration of Mt. Pinatubo Week.

    “Unfortunately, the USS Abraham Lincoln year book merely cited Abraham’s birth and said nothing more, so we have launched a search for him,” Hilbero added.

    The US military abandoned Clark, its biggest air force base outside US mainland, in 1991 amid threat of Mt. Pinatubo eruption. The following year, the Philippine Senate terminated the US and Philippine Military Bases Agreement that also led to the closure of all US military facilities in the country.

    Meanwhile, 3rd district Rep. Aurelio Gonzalez complemented the provincial board’s resolution by filing House Bill 3948 declaring June 15 of every year as Mt. Pinatubo Memorial Day which he wants to be a special non-working holiday in Pampanga.

    Gonzalez lamented that many youths these days no longer remember the “lessons from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.”

    “Pampanga was one of the hardest hit provinces but Kapampangans slowly recovered from the devastation and so much could be learned from this,” he said.

    “Our rising from the devastation remains a testimony to the Kapampangan people’s resilience, iron will, and courage in the most trying times. We should not lose track of these traits,” he added.


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