June 17, 2024

In this gladsome spirit, please permit me, as a member of the sangguniang panlungsod and its representative to the Baguio Tourism Council, to give a brief reaction to the Courier’s editorial published in its Dec. 1 issue. Speaking of timing, the editorial could not have chosen a day to call to task the sanggunian on the very day when the City of Baguio, in partnership with the BTC, formally opened the “An Enchanting Baguio Christmas,” purposely to make residents and visitors alike experience a uniquely crafted Christmas celebration, the likes of which have never been felt in recent years.
To be on the point: the “An Enchanting Baguio” Christmas fair now taking place at the Rose Garden is principally a setting that the organizers (BTC) sought to simulate and bring about for our people’s enjoyment, the way the Europeans do when walking around Christmas market villages happening in key cities at this time of the ending year. The goal is simply this: give park-goers a feel of Christmas right here in our midst, immerse them with the Christmas air filled with fun, amusement, and joyful memories unlike any other run-of-the-mill Christmas festivities in the past.
In doing so, the editorial pointedly tells the sanggunian that it has, in approving the BTC Christmas calendar of events and activities, circumvented the city’s Trade Fair Ordinance, “showing how our legislators could be so inconsistent in their decision-making.” We beg and assert to disagree, as the approval to plan, conceptualize, coordinate, execute the Christmas events, including the Christmas fair was a result of collective appreciation that something innovative and elegantly undertaken will represent the breath of fresh air Baguio needs to raise the standards by which anything done must be measured. There is no inconsistency in decision-making, much more a circumvention of policies that are in place for endeavors that no less than the city government implements either as hand’s on manager, or in entrusted delegation of authority.
What is going on at the Rose Garden is by no means a trade fair that is foremost a profit-making enterprise. Those allowed with sacrosanct restrictions – the curated provisions of sponsorships (not rentals) are expressly prohibited from selling products and services not in keeping with the ambience wished for in the premises. Let this truth be told: what is going on is simply a selling activity that comes when exhibitions and fairs as known to be done in many parts of the country are staged; perhaps, only in Baguio has the term “trade fair” acquired so bad and vile a reputation simply because of the level and quality of the products being sold and the attendant on-the-side transactions that take place. If at all, and more importantly, selling is merely an incidental, rather than, a principal motivation.
We, at the sanggunian and I as its representative in the BTC, stand firm in our resolute effort to keep the Christmas fair done far above that level and quality of a project. The chalets that were built, the festive decors bedecking the place, the ambience of a Christmassy setting, the Yuletide environment that have been painstakingly put up – all these have been gladly borne on our joint partnership.
There may have arisen issues of engagement, but matured leaders as we are, not big enough to becloud the faith we have with one another. We are extremely grateful that corporations and groups are in a shared partnership to make our Christmas festivities in Baguio better planned, better coordinated, better managed on the shoulders of good faith, firm friendship, and a common longing to make Baguio better, not just in a season or two, but at all times. We admit that not everyone will ever be pleased with what is taking place. When severe restrictions include policies that disallow products available at the public market precisely to prevent undue trade competition with tax-paying market vendors, someone will complain. When product mix is carefully curated to achieve the goal of spreading Christmas cheers in a classy, levelled up, joy-filled environment as distinguished from the baratilyo and tiangge-type of bazaars, some vested groups content with baratilyos and tiangges will disagree.
In closing, I am minded to introduce new legislation to precisely make clear what trade fairs should be and should not be so that organizers, whether acting privately or are serving a public purpose, will get the reference and guidance that all of us can look up to. Trade fairs need not be of the worse kind where tiangge and baratilyos are undertaken without regard to plain common sense. A trade fair is a wholesome process to introduce goods, products, or services, for entrepreneurs to use opportunities for improved business positions.
That said, I join you always in avoiding any exercise that seeks nothing more than to go around the law. After all, no one is above it. — COUN. ELAINE D. SEMBRANO, Baguio City