by Vincent Philip Bautista
CLAVERIA, Misamis Oriental (PIA)–Formerly remembered as a place of tragedy in the mountainous reaches between Gingoog City and Claveria town, the Flight-387 shrine has become a flourishing tourist destination after the provincial government and its nearby communities developed a complex and botanical garden near the downed Cebu Pacific Flight 5J387/CEB387 crash incident of 1998.
On the morning of February 2, 1998, one hundred and four passengers and its crew lost their lives in a flash after the plane suffered a suspected downdraft, causing it to hit the outskirts of the Sumagaya mountain range. Charred bodies littered the branches of the dense forests and deep ravines. A vicissitude that would forever change the area and its people
Rescuers, families, and even children alike joined in the operations of finding survivors, the treacherous terrain, which had only seen a few people in its lifetime, briefly teemed with life in juxtaposition with the tragedy, yet no survivors were found.
Despite its inaccessibility, families of the victims and the nearby communities persevered and opted to annually commemorate the lives lost, a simple 20-foot memorial shrine was erected about 20 years ago, dedicated to those who passed away in the gruesome event.
Far away, but not forgotten
Twenty-five years after one of the worst air disasters in the country happened in the province, the shrine has seen major improvements like better roads, shops, camping sites, restrooms, a function hall, and points of interest. This has led to a rise in tourists who are drawn to the shrine’s peaceful atmosphere, especially on the 2nd of February, when it holds an annual memorial.
“Kining yearly nga pinagtigom somehow naghatag og relief sa mga families sa atong mga victims sa crash (This annual gathering somehow gave relief to the families of the victims of the crash ) while also helping us promote it into a tourist attraction-memorial, the future of this flight 387 shrine as far as its tourism potential is concerned is very bright,” Misamis Oriental Provincial Tourism Chief Jeffrey Saclot said.
The misty mountains that once suffered the wrath of tragedy have transformed into something greater than what they once were: a pillar of life’s unceasing flow and the strength of a loved one’s memory.
Families and friends of the victims were glad to see the change because it was something they could not have predicted years ago. They had made an unspoken agreement to remember their relatives every year, even if it was just a small gathering.
“Nia mi diri every year for the past 25 years since nahitabo ang unfortunate incident, nakita namo nga dako na kaayo’g kabag-ohan. Nalipay kami nga dako na kaayo ang kalamboan, and improvement diri sa shrine,” Balay Mindanaw Chairperson Charlito “Kaloy” Manlupig, who lost two friends in the incident, said.
(We’ve come here every year for the past 25 years since the unfortunate incident happened, and we have seen that there has been a significant change. We are happy that there is a lot of development and improvement here at the shrine)
Even though the mists of time had hidden the gloom and horrors of the past, they could not bury the resolve of the people affected by the incident. In defiance of unforeseen circumstances, the human capacity to thrive amid tragedy triumphed over the stupor of death and the unknown. What was once a place of tragedy was intrinsically transmuted into a garden of celebration, devotion, and remembrance of life’s flickering fold; a memento mori. (VPSB/PIA-10/Misamis Oriental)