Baguio and Benguet’s distinctions

>> Monday, May 22, 2017

Ramon Dacawi

Urban sprawl is distinctly rendering dubious Baguio ’s distinctions.
It’s the City of Pines now losing its scent of and sense for pine. It’s a Flower Garden City yearly celebrating its status with blooms grown and cut in Benguet  or cut out of paper. The only temperate city hereabouts in the tropics now mothballs its winter clothes most of the year. The city of occasional fog now experiences a hazy view more from smog than low-lying clouds and mist.
Change is giving us new distinctions.
 We now have a thriving business in water delivery. We now have more homes with water tanks jutting out where fireplace chimneys used to be. We may not have been the first to sell bottled water, but our restaurants did pioneer the no-order, no-serve rule on drinking water as a conservation measure. We’ve installed the most expensive and sensitive gadget at the foot of our main street to correctly measure to the minutest parts-per-million  the quality of our urban air that we now and then can only smell and see, yet can’t  approximate without it.
At the height of Typhoon Feria years back, Burnham Park was finally flooded up to Kisad Rd. , together with the former one-story stone market that is now the multi-level Maharlika Livelihood Center . News of the inundation caught on in Metro-Manila where people couldn’t imagine how a mountainous terrain could be flooded.
Visitors do get confused. We tell them Baguio logged the highest rainfall level ever in 24 hours, yet our taps are dry. That irony becomes more pronounced as we continue sealing our open areas with concrete. “Utaksemento” provides the umbrella effect of rainwater being logged by concrete surface or rushing to the rivers and spilling into the seas instead of sipping into the ground to recharge our water tables.
With global warming, we may soon lose the heaviest rainfall record. But even with global warming, we’re still 10 degrees Celsius cooler than Manila anytime of the year. It will always  be hotter down there where hand-me-down jackets are cheaper than up here where the first “wagwag”  or “ukay-ukay” shop opened.
Strawberries are still aplenty that we still leave them to visitors. Never mind Benguet’s lament over the fact that “Baguio strawberries”, “Baguio beans” and “Baguio brooms” actually come from the province’s towns of La Trinidad,  Buguias and Sablan..
At least, the flower growers in Bahong, La Trinidad, rightfully the country’s Rose Garden Caipital, won’t mind the presumption of visitors coming for the “Baguio Flower Festival”  about Baguio producing what it shows and sells them. It’s a quid pro quo with the farmers as long as we do more flower festivals.
Personally, I proposed the holding of a taxi festival to celebrate our having the most number of units in relation to population. The proposal fizzled out when I found myself repeatedly beaten to one on rainy nights.
It’s different now with the polluted Balili River endlessly flowing from Baguio to La Trinidad and Sablan. That joke about symbiosis – about Baguio ’s organic sewer flowing into the river to fatten La Trinidad-produced lettuce that ends up in Baguio ’s salad bowls – is no longer funny, at least for town mayor Romeo Salda.
 That  should  explain in part what snags the Metro-Baguio Plan, euphemistically renamed BLIST (Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba), concept of urban development from getting off the ground. The four Benguet towns harbor that uncomfortable feeling that BLIST would just enhance Benguet’s role as Baguio ’s resource base and repository of its trash.
Still, the BLIST is the option, for the urban sprawl – planned or unplanned – will continue to spill into Benguet. We need  the plan to achieve what  planners call  a “holistic and comprehensive” approach to development of contiguous areas sharing a fast urbanizing landscape.
We have to adopt the plan, before Metro-Baguio-Benguet experiences what Baguio has turned into – a city  that just “growed and growed” (to borrow Topsy’s ’s words in Uncle Tom’s Cabin) –even with a master plan laid out over a century ago by Architect Daniel Burnham to guide the development of the country’s Summer Capital.

Whatever. Baguio is still Baguio even with its imperfections. (e-mail: for comments).    


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