The Silahis ng Pasko will kick off on December 1 without its icon who started a children’s mardi gras, chose the lucky Christmas family and baby, the new year’s baby and so many more but who succumbed to massive heart attack leafing to his death last March.
But his spirit lives on with a 50-year old son, who will, if necessary, don the Santa Claus costume the former city councilor and city tourism officer used to wear.
“But it is too small,” said the 5’9” Fritz Gerald Padilla, whose father Narciso died last March 3 due to a massive heart attack after months of going in and out of the hospital.
The late Padilla was rushed to the hospital after New Year’s Day last January 1 after concluding the 45th Silahis ng Pasko with the Lucky New Year’s Baby.
“For five years he had been defying doctors’ order for him to slow down because his heart won’t take it. But knowing my old man, he won’t just stop,” recalled the younger Padilla.
When he was named the mayor for a day as senior citizen in 2017, the late Padilla was even more determined to pursue his lifetime works: commemorate special Baguio days, the SNP and its sister project the 33 year old Shrine of the Brown Madonna, a pilgrimage at Kilometer 7, Tuba, Benguet.
And that, the young Padilla said, “might have hastened my dad’s life, ahead even of my sickly mom Sol. He just won’t stop, thinking that he is still that man of 40 years ago, who moves around all the time.”
In last year’s Silahis, the older Padilla was a shade of his old self. Radio and TV broadcaster Eddie Carta would say that he (the late Padilla) is not his old self and time must have caught up with him. Before any of his event, Carta said, the old man appears weak and shuffling when walking, but when he gets to his event, he is back to his old self with that booming voice that is distinctively the Nars Padilla many Baguio folks know.
It was a transformation noticeable during the TALA and KSILAP awards held at the Sunshine Park when some of the most noted locals – artist, professional photographer and sportsmen past their prime – were guests and awardees in the event. But like the month of December, the last in a year, and the gloomy weather that brought rains and chilling wind, the late Padilla was definitely in his last days but holding on to a cause he had spawned nearly five decades ago like a walking cane that serves as a support.
Fritz would text this writer after New Year’s Day that “pops was rushed to the hospital and in the ICU (intensive care unit).”
Fritz had to quit his job in Manila as a security professional to dedicate his time with his parents. “It was just the two of them, so I had to quit and relocate my family here,” said the youngest of five broods and whose eldest sibling, Maryjane, died last year, the second in the family. Nonie Marzan died almost a decade ago from cancer.
The second attack last March where Fritz had to ask for an ambulance to ferry his dad to the hospital was a total heart breaker. “He had to go. It was too much,” said Fritz, who had dreams of his old man days before still hale and springy with that booming voice of his.
“And so I told him, in his dying breath, that I will continue his life projects. Although I had no idea what it was and how he does it,” said the younger Padilla, whose remaining siblings – Marisol and Raymund – are either in Manila or abroad.
He said that days after the funeral, he checked on his dad’s bank account and had only P11 to his name. “He practically died penniless,” he said adding that his old man’s bank records show that the withdrawals were made during his events. “He was practically financing the events, money sent by my siblings for their upkeep – food and medicines – but mostly used in funding his events,” he explained.
The road to this year’s Silahis ng Pasko may have started last June, during the Heroes Portrait Sportscope, an art exhibit at the Baguio Museum of Baguio – Cordillera athletes and which served also as a tribute to the old Padilla, who was a sportsman and camp director of the Gintong Alay Project in the 1980s.
“I made a promise to my pops and I mean it,” he told athletes while his mom was cradling a framed drawing of his old man done by artist Gladys Anne Labsan, who did most of the art works. It was Labsan who made the drawings of some of the athletes recognized during the KISLAP award in December 30 last year.
Last October, the younger Padilla made true his promise by doing repairs and cleaning at the Shrine of the Brown Madonna which celebrated its 33rd year last October 6. But he said, the commemorative mass will be held later in the month, the last Sunday, to be nearer to his old man’s birthday on the 31st.
The mass and tribute was held on October 27 with Tuba mayor Clarita Sal-ongan and City Social Welfare Development Officer Betty Fangasan, the late Padilla’s partner in the Silahis project, as guests.
But then a second mass was held the following day with the PNP Officers and Ladies Club led by Lally Eleazar, wife of the Philippine National Police director for operations Guillermo Eleazar.
Then the real work started for Fritz, who is still clueless on what he went into or how he will run the program when his dad was unable to impart anything in running the whole show.
“I had bits of this and that. The times I was here when I drive them around or help bring something to his event. But those were few instances. The fact is I really don’t know where to start,” he said.
But then slowly, he got the a glimpse of the whole picture with help from Fangasan.
“This is it, we will launch on December 1 at 7AM with the Children’s Mardi Gras, the traditional start of the Christmas in Baguio celebration,” he said. The he asked: “Will I be Santa?”
Hearing this, Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who Fritz worked for briefly years back, commented during the Enchanting Baguio Christmas press conference last Wednesday at the IP Building said: “Fritz? He is too thin to be Santa.”
“Well we will see. There will be a surprise,” said the younger Padilla, a former radio announcer for Star FM, Bombo Radyo’s FM counterpart.
The younger Padilla sees a very busy December for the Silahis working committee. After the Mardi Gras, it will be the Lucky Christmas Family on December 7 and 8 where the poorest of the poor family in Baguio and in Tuba Benguet will be selected and given a one day royal treatment with city tours and in Tuba, a mass at the Shrine, an overnight stay at Albergo Hotel and a Christmas package of grocery items. “We will give this family something they will never forget and their will be two families, one from here and another from Tuba,” he added.
On December 15, it will be the day for the special people with the Special Olympics and Game-o-rama with blind, paraplegic and deaf and mute people which the OCSWDO will select. They will have competitions like walkathon for the blind, wheelaton and other games where they can win prizes. Soup kitchen will be set up along the upper part of Lower Session Road from the circle to Sizzling Plate where they can avail of food provided by supporters of the project. There will be added surprises for them like free grooming, noche Buena packages and concerts for their entertainment.
On December 22, it will be the day for the sick indigent children at the Baguio General Hospital. “This is an evolution of the original where we give gifts to indigent children, this time we will go to them and give gifts, these are the very sick ones,” he said.
Then the traditional events like Christmas Baby on December 25, the TALA and KSLAP award on December 30 and the New Year Baby on January 1. Then the last will be the closing program which will be a thanksgiving mass at the Shrine on January 5.
“This is a program for the community, the indigent which is the meaning of Silahis which has changed over the years. It means “ray of hope” and it is one that we will give to our indigent brothers and sisters as well as those with special needs,” he added./PML