It was a year after the 1990 earthquake that I found myself aboard a Pantranco bus bound for Dagupan. After the long downhill and at Banangan, a Victory Liner bus ahead of us escaped a freak accident when the driver veered his vehicle just as a 10 foot boulder came crashing down from uphill as the women in our bus started screaming.

Some of them begging our bus’s driver to turn around. The Badiwan section of Marcos Highway was a big problem the Department of Public Works and Highways faced during the 90s as they hoped to provide the public a better and faster access to the city. Six years after the incident, Rep. Bernardo Vergara was on his second term and he invited some of the local media for an ocular at Badiwan and there bared the plan – a skyway and a rockshed.

It was one of the more important infra works that Vergara proffered that made travel to Baguio – and Tuba – easier. The former DPWH District Engineer and former Philippine Tourism Authority general manager came into office at the most opportune time. Baguio was practically a ghost town
after the July 16 quake. Students, who braved walking the 35 kilometer stretch to the lowlands days after the quake just to get a ride for home, are starting to come back.

Locals feared the aftershocks that visit almost every hour days after the quake that left hundreds dead and the city almost in ruins, the worst since the Second World War. Vergara was elected after losing in the 1998 election to fellow Ilokano Honorato Aquino, then the incumbent. In a complete reversal, Aquino lost to his neighbor who he hugged during the 1998 election day when they met at
the Aguinaldo Elementary School to cast their votes.

With mayor Maurico Domogan installed as mayor after faith healer turned politician was ousted from office for the second time, Vergara found an ally people aptly called the “Dynamic Duo.” It was probably the first “Build Build Buikd” concept as Vergara went literally knocking at government people’s houses to get what he wanted – funds to reconstruct Baguio. “By breakfast, the congressman is already having coffee at the house of then DPWH secretary Gregorio Vigilar,” recalled former assistant Josefino Balatero.

Balatero said that it could either be at the house of the Lower House’s committee chair of appropriations or public works. “He will go just to get their signature to fund Baguio infra works. Whoever is needed,” he added. When Vigilar said that Kennon Road should be closed permanently
to traffic, Vergara immediately called the secretary to air his opposition. “Over my dead body,” cried the National University alumnus.

Vergara celebrated his 85th birthday in December 4 last year and a book about him was launched outlining his achievements from a lowly DOWH engineer to a district engineer and eventually as
congressman and mayor. Early this month, Vergara celebrated his 86th natal day with wife Gloria, his children, grandchildren and siblings as well as friends, who were all witness to his efforts of
bringing back Baguio to its feet.

Pigeon Lobien/ABN

Amianan Balita Ngayon