After quite a time, we were able to work out-of-town again. For the sake of
covering Pres. Aquino’s Liberal Party convention for its new members in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), we set out to Baguio Sunday afternoon.
It’s still the same old place I’ve visited for almost two years ago. Crickets crooned at us when we got at Kennon Road. The crisp cold, pine-scented air dawned upon the atmosphere in the evening. The places near the city proper lay as ever quiet and serene once the stars took over the sky. Even though the media people seemed to be the only ones awake in the town, we kept ourselves almost quiet and low.
I can’t help but observe the place. The pine trees, almost shabby and thin, loomed almost everywhere. But I couldn’t forget my mother’s remarks that these are fewer today compared to her visit 40 years ago. Oh yes, four decades much. She was a young teacher in training at Teacher’s Camp then. To me, the place was far too serene than my world. Not unless you see how much of it has been exploited through commercialism.
For a long time, Baguio has been called the “Summer Capital of the Philippines”.
Even in the summer, the air is much colder than Manila. I can vouch with all my heart that I have to shower in ice-cold water if I don’t put on the heater and most of the residents walked around in jackets despite of being in the sun. Because of it’s romantically inclined atmosphere and cool weather, it has been a target of tourists every year. But now, most of these tourists have invaded this place.
My friend from Baguio would tell me how Korean schools thrived like mushrooms in the city. Deep inside my heart, I applaud her and her contemporaries for speaking good English that she had to be willing to teach foreigners. But with this spring of foreign presence comes a spring of commercialization. Who will never forget that horrible earth-balling in a popular mall in Baguio? That same old friend was one of those who protest against it because they were destroying the environment. They did not ask for it to be changed. They were already happy with the view it gives on its rooftop and its open-aired closure. I was supposing these entrepreneurs thought they would be able to gain more by making a major change in the environment. They were not careful about it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against foreign presence. Like most Pinoys, I’d love
to welcome them as friends. Yet it seems that a lot of entrepreneurs thought of gaining much by changing the place a lot. What they did not know was that the natural beauty of the place was already enough to keep them coming in. But for the sake of selling, they opt to market the place through residences, commercialism, and infrastructure. In order to please a lot of customers, all they need is resources. Commercialism is not evil. But focusing on the wrong strategies can destroy much. Yet, as I observe, this results to cutting of more trees and quarrying of more land just to fill up spaces.
While going back home, I noticed that a part of one of its mountains was being quarried. It looked like a chocolate-covered custard pudding scraped from top to bottom. I can never forget another part of Baguio being quarried; worst than the one we passed by. My friend brought me to this beautiful memorial park built on the side of the mountain in another part of Baguio. Everything around it was an awesome sight, save for the mountain on the opposite side that had a huge chunk of it scraped down, right in the middle. She was as disappointed as I was. It’s a scary sight especially that rains pour regularly in Baguio. Much of the trees were lost.
Commercialization and industrialization through infrastructure can bring a lot of investments in…but focusing too much on it comes with a painful price. Infrastructure is temporal, one work can deteriorate and be out-moded by another. But nature itself can thrive along…unless abused and destroyed. By taking pride in these infrastructures, it won’t last long. We can change a place and shift to another if our changes over it does not last anymore. But to restore a place’s natural beauty, it would take years of genuine compassion and patience – something that we don’t have when we meet the deadlines and financial quota of commercialism.
I just hope that Baguio won’t go worst when I return. If I don’t hear those crickets or smell that pine-scented air, I’d be really disappointed. So will my friends and those who have basked in its deeper beauty long before than I did. Once we lost its beauty, we’d loose more than tourism and money – we’d loose a heritage and probably our lives as we are intertwined with God’s gift of nature.