Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fostering a culture of caring - what do you care?

There is no other time more fitting, this is it: the perfect time to get the community, particularly the youth, interested in the history of our city.

No sir, ma’am, we don’t want your students to merely learn about and memorize dates like June 1, 1903 or Sept. 1, 1909 or December 7, 1941 or July 16, 1990. But we do want to let them know about how hard the Igorots fought for their independence that had the Spaniards declaring the people of the Cordilleras as the “most unconquerable of all the natives of this country.”

Roads named Cariño or Kennon or Bautista or Salvosa, or parks named Wright or Burnham, or barangays named Tabora or Forbes, aren’t enough if the we don’t know the story behind those names and their significance in our city’s history – Malcolm is not merely a small park where one can have his shoes shined, we must know that it was named after George who wrote a charter envisioning a city free from petty politics.

Mateo Cariño isn’t just some guy in a g-string, he is some guy in a g-string who filed a case against the most powerful nation in its highest court, and won, and whose case has become the basis for defending the rights of indigenous peoples all over the world.

We don’t want our children growing up thinking that Halsema is just a landslide-prone highland highway, we want them to know that Eusebius was the mayor who brought about a fully-developed city that’s in harmony with its natural environment.

Sir, ma’am, we do understand that in the classroom, your students must learn about how Magellan lost his way in the Pacific and accidentally found himself in Mactan. True, we must all read the Noli and the Fili, know what games little Pepe played as a child, when and why a bunch of natives gathered one night to tear their cedulas, what the Treaty of Paris meant, what McArthur promised and who really shot Ninoy on that tarmac.

But, see, sir, ma’am, whenever your students practice juggling bottles to learn about what your institutions believe is an integral part of learning about hotel and restaurant management, they end up leaving broken pieces of glass all over the Melvin Jones grounds unmindful of the dangers it poses to the children who play there. And perhaps they wouldn’t be as uncaring if they knew that Minac, as the area was once known, is the largest piece of level land in Baguio that one Daniel Burnham thought was best left as it is for the enjoyment of the masses. Your weekend NSTP sorties where you have your students pick up litter in Burnham Park are an empty undertaking if on other days these same students go around town spray painting walls and gates with graffiti.

We understand that majority of your students are out-of-towners, they are not from Baguio, but perhaps it is precisely because of this that they should be educated about the city’s culture, its history, and maybe they will start caring more about Baguio. Isn’t that what we all agreed to advocate in our city’s centennial year – fostering a culture of caring?

Hearing you say that “Baguio’s history is irrelevant to the students’ education” is appalling. But not surprising. Because looking at what has become of what was once the one of the most beautiful hill stations in Asia, we can say that since there are people who live and make their living off Baguio who think that learning about the city’s history is irrelevant, we now know why the city is reeking and covered with mounds of garbage – because these same people don’t really care about Baguio.

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