December 8, 2023

Last October, Mayor Benjamin Magalong reconvened the Baguio Tourism Council (BTC). Tourism councils are composed of 60 percent private membership and 40 percent government representation. The barangay, municipal, city, and regional councils were started by then Tourism secretary Eduardo Pilapil in the late 1990s as a means of promoting tourism and for tourism development spearheaded by the private sector. The councils were supposed to partner with the local government units and the DOT to promote its thrust for tourism development.
Gladys Vergara chair of the BTC now spearheading “An Enchanting Christmas in Baguio” said, “When Mayor Magalong came in, he found out that there was such an organization as the Baguio Tourism Council and it had a budget. So he convened the defunct BTC and invited the old members.”
Anthony de Leon, then chair of the BTC declined to be the chair because he was already the head of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio and other tourism-related organizations. Gladys as vice chair was voted upon as new chair and Anthony as vice chair for non-government organizations and Mayor Benjie as vice chair for government. She was confirmed by the BTC as interim chair until the convening of the tourism summit in March 2020.
The interim board also appointed Baguio Tourism Head Alec Mapalo as secretary, Gerry Beltran as treasurer and Malen Catalan of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club as public relations officer. Other government sector representatives are Department of Tourism Cordillera Officer-in-Charge Jovi Ganongan, Councilor Elaine Sembrano, chair of the city council committee on tourism, special events, parks and playgrounds, the Philippine National Police, City Buildings Architecture Office, and Budget Officer Letty Clemente.
The other representatives are Arnel Fetalino for the travel agencies, Nicolas Tabora for the museums, and Pinky Rondez as legal counsel.
With very limited time and the approaching Yuletide season, the BTC drew up a plan for “An Enchanting Baguio Christmas” with Christmas fair component at the Rose Garden. Things needed to be coordinated fast as the clock was ticking.
They called all the concerned sectors to participate so a collaborative program could be put as one. A wish list was made on the things needed and how the government could help the private sector and vice versa. The BTC would pay for the lanterns, the Christmas tree, part of the lights and a professional sound system while the City Buildings and Architecture Office built the chalets. They were working together to beat deadlines. The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra had a stringent requirement for a professional sound system which had to be attended to. The BTC had to solicit the help of sponsors with approval of the board. The sponsors were then entitled to their chalets to showcase their own products. Originally the thematic compositions were Filipino, French, German, and Italian products.Some chalets were not even selling but just promoting their establishments.
They had to beat insurmountable obstacles like the construction of the giant Christmas tree atop Session Road. They worked on it nonstop from evening till the wee hours of the morning, just so the tree could be lighted at 6 p.m. on Dec. 1. There were hungry moments and some sick moments too. But it was okay, if it was to give happiness to the people of Baguio. It was all part of the territory according to the team, as long as they delivered joy and happiness to the people of Baguio and its visitors. Happy people, happy community, enchanting feeling.
I leave you with this quote from Allessandra Di Burgh, “The world is full of people who no matter what and how you try will simply not like you. But the world is also filled with those who will love you fiercely. The ones who love you, they are your people. Be who you are. You are not everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay.”
An enchanting Baguio Christmas to everyone.