March 3, 2024

When we talk of Baguio, the first thing that comes to mind is the “Summer Capital of the Philippines.” Its name was given in reference to a moss that thrives in the area’s cool temperature, high altitude, popular tourist destinations, and breathtaking scenery. But right now, we tend to question whether the city is still the Philippines’ summer capital.
News articles, narratives from elders, and even history books all attest to the fact that Baguio’s air used to scent strongly of pine trees. Many of the elderly we encounter as we wander around the city, either visitors or locals, share recollections of the fresh air and brisk breeze that once saturated the city. But as more buildings and infrastructure are being built, Baguio City seems to no longer be a city of pines. The scent of trees has been supplanted by the stench of machine smoke. The once-cool breeze has become moist and muggy.
At present, we experience extremely hot weather in the summer and heavy rains that cause landslides and flooding during the rainy season. This is theoretically an unusual occurrence, but because of the changing climate, we have been experiencing extremes. Sadly, there are still a lot of news headlines about cutting down trees for building construction and burning forests for vegetation despite the warnings conveyed to us by scientists and environmentalists. The city’s rapid urbanization is steadily damaging not only the environment but also the tourism industry, which is the life of the city’s economy.
Thus, the binnadang or bayanihan is what Baguio needs right now in view of the loss of trees and the threat of climate change. Binnadang denotes cooperation through voluntarism and communal service. The practice of binnadang has been going on for generations in the Cordillera. In this regard, we should all work together to help preserve and to replenish the forest of trees in our city
Thus, this is a demand for the local government and the general public to pay heed to this society’s call for environmental change. Binnadang is not the work of only one person. Everyone must help. I propose that the local government establish a plan to make use of abandoned buildings to prevent further environmental harm from the construction of new buildings.
Furthermore, tree-cutting for building development should already stop. The City Environment and Parks Management Office and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should be tasked with evaluating the site plan before any new construction to make sure no trees need to be cut down. The construction should adjust and not the natural trees growing therein.
Further, it is probably time to put an end to building structures that have a detrimental effect on the environment. The government should enforce the ban on tree cutting. Even in barangays, officials do nothing when they hear chainsaws.
There are lots of efforts that may be taken to mitigate the destruction of the natural world. These initiatives don’t cost us anything because they are so simple and easy. This initiative includes planting trees, conserving water, recycling, not burning garbage, deleting emails, walking, using recyclable bags, and many more. Each of us should take action, perhaps not in the most noticeable way, but even small efforts can make a difference. All of us have a role to play.
What might Baguio look like in 10 or 20 years? Will there be trees left? Will it remain cold? Will the air be clean? The choice of how we want our future to be is ultimately up to us.
Let’s remember that trees play a significant role in maintaining the cooler temperatures that locals and tourists prefer, while also protecting us from calamities during severe weather conditions. The trees embody Baguio’s vitality, beauty, artistry, and personality.
Therefore, let’s protect and even grow the number of trees we cultivate to save Baguio’s heritage. Through binnadang, let us be the shapers of our future.