July 23, 2024

The six months of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the reset button and allowed Baguio’s nature to flourish and rejuvenate to the benefit of residents, especially athletes holding training in the Summer Capital.

Among those who are greatly benefiting from the city’s rejuvenated nature are former world champions of the famed Team Lakay, one of Asia’s best mixed martial arts teams, who made Baguio as their home and training ground aside from nearby La Trinidad, Benguet.

“The lockdown was great for the community because it became a lot quieter. There was no traffic or pollution,” said former two-time division ONE Championship lightweight world champion Eduard Folayang. 

For former ONE flyweight world champion Geje Eustaquio, seeing his hometown in such a calm and relaxed state brings back childhood memories, when Baguio was just beginning to develop.

“It’s fun to experience this once in a lifetime. Movement in Baguio City is easy now. There’s no traffic, and the environment is even more beautiful now than ever. It looks so much better than before,” he said.

“The environment has recovered very quickly. Certain types of birds are back, and you can see living nature right inside the city. When I was a kid, I could see these animals and plants, until they slowly disappeared due to pollution. Baguio went through a lot of urban development, which had an adverse effect on nature. Now, nature is making a comeback,” he added.

Every year, the city welcomes nearly two million tourists, mostly coming from urbanized areas like Manila and surrounding provinces. Hotels, mountain resorts, homestays, restaurants offering Baguio cuisine – even street vendors selling locally-made trinkets and souvenirs, all rely on visitors bringing in revenue.

Due to lockdowns brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, however, Baguio’s economy was hit hard.

Although Folayang and Eustaquio appreciate the nature’s wonderful recovery in their hometown, the two Team Lakay veterans also understand how important it is for Baguio to gradually reopen its borders to outsiders for the local economy to recover.

“I think for Baguio, tourism has always been very important. It’s one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the city had to close its doors. Local businesses suffered and a lot of people lost their jobs,” said Folayang.

“As things start to reopen now, I am sure it will give a much-needed boost to the local economy and things will start to get busy again,” Folayang added. – Harley F. Palangchao