Nars Padilla, Baguio’s “Santa Claus”, passes away

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BAGUIO CITY – The Summer Capital is nursing a broken heart as it lost one of its great sons Tuesday when former councilor Narciso Padilla passed away due to a lingering illness. He was 87 years old.

“Mang Nars”, as he was fondly called, wore many hats throughout his lifetime. He was a pioneering journalist, government official, photographer, sportsman, event organizer, boy scout and tourism booster other than being a husband, father and grandfather.

He was a regular columnist for Sun-Star Baguio writing mostly on sports and tourism events when he died. Padilla is survived by his wife, Soledad.

Most local residents especially children and those young-at-heart will remember Mang Nars as the city’s “Santa Claus” who started Baguio’s and possibly country’s longest-running Yuletide Celebration, the “Silahis ng Pasko”, when he was the city tourism officer in the 1970’s and has continuously been held since.

The multi-event, month-long extravaganza conducted each December where thousands of children participate in the Children’s Mardi Gras every December 1. It also includes a day for persons with disabilities (PWDs), senior citizens, balikbayans, Christmas and New Year babies search and awards for outstanding athletes.

Early January, Padilla was rushed to the hospital due to fatigue from the month-long Silahis festivity and stayed for several days, although restless from lack of activity, according to his youngest child, Fritz, who now stays with his parents together with his own family.

“My parents are both old and need all the assistance I could offer them,” Fritz explained.

Mang Nars was Project Gintong Alay’s camp director under Michael Keon who oversaw the needs of the country’s top athletes like Lydia De Vega, Elma Muros and local hero Hector Begeo. It was during his stint as city councilor from 1992 to 1995, that he authored measures for the putting up of busts of Baguio builders like Arct. Daniel Burnham at Burnham Park, Lyman Kennon at the Zig-Zag Viewdeck along Kennon Road, Justice George Malcolm at Malcolm Square People’s Park, among others.

Padilla was president of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) and National Correspondents Club of Baguio (NCCB) that has evolved into an awards body handing out awards like the Kafagway/Kordillera Luminary Sports and Media awards that is part of Silahis Ng Pasko.

In her facebook wall, multi-awarded national wushu athlete Divine Wally wrote: “The man who always look out for the athletes achievements. Our sincerest condolences to the bereaved family. Rest in Peace Sir Nars.” She was one of the athletes feted on December 29, last year, in the Kafagway Awards.

Local sportswriter and NCCB member Pigeon Lobien said Padilla stayed for a while in the United States when he lost his re-election as councilor and returned home in early 1996.

“That was the reason why Mang Nars missed the Silahis Ng Pasko the second time after the 1986 post-EDSA revolution where the PCGG placed him under investigation for his links with Keon, nephew of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos,” Lobien revealed.

Padilla was the man behind the Shrine of the Brown Madonna in Tuba, Benguet where many couples have tied the knot. He was also a long-time radio broadcaster and correspondent of several national newspapers that published many of his stories and pictures especially of the July 16, 1990 earthquake that devastated the city.

Frequently on the go and a man of action, several newsmen even remember seeing Mang Nars riding his big 350cc motorcycle during the heyday of famous American daredevil Evel Knievel.

By: Gaby Keith

Banner photo: Former City Councilor Narciso “Nars” Padilla” once again dons his traditional Santa Claus garb for the 2018 Silahis Ng Pasko marking the start of Christmas in Baguio festivities. Photo by Bong Cayabyab

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