February 22, 2024

Baguio City, the country’s summer capital, is a picturesque haven, renowned for its pine-lined streets, cool climate, and captiva-ting scenery. However, this charm has come with a significant cost, as the city faces a problem that threatens to overshadow its allure: tourism-induced traffic congestion.
During peak seasons, the once peaceful streets of Baguio transform into a maze of stuck private vehicles, with bumper-to-bumper traffic stretching for miles. This unrelenting congestion not only frustrates tourists but also severely impacts the daily lives of Baguio residents, disrupting their commutes, hindering their business operations, and diminishing their overall quality of life.
The surge in tourist arrivals has pushed the city’s infrastructure beyond its limits, with roads unable to accommodate the sheer volume of vehicles. The romanticized notion of Baguio as a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life has unintentionally contributed to this crisis, as more and more people flock to the city seeking a break, unaware of the unintended consequences of their presence.
The iconic night market, once a symbol of Baguio’s charm, now struggles to accommodate the overwhelming crowds. The romanticization of tourist influx, particularly during weekends, is a dangerous narrative that overlooks the potential harm it causes to locals and visitors alike. A recent visit to the night market left me feeling overwhelmed, forcing an early departure.
As a student living in Baguio, I’ve witnessed the daily traffic chaos firsthand. The irony is that my family often expresses their desire to visit, but I’m hesitant to invite them, knowing that the Baguio they fondly remember is a distant memory. Valuable time is wasted in traffic jams, and the surge of tourists renders tourist attractions inaccessible.
Jed’s (@batchoooi) distressing Twitter post captures the essence of the locals’ frustration: “What can the government do to regulate the influx of tourists that have made it very inconvenient to live in this city? We need an answer because it looks like turismo at pagpasok ng pera ang inaatupag ng Baguio habang kami mga nakatira dito, para na lang side characters – ang sikip ng daan, ang hirap mag-commute, at hindi na kaya ng siyudad mismo ang dami ng tao. Paano? I barely recognize Baguio; this doesn’t feel like home anymore.”
Baguio locals bear the inconvenience caused by the influx of private vehicles. Heavy traffic impedes daily errands, hinders the livelihoods of jeepneys and minibus drivers, and contributes to air and noise pollution, negatively impacting the health and well-being of residents.
Lianne Tamares (@liyantamares) aptly captures the sentiment in her viral tweet: “Buong Pilipinas yata nasa Baguio ngayon.” Her tweet has garnered over 723,000 views, highlighting the city’s overwhelming popularity.
Tamares further adds: “Pero for real, OA talaga ng traffic sa lahat ng kalsada. Di nga rin naman talaga masisisi ang mga turista since naghahanap din ng out of town pasyalan ngayong ber months. Kaya nasa LGU na talaga ang bigat nito dahil mas pina-prioritize pa rin nila ang turismo over their locals.”
Tamares acknowledges the city’s carrying capacity, stating: “Baguio as a city has exceeded its carrying capacity (waaaay) over the limit. Hindi rin naman basta pwedeng pagbawalan ang mga turista dahil marami pa rin naman ang naghahanapbuhay rito na umaasa sa kanila.”
Despite traffic rerouting, road widening projects, and public transportation initiatives, the issue persists as Baguio remains a magnet for tourists.
The City Government of Baguio has implemented various measures to address traffic congestion, including a number coding scheme, one-way streets, parking restrictions, and bus lanes. These initiatives aim to prioritize public transportation, encouraging its usage and promoting its improvement by increasing the number of buses and jeepneys and optimizing bus routes.
Amidst the challenges, there are opportunities to balance tourism and livability in Baguio. I urge the local government to implement stricter traffic management measures, encourage the use of public transportation, and promote sustainable tourism practices. Tourists can also play a role by prioritizing public transportation, being mindful of their impact on the environment, and respecting the locals and their culture.
Together, we can make Baguio a more livable and enjoyable haven for all.