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Remembering Pinatubo

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“E KO magmalun, mibangun ya ing Pampanga.”
The exhortation of Governor Bren Z. Guiao for his people to end their collective grief, rise from despair, and believe in a renascent Pampanga brought the first ray of hope in the wake of the Mount Pinatubo eruptions.

It was the faintest flicker of hope though, the Kapampangan trapped in the most desperate straits: damned in a wasteland of buried homes and broken dreams, doomed in a landscape of death and desolation.

Beyond PR savvy – of which Guiao was a guru – the slogan was founded on the governor’s unwavering faith in the Kapampangan character: of grit and resiliency, that have served him well in rising from every adversity, be it socio-politico-economic, as in the agrarian unrest, the Marcos dictatorship and the communist rebellion; or natural, as in the floods that perennially devastated the croplands and aqua farms of the province and damaged its infrastructure…

Sharing that strong faith were motley groups of men and women crisscrossing the economic, political and religious divide to find common cause in the salvation of Pampanga. Their advocacy most manifest in the antecedent “save” to their movements.
Thus, it came to pass, when the national government all but gave the actual order for the forcible evacuation of the province, in its pragmatic rationalization on the futility of fighting nature, the “save movements” mobilized the population in vehement opposition to any scheme of abandoning Pampanga and relocating its people.

More horrifying than the physical devastation of the province by the eruptions and the subsequent lahar rampages was the irretrievable loss of the Kapampangan soul that a hegira would most certainly bring about.

“There was a lot of sentiment underneath it all, an attachment to the old hometown, its past, its people, the memories, and everything it stood for.” Thus wrote a noted columnist of the motivation of the Kapampangan to stand his ground – literally on murky, shifting volcanic sand – and fight with all his might for his very life.

This is the pith of the Pinatubo story: a tragedy transcended by the triumph of the indomitable Kapampangan spirit. (Foreword of Pinatubo: Triumph of the Kapampangan Spirit (2008), Edited by Bong Z. Lacson)

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