60th Courier Anniversary Issue
60th Anniversary Issue
Supplement Articles
:: Mayoralty Candidates & their vision for Baguio
:: What have we done to our city?
:: Leadership a
la Sudcordillera
:: If I could vote,
I would vote for...
:: A look at the northern youth vote
:: Shanty Town: rethinking
our mountains' development
:: Ma Fok's Secret
:: Ibaloi in international media
:: Preventing cervical cancer
:: Prostate cancer:
a brief perspective
:: Baguio Midland Courier goes online
:: Courier in the '60s
:: Baguio media notes and anecdotes
:: When headline writers become headline makers
:: The History of Baguio City National High School
:: 60 things to do and places to see in Cordi
:: How to make Baguio a child-friendly city
:: Election Cartoons
trisha What have we done to our city?
Leonora San Agustin

Our city, the once beautiful mountain village surrounded by sun-kissed clouds and blessed with the abundance of raindrops dancing in the light of the afternoons, is going – if not gone!

The city, where I felt the refreshing coolness of the twilight dusk while watching the  glorious sunset slowly disappear from the mountains’ violet and hazy gray rim, is not there anymore.

The city, which lulled me to sleep with the secure sense that tomorrow the flowers will bloom again and the sweet resinous scent of the pine trees will waft again, is creeping into the din and rush of taxis honking in the late afternoon rush; jeeps and buses roaring stridently against the shadow of the ugly, high-rise buildings, which deepen the gloom of our city streets with their huge, atrocious billboards. Yes, those city streets, where as a child and as a teenager I roamed familiar corners without fear, are now filled with vendors and vagrants who dirty the sidewalks, urinate on the canals, and splash graffiti against every blank space they encounter.

Yes, that city, which was once the Mecca of tourists, tired and weary people, and romantic lovers who come for rest in the cool comforting weather, is now the center of dubious cafés, basement-night spots, drunk people, sleeping police patrols, and teenagers out for thrill and experience.

Where are you going, my beloved city – progress or decadent stress?
No more, my friends! My paeans of beauty, of peace and quiet, of faith in City Hall, and sometimes even of faith in my fellowmen – the “taga-Baguio” of who I was very proud of are no more! Where have all those that we treasure gone?

Gone were the little green and white low cottages where I first went to school.  Gone are the two flagpoles of America and the Philippines on top of what was then Luneta Hill. Gone are the pine trees around the school grounds, gone is the merry-go-round that made me sick when Jimmy Halsema and Gene de Guia would whirl it so fast that I had to jump out on the green grass because of dizziness. Gone also are the American teachers who taught us not only English and arithmetic but also good manners and right conduct. Gone is the locus of our dreams and the focus of our minds!

What have we done with Baguio? We have allowed the rich “commerciantes” and the powerful to rape our mountains, specially that mountain that rose from the valleys that is now Happy Glen and Jungletown – the same mountain where once we shouted in glee because all around us was spread Baguio, in all its beauty and nature splendor. Is it true that Imelda Marcos sold this very mountain to SM for P90 million? Was it hers to sell? Where was City Hall then or where were all the taga-Baguio then? Now they have raped the beautiful slopes, they have built structures that uglify the mountain’s slopes. Ages ago, when the entry of the commercial district was through Gov. Pack Road, one stops before the rotunda – one looks up and pauses to see the vast expanse of green mountain slopes and feels he is home. Now, where is home? Where is City Hall, where are the trapos in the council – why did they allow these?

Look up at the construction of the flyover. Why in the name of good governance does a city build a structure that is not needed – not only that it is not needed – people are against it! Not only are the people against it, there is no money to finish it! Why should the wishes of a government department like the Department of Public Works and Highways be followed to build an overpass where it is not needed, not liked, and not accepted by the people, and does not have money to spend for in the end? Did the DPWH build it to satisfy the egos of top engineers whose hearts may have been concretized by now? Did we build it to prevent the contractor from suing the DPWH because the department cannot return their takes? Or did we build it to show us that the DPWH is the only department that makes decisions on national roads and who can say “to heck with the local officials!” After all, they know that the slope of the mountain, where the big curve has to be situated, is not all igneous rocks but metamorphic soil from the erosion of rocks that could slide down anytime. After all, the DPWH knows that they could have forever dammed the waters that come from all the mountains around and go to an aquifier at Burnham Lake. Heaven forbid that an earthquake should occur because the all-knowing DPWH knew these things before they started. Even the congressman is quiet about all these. It is the common perception that in most of the controversial issues of our city – the congressman is conspicuously silent. Is silence golden? Remember, people are asking questions why, why, why?

And Burnham Park? I have been a member of the committee for five decades and I have convinced myself all these years that maybe if we keep on helping, giving our ideas, helping City Hall and doing what we can do, somehow, we can restore the park to its beautiful beginnings. But over the years, lack of political will, lack of definitive concept of what we want, lack of integrity of the ancillary services that are needed in the park administration like the permits and licenses, lack of unity among the council members, and most damaging of all – abundance of intrigues and stupidity, all these  prevent the efficient implementation of some very good ideas of sincere volunteers.

This month we started all over again – a new concept of 12 units with number one as priority. I am skeptical but still willing to do what I can. I hope that the discussions under four mayors shall have congealed into these 12 unit-concepts and that we start on number one soon. But as new members, new ideas, and as the elections come, who knows what new ideas we can work on or what stupidities we can suffer from.

But there is hope and the Baguio Centennial Commission shows one way – community participation, organized and focused on showcasing the 100 years of Baguio as a city. The commission is a dream selection – not too old or too young, not too rich or too poor, – but a group of successful middle-aged professionals who can work, walk, talk, and make the Baguio citizenry “walk the talk.” They come from true blue families of Baguio originals and pioneers: the Chengs who grew right in Session Road with their neighbors, the Paraans; the Salvosas who started tertiary education; the Bautistas who parlayed technical education into university status; the Alabanzas who fed the city with proper proteins; the Pearsons who developed the mines in the mountains; the Camdas-Cabatu, the real Ibaloi land owners; the Afables of Igorot and Japanese ancestry; the Teraokas who keep the Japanese descendants together; and the Cenzons who take care of our souls. Lest we forget, Alabanza is the chair, but many others, who like me are kibitzing old timers, are always ready to help.

This is the group that started the fund-raising for the Centennial. They contracted the covered court of the Baguio Country Club with its 600 chairs. Except for a few chairs, maybe less than 50 filled the hall with their P1,000 per plate donations. For me, it was a happy occasion to meet the real taga-Baguio but it was really more fun, albeit nostalgic, going around to greet the “taga-Baguio nga Americanos” who came to give their support. For an auspicious beginning, the Centennial Commission deserves kudos not only from the three witches but also from all of us witches, critics, bystanders, “mirons,” and city-caring kibitzers.

And so too this month, I start to write again. The Museum has finished the physical construction, exhibits of artifacts displayed, basic researches preserved in print and tapes, sample programs and activities taught, and basic technology provided for. There is still a lot of work to do but, for all intents and purposes, the museum is established.

Writing has always been my goal so I pick it up again. The title of my column remains "The Catalyst" because I write to catalyze people into thinking and doing something about what this beloved city of ours needs, cares for, lives for, and demands of its citizens – for better or worse.

*Baguio's Three Witches unite once again as Ms. Leonie San Agustin starts writing her column, The Catalyst, which will be featured regularly in the opinion pages of the Baguio Midland Courier alongside the columns of Ms. Cecile Afable, In and Out of Baguio, and Ms. Virginia de Guia, Baguio Ko Mahal Ko, starting on May 6.

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