Renaming that is demeaning

>> Friday, October 7, 2016

Ramon Dacawi
(Two members of the National Historical Commission recently visited Baguio to caution us against defacing or replacing old buildings and structures which are of historical and cultural significance to Baguio. I guess that includes a tacit warning against a tendency of some of our past leaders to rename streets, in the process defacing the old and historical names. Such a cautionary reminder takes me back to a personal piece in 2009.):
Being a town in a country that also speaks English, Sexmoan in Pampanga had all the right when it renamed itself Sasmuan. As a nation, we may one day decide to drop our citizenship nomenclature as Filipino for its colonial connotation and imposition. .
Some of our fellow natives of the Cordillera refuse to be called Igorot, a term which means “from the mountain”. Being from these mountains, I don’t mind being called Igorot and just feel proud being one, despite the derisive connotation those who do not really know who we are presume and attach to it because of their ignorance.
 Some of those who do know us from the diversity of our ethnicity as a nation want to identify themselves as Igorots. They have all the right, as they, too, are Igorots by choice, heart and sentiment. Some are even more deserving to be Igorots than some of us who claim to be by blood and name,
 What bemoans me, on this the centennial year of Baguio’s founding, are those insensitive moves to change the old and original names of our city streets, names which are part of our history and heritage. What sucks is that unlike these original names, the proposed replacements hardly have or had something to do with Baguio over the 100 years since its founding or even before its colonial founding fathers declared it the second chartered city in our country.
 Even if the replacements being pushed did or have a link to Baguio’s history and identity, such moves would be an embarrassing act of injustice to the memory of earlier personalities, places, events and things that figured in Baguio’s growth and development.
 While there were precedents to this myopic insensitivity, it would be foolish to repeat such mistakes just so we could show we are abreast with current history and in reverence to who makes history today, but at the expense of those we honored yesterday. For one, we changed the Baguio Botanical Garden to “Imelda Park”, only to restore the old name after the former First Lady was no longer in power. By this, we are teaching our children to later do the same, for them to replace the names we had installed as replacements.
 The names of our streets, neighborhoods, parks and communities are not like cell phones, cameras, Ipods and laptops that we need to change or upgrade now and then lest we be labeled Jurassic. They are like priceless family heirloom, say a gold or silver timepiece passed on from father to son and so on. The antique watch is a symbol of continuity, a reminder of one’s origins, of one’s family roots, history and identity. It was crafted by human and, therefore, loving hands that infused it with a soul. It’s so unlike modern analogue and digital clocks and watches that are fashioned out with great precision by machines and robots. Yet these devices of precision and mass production can never breathe character into these commodities. These gadgets only transform the sense of hero worship we had for Batman and Robin, or Darna, into  values for robotic models among our younger generations.
 Let’s spare Session Road, our short, inclined, and, therefore, distinctly unique main street in form and name. Renaming it Corazon C. Aquino Road, as was proposed one time in the city council, would be deeply embarrassing to the beloved President’s memory, to her family and to us all from Baguio. It would erase our memory of the members of the Philippine Commission who used to pass through it on their way to their summer sessions at the former Baden Powell Hall, the memory of which was also diminished when the edifice was leased and turned into a hotel.
 The members of the Commission and our city’s founding fathers, our own grandparents and parents, including President Aquino, might turn in their graves should the proposal  pass the city council’s scrutiny and approval.
 As former city Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Bautista Jr. aptly put it, President Aquino might have never stepped on Session Rd. in her life-time.
 Insensitivity also misguided that earlier proposal to rename the Halsema Highway, our main road through the Cordilleras, after Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, President Aquino’s husband who, like her, is revered as a national hero. The fact that colonial Mayor Eusebius Halsema, undoubtedly the best Baguio ever had, built the highway was precisely the reason why it was named after him. 
 We need not, should not and should never memorialize someone or something at the expense of another who or which is part of Baguio history. There’s no point  pitting one historical figure with another.
 The alternative is to look for still-unnamed streets or places to name, or to wait for ones still to be opened. I remember having drafted one legislative measure that gave (not replaced) names to Loro, Maya, Kalapati and Aguila streets of Dizon Subdivision for my boss, then city councilor Des Bautista. Col. Aguila, a resident of the subdivision, told me they wanted to name their streets after Philippine birds. I spelled “Agila” (eagle) right, but he insisted the name is spelled with a “u”. I shuddered, lest Miss Anbgeles Castillo, my Pilipino teacher at the UB Science High, would turn in her grave

Propriety also tells us to check if a street planned to be named already had a name but only forgotten.
 For many things and partly for their sense of propriety and history, I admire former city Councilor Edilberto Tenefrancia and former Senator Juan Flavier..Both Baguio boys, they gave mental and moral compass to legislation, to local and national governance.
 Tenefrancia made his point when the city council was discussing a proposal to rename a street. He noted that even streets named not after people but things should remain because they, too, are part of Baguio history. I’d join him in protest should somebody propose to rename Chanum,  which means “water” in the native Ibaloi tongue,   Kayang (hill), or  Otek (small) streets. .
 The illustrious Baguio boy and lawyer Art Galace also once came out against dropping our memory of a historical figure by renaming a road in honor of his father, the former city chief of police Agustin Galace. Art didn’t want the memory of his father, who served his city well, be tarnished by legislation to cancel the original name. 
 When he gave all he had for the upgrading of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, then Senator Flavier scoffed at offers  to name one of the country’s best regional medical facilities in his honor.
 “Hanak pay met natay (I’m not dead yet),” the irrepressible Flavier, so disarming for his wit and intelligence, reminded the proponents. He told them there’s a law prohibiting naming of public places and property after the living. He likewise rejected Plan B to name it in honor of his father. “Ania met ngay inaramid ni amak nga minero para iti Baguio (What did my father, a miner, do for Baguio)?,” he asked.
 I heard  a proposal was filed to have Utility Road, that access leading to the Baguio Water District, the Public Utility Service Office and the Benguet Electric Cooperative and DPS (Department of Public Services) Barangay renamed “Victory Street”. Is it because Victory Liner, the transport giant, recently bought a lot and became their neighbor?  
Enough of this nonsense to undo the memory of those we already honored and those we also want to memorialize. Enough of these moves that embarrass everybody and weaken our sense of identity and history and those or our next generations of Baguio boys and girls. What we need is legislation to ban such practice that only ingratiates and ruins the character of those who trace their roots to Baguio – the sense fair play that is (or was?) the mark of a Baguio boy and girl.
 Meanwhile, can somebody explain why “Bokawkan Road”, that inclined artery that links Baguio to La Trinidad,Benguet, was renamed “Buhagan Road”?.  (e-mail: for comments). 


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