OUR MARKET, OUR HERITAGE
The fire that gutted Blocks 3 and 4 of the Baguio City public market on weekend is a stark reminder for all of us that we can avoid fire incidents by periodically inspecting buildings, including residences and other structures, to ensure that possible sources that could ignite a fire will be avoided.
We zero in on the city market, which this year has recorded the fifth destructive fire since 1960. The fire has disrupted livelihood, has displaced 1,640 vendors, and has destroyed an estimated P24 million worth of public infrastructure and private properties combined.
Investigation is ongoing on what had caused the fire and as results are being awaited, we would like to remind the public to the fact that apart from displacement and destruction of public and private property, disasters such as the March 11 fire has further downgraded the market’s historical value.
Among public markets in the country, the public market in the Summer Capital is unique. It is not only older than when Baguio was officially declared a charted city more than a century ago, as several portions have retained the remnants of what once was the old market made of cobblestones.
These portions valuable in the city’s history that when a fire gutted the Sari-Sari section of the market in 2008, efforts were made to conserve the remaining portions of the stone market. The inner portions of the market, which include those recently gutted by fire, may not be as historically prominent as the “outer portions” or those frequented by tourists, but these areas are also significant for this is where former ambulant vendors have relocated and where they are permitted to trade legally.
The occurrence of destructive fires in the market gave rise to the formulation of guidelines for the maintenance of the market, including regulation on the use of electrical devices and cooking paraphernalia.
After the incident, some people were quick to point fingers and speculated the fire may have been due to the presence of liquefied petroleum gas that may have been left unattended, or that the incident was not due to an accident, but was done on purpose to give way to the planned major development of the market.
At the time when the affected vendors are at their most vulnerable state – thinking only of what to bring home from a day’s work, we find these supposed “analyses” callous and unsympathetic to the plight of those who were heavily affected by the fire.
Instead of sowing intrigues, we ask the public, including other vendors who are not affected by the incident, to be sympathetic to the plight of the displaced vendors and their families, and be reminded the market is not only a place of business, but also the soul of a city that is struggling to preserve the remnants of what it once was.
The city government, on the other hand, should not dismiss these as mere speculation or hearsay. Rather than leave some questions unanswered, concerned officials should address these issues squarely and assure the vendors that suspicions do not become facts in the end.
On the other hand, we commend city officials, city employees, volunteers, donors, and the vendors themselves who moved swiftly so that operations in the market may resume in record time.
They have proven once again that the culture of care and compassion – virtues that Baguio is known for is still thriving in this city, especially in the most difficult times.