Top Ten (continuation)
(OUT IN THE OPEN - Cordillera Today, Aug. 9, 2009)
Eusebius Halsema – appointed mayor of Baguio City in 1920, it was under Halsema’s administration that Baguio seem to have gone into overdrive: the city was among the first to use the then cutting-edge technology sodium vapor lamps for its street lights; Halsema oversaw the improvement of the city’s roads – 11 kilometers of asphalted city streets, and the construction of 3 hydro-electric plants. The Loakan airport opened during his time fueling the further growth of the area’s booming mining industry. While mainland America went into depression, Baguio enjoyed a healthy economy, and yet, despite all the industrial and commercial activity in Baguio at the time, everything seemed to have been done without wreaking havoc on the environment. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it here again: the city’s pioneering administrators created a modern city that is harmony with its natural environment – if only Baguio’s succeeding administrators followed their lead.
Given the option to evacuate during the second World War, Halsema chose to stay in the city he loved and worked hard for, and during the carpet bombing of the city during the liberation, Eusebius Halsema was among the thousands of casualties.
The Pioneers in the academe – there’s Fernando G. Bautista, now known as the founder of Baguio Tech. which later became the University of Baguio. Perhaps unknown to some, Tatay, as Fernando was called by almost everyone who knew him, was also instrumental in the setting up of Baguio Colleges, St. Louis University, the Baguio Patriotic School and the Baguio Military Academy. And then there’s also Benjamin Salvosa, one of the founders of Baguio Colleges Foundation, now known as the University of the Cordilleras. These two, who have now been honored with adjacent streets named after them (the streets flanking the Rizal Park), and all those who followed in their footsteps and set up academic institutions in the city, gave Baguio another reason to be famous for: as the Academic Capital of the North.
The Artists – debatable, perhaps, often unacknowledged, yes, but I must say the artists who have chosen Baguio as their home, together with those who were actually born and raised in the city, have helped give Baguio its very distinct character. From the time of Victor Oteyza to Santiago Bose to Bencab to all those young artists who continue to create masterpieces in and about Baguio. In the early 90’s, Baguio Arts Guild’s series of international arts festivals were among the most sought after and renowned arts event in the country drawing audiences and participants from all over country and the whole world. Our politicians may continue to ignore them, too bad, but dear honorables, it’s about time that you realize that arts and culture give our city its soul.
The tourists – Our city would not have gone this far if not for the steady flow of tourists who visit our beloved Baguio. From the first patients who braved the Naguillian trail in the early 1900’s to recuperate in the small sanitarium on top of a hill where a mall and bus stations now stand, to today’s visitors in SUVs and buses who patronize all that our city has to offer, or has left to offer, Baguio has always been, and still is, a tourism-driven economy. Let’s stop trying to make Baguio what it’s not, and instead reinforce what it is: a rest and recreation center, first and foremost, and everything else should be built around that concept.
And finally, the community – its people, who have, for ten decades, overcome hurdles thrown its way: from the pull out of support from the national government in the early 1900’s, to the second World War, to the devastating 1990 earthquake, Baguio’s people stood their ground, held on to their beloved city.
In the coming weeks, the city will be flooded with centennial related events. Before my column gets drowned out by the din of the festivities, I would like to greet our city and its people: a meaningful 100th charter day to Baguio and may the next hundred years see the rebirth of Baguio as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.