Fond memories of Aurora Hill

>> Thursday, June 1, 2017

Alfred P. Dizon

BAGUIO CITY – (Here is a remake of a piece I wrote in a few years back.)
At this time of the year, I usually have fond memories of Aurora Hill in this summer capital particularly Bayan Park, Busol Watershed and Brooks Point since I partly spent my childhood here to college.
Summer and Christmas breaks during our elementary and high school days, we usually took off from Sagada, the tourist town of Mountain Province and hied off at Brooks Point. It was here at the end of the road where my parents built a house of GI sheets and wood when I was in Grade 3.
There were only a few houses in interior Brooks Point at that time. It was just our relatives on my father’s side like the Pomar, Sungduan, Arnobit and Dizon families. Neighbors were Neri, Viduya, Mendoza, Lee, Alcantara and Acebedo (yes the family who owed an optical shop along Lower Session Road a few meters from then Mido Hotel)  families and a few others. I wonder where the pretty Neri sisters, who were our adjacent neighbors are now.
The air was fresh, the sights were green and there was plenty of water. We had brooks where we could take a bath or wash our clothes. Summer after the rains, we looked for mushrooms at Busol. We knew exactly where to find the natural, miniature umbrellas which came in different stripes and colors.
Sunny days were cold at Busol. The forest was lush and one could hardly see the sun due to thick foliage. This was the 60s and 70s.
Here, we went on adventure hikes with the neighborhood kids. There was this huge water pipe, about 15 meters from the ground which we walked through to get to the other side. Anybody who didn’t do it was called haan pay nakugit (was not circumsized). 
I knew the wild plants and proudly told my cousins their indigenous names since I knew these by heart in Sagada where we also spent countless hours in the mountains looking for blueberries, nests or birds in ricefields called sikwil but that is another story.
Like in Sagada, in Busol, there were still akbab among other indigenous plants and trees like payen or agsup. Akbablooks like a huge bending fern with large, green leaves and has fruit which comes in bunches. The fruit tastes like carrots and looks exactly like grapes but a little bit bigger. A bunch had around a hundred fruits and a kid had to have some help in carrying it home. Payen is bettle nut while the agsup fruit was size of a huge blueberry which could be sucked for its tasty milk.
There were no computers then, so we played dayet (whirl tops) or played shatung when we became bored, Often times, we played kites. At night, we converged at the Arnobit home and watched on TV John en Marsha, Meng Fei, David Carradine of the Kung Fu genre or Tagalog movies. 
Then came college. Jamming was often with guitars at night with resident friends and bonfires at the mountain above the crossing. We called ourselves the Uwak (Crows). That was cut short when most migrated to the US. At that time, the US was recruiting young men to the US Navy and most of my friends took it an opportunity to go abroad.
Among those who joined the Navy were Placks Fortunato and Jim Cortez.
Others also migrated like Perseus Borlaza, Luis Novillos (although he is back, he says for good) and Ramon Acededo. Among us who opted to stay behind were Nestor Ordono (although his parents were in the US), Teddy Weygan, Garth, Leo,Edgar Olarte (the younger brother of lawyer-singer Bubut, who passed away a few years back), Ramon Valentino and Rey Pomar.

Rey’s brother Rudy also migrated to the US but came home in an urn a few years ago. There were around 15 of us.I need not mention the rest but if you guys will read this article on our online edition, do send me an email. It was more than 30 years ago since I saw some of you.
I visited Johnny Pomar in BrooksPooint some three weeks ago. Johnny had just come home from the US, he says,also for good. He had been a musician there practically all his years after he left Olongapo where he played with a band when the Americans were still there. 
We were talking about how much Brooks Point, Aurora Hill or Baguio for that matter had changed. But then, we will talk about that in another topic and delve on present developments in Bayan Park where we also used to play basketball.
Mayor Mauricio Domogan recently issued Administrative Order 067 directing the City Environment and Parks Management Office “to implement full operation of Bayan Park as a park and a forest.”
Jho Arranz of the city information office said the local government improved the park through landscaping and fencing. “Preservation plans are being set to sustain Bayan Park’s prehistoric role as carbon sink, green space, bio-diversity showcase and rest and recreation area.”
The site was earlier managed by the Bayan Park Management Authority, whose membership came from 13 barangays surrounding the park or Association of Barangay Councils of Aurora Hill. One issue which beset the park since 2011 was reportedly inadequate management responsibility. 
Because of this, power supply was cut by Benguet Electric Coop. on March 2013 due to unpaid bills since 2011, rendering the whole park in total darkness.
“The park is a 24-hour parking space by residents near the area, a repair shop by enterprising individuals, a dumping site of used oil and other hazardous materials, a 24-hours graffiti arena for unscrupulous park goers and venue for malicious activities.  There is need to mandate the CEPMO for its full operation, management and control,” said Domogan.
Under the order, CEPMO will craft guidelines for hours of operation, parking and activities within the park. The CEPMO will reprogram personnel to ensure even during weekends, there would be two workers who will open, close gate and do other activities.
The CEPMO will assign guards to enhance security from vandals and other malicious activities by unscrupulous individuals.
An advisory committee of representatives from 13 barangays surrounding the park will be created and headed by CEPMO.A co-chair will be elected from the 13 barangays on an annual term to assist CEPMO.
It would be duty of the BPAC to craft, amend or recommend policies for the park, assist CEPMO enforce rules, recommend fees for use of the park and formulate sharing scheme with barangays for income generated from its use. Such share will however be only be used for beautification and activities of barangays.
During our younger days, we roamed the park at will, particularly when we had visitors whom we wanted to have a view of the scenery and have a whiff of fresh air. Ahh, but times have changed.


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