June 5, 2023

Once upon a happy time, Baguio was without question the Summer Capital of the Philippines, and all other resorts were mere pretenders to her lofty throne.
For Manilans and other outsiders, meticulously making plans how and where to spend the Lenten season, a Holy Week trek to Baguio was the highlight of their summer agenda.

Rather curiously, since, except for its famed Burnham Park, the city had little to offer in terms of excitement and water sports, favorite pastimes of the young and adventurous.
Nocturnal life was near dormant, compared to the big city of lights and thrills.
Although less exciting, horseback riding, biking, skating, and boating at least made up for the slack.
For the privileged, particularly the golfers, Camp John Hay and the Baguio Country Club were opened to them, and with a gate pass, one could enjoy the taste of great ice cream and burgers, long before Baskin and Robbins and McDonald’s came to town.

For vacationing, families and the pious, Baguio was a mecca of sorts, where one can worship in peace at the Pink Sisters Convent, pleading with the Almighty in writing for you to pass a nursing or some other licensure exam, even the Bar.
In my high school years, I recall seeing Rosa Rosal bouncing up the Cathedral steps two at a time, and a heavily breathing Erap Estrada having difficulty alighting from his owner type jeep, rounded tummy and all, both celebrities trying to catch up with the afternoon Wednesday novena.
I also remember the city coming to full stop at the sound of the six o’clock siren.
Pardon the tear stains as I write this.

In the days when air conditioning was only affordable to the moneyed, and electric fans – unlike lawyers – didn’t have enough wind to ward off the scorching summer heat, Baguio was the only place to be in the months of April and May, and in late December, where Baguio weather was at its best.

Baguio was nature and cool all year long, the mountain breeze gently hitting your face, turning your cheeks and nose red, complete with sniffles.
And whichever part of the city you were in, there was no mistaking the scent of pine.
Unlike now, wearing of face mask was prohibited then, lest you be mistaken for a theft or a burglar.
Maybe the pandemic is a blessing in disguise. Once the virus leaves, Baguio will once again become a happy place – or the entire country, for that matter, the world even.
But it’s all up to the heavens.

The proposed Baguio-Region 1 tourism bubble is not new.
Before Boracay and Palawan, the idea was thought of – by the ever looking for things to do Imelda Marcos.
Her plan was to widen and make Naguilian Road an all-weather highway, cutting the trip to nearby Bauang to a little over half an hour.
Given Bauang’s kilometric shoreline, and the calm channel waters where one can walk two miles to sea and still be in neckdeep, La Doña Imelda would put up shops featuring products of Baguio and the Ilocos provinces, with shuttle buses that would bring tourists to as far away Ilocos Norte, enjoy the sights, and be back in Bauang a little after nightfall.

Today, alas, Bauang beach is no more, gobbled up by the ocean, and nearby San Juan town is now Boracay and Palawan rolled into one.
Travel time from Manila to the latest surfing capital of the north is just a five-hour car ride away, even less.
With strict observance of health protocols, summer next year just might bring back the fun, and restore the City of Pines as the one and only summer capital with San Juan, its partner in tourism.
Like it or not, tourism officials need to hire Imelda as consultant.

In your lifetime, how many times have men in uniform taken control of your free spirit.
In my case, at least twice. The first under Martial Law, and now under Duterte, who is said to be a reminder of Marcos.
But hey, what did he have for breakfast the other day? He has done what I had always wanted to do but never did.
At least he is standing up to the Chinese. At long last too, he says that the law must be upheld.
From a toughie to a diplomat, quite a long jump for our President Rodrigo. He has reinvented himself, and we love it.
Bravo, Mr. President, it is time to take back what has always been rightfully yours – a backbone of courage and bravery.
Thank you, sir!

The late Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a woman for all seasons – brilliant, yet had a great sense of humor. She never considered herself superior than her male colleagues, but would often engage them in friendly debate, swap jokes and funny stories over dinner, and loved sushi and pancit. Adobo too, I am told.
In my nearly 50 years as a lawyer, I have yet to meet someone like her.
But hey, the late Haydee Yorac comes close.
Noe Villanueva and I miss drinking mai thai with her, even if she always “outdrunk” us both.

We bid goodbye to old friend Gerry Verzosa. Gerry was an Ateneo Blue Eagle (only a few know this) who was Baby Dalupan’s first choice when he was made coach of the Ateneo Varsity Team.
Gerry was the kind of friend that if you needed something from him, all you had to do was ask.
Fare thee well, gayyem.
We likewise say goodbye to another friend and fellow cockfight aficionado Rafael Manuel, a dehadista like myself, always betting on the underdog, or like bachelor Wilbert Luaya (palotero met laeng) would say each time he sees a woman hanging on to the arms of a guy looking like Max Alvarado – mallamoda manen.
Next time, Wilbert, we will get them.