Baguio officials honor last American mayor; tomb fixed
City officials honored Eusebius Halsema, the last American mayor who served the city, in observance of the Filipino-American Friendship Day ceremonies.
The commemoration was held July 4 at the Baguio Cemetery’s gazebo, a few feet from the late Halsema’s once dilapidated grave with his wife, Marie Boesel.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Rep. Mark Go, and Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan led city officials in observance of the day, once celebrated as Independence Day in the city built by Americans in 1909.
The short ceremony at the grave of Halsema, who was mayor of Baguio from 1920 until 1937, was a salute to the man who also served as city engineer and Benguet district engineer who also built the highway to Mountain Province that bears his name.
Magalong lamented the sad state of the 8.9-hectare cemetery that needs a total facelift.
“It is a sad, no, a sorry state. And the grave of Mayor Halsema is a prime example of the cemetery’s state,” he said.
“We need to do something about it,” Magalong said on the sidelines of the ceremony.
Magalong said the Baguio cemetery had graves popping up at almost every corner with no planning.
He ordered Acting City Environment and Parks Management Office Officer Rhenan Diwas to draft a plan including the put-up of walkways and mini-parks and have the tombs fixed for a semblance of pattern or uniformity.
Magalong said there is a proponent for the facelift of the cemetery, who plans to put up a crematorium and a chapel.
“The way the cemetery looks does not speak well for a city boasting as one of the tourism havens in the country,” Magalong added.
Magalong said he expects to have the proponent’s plan for the Baguio cemetery presented soon when the new normal starts for the city recovering the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It will not be a popular move since many will not want to have their dead moved. But we will do it,” said the mayor.
Some 75 years after his internment, Halsema’s grave got a facelift.
Councilor Maylen Yaranon also decried the bad state of tombs of the former mayors within the cemetery.
Her father, former mayor Braulio Yaranon, is buried somewhere at the cemetery which her family takes good care of.
“But the others, like then Mayor Norberto de Guzman, they are not being taken care of,” she said.
Councilor Lilia Fariñas said her husband, former vice mayor Daniel, was once buried in the public cemetery but his remains had been moved to the nearby private-owned Baguio Memorial Cemetery.
“I am not happy with his grave here where we had to step on other graves just to be with him, so we had him moved,” the councilor said. – PNA