Saturday, January 23, 2010

Have cane, will go places

One step at the wrong time on the wrong spot, the earth beneath shifted and my left knee twisted too far towards one side, way farther than the ligament in there can handle – a sprain and no, I did not hear any sound that would indicate any dislocation.

The twisting itself wasn’t that painful, but I knew that whatever movement I make thereafter would be, so there I was halfway up the knoll behind the house that I was cleaning up the morning after Christmas, frozen. I ventured a small movement, and the pain was almost unbearable.

Naipitan ng ugat, a friend ventured that evening. He said it may have to be “snapped back into place,” and I almost fainted when he tried to do just that. No more snapping of anything back into place.

I reached for a wooden walking cane that was once used as a prop by an 80-something character in a play years ago. And for the next few days, the cane I went places.

At the mall, I got to park the car (thank God for automatic transmission, I could still drive) at the space reserved for the differently-abled, which meant a shorter walk from the car to the entrance. Nice.

Limping and walking with a cane, the security guard at the mall entrance for once didn’t think I’m up to no good and waived the S.O.P. of frisking me and poking inside my bag with a wooden stick. Nice. The limping even merited a rare bow and smile from him. Nicer, and odd.

The next day, again at the mall but this time without the car, I fell in line for a cab, and the guard offered to put me ahead of the twenty or so people in front of me. Cool, but I declined.

Day two, I thought the sight of the cane would afford me some consideration from motorists going down Session Road. Besides, cane or no cane, motorists are required to go to a full stop at pedestrian crossings. No luck. It’s still a game of patintero. If only that cab that just sped inches from me was going any slower, I could’ve used the cane to smack a window or a taillight.

No, it’s not gout (not yet, anyway), I told the familiar faces in Luisa’s. Really, it’s a sprain. That same evening, next door in Rumours, I again had to disappoint familiar faces… it’s not gout and neither is it arthritis. Yeah, sure, whatever, one replied (the place isn't called Rumours for nothing, you know).

A week or so since that fateful and painful morning, I’m wearing a knee brace, the knee’s getting better, no more swelling and pain has subsided and we’re at the beach. The next morning, I woke up my son for a pre-sunrise walk along the shoreline of Canaoay, San Fernando, La Union. Not paying much attention to the sand underneath my feet (we were totally amused by the ongoing power play between two rival gangs of dogs both trying to protect their respective turfs), that injured leg fell into a hole in the sand which made me want to bite a chunk of flesh off my arm. But some five minutes later, the knee actually started feeling much better. Cool, maybe that “snapped some misplaced thing back into place.”

Later that day, I even went for a short swim and the knee did just fine.

Back in Baguio, I was back in the garden. And for an instant, to pick up a potted plant, I totally forgot about the injury and knelt down, putting all my weight on what turned out to be an un-completely healed left knee. The pain was back. And now the wife’s on my back – go see a doctor!

I did the next day. He bent it this way, that way, sideways, and yes, it’s a sprain, and it’s quite bad. A torn medial collateral ligament with grade 2 symptoms. A 5-day therapy was prescribed.

First day, four electronic thingamajigs were attached around the damned knee – twenty minutes of electrocution (that’s how it felt anyway). Then twenty minutes of ultrasound treatment followed by a 10-minute massage. On the third day, some stretching exercises were added to the regimen. On the 5th day the therapist rested.

I saw the doctor again on the 6th. Though its condition improved a lot, he prescribed another five days of sessions with the hospital’s lone physical therapist. Doing what this time? The doctor said he’ll forward his recommended treatment to the therapist himself.

The next day, the therapist was surprised to see me. The doctor told me to go for five more. Did he tell you what exactly we’re supposed to do? , she asked. No, I thought he’d tell you that himself. So we did what we did last week. What exactly does that electronic thingamajig does? Relieve pain (but it wasn’t painful anymore). How about the ultrasound thingy? It’s a notch or two better than just a hot compress, it speeds up the healing process. So a hot compress would do. And I can do these same exercises at home. And my wife, who just bought me a nice new cane (the handle of the other one cracked, I need to lose some weight), can do that same massage you’re doing (even better).

The therapist reminded me to keep on using my cane even if I could already support myself on that injured knee, just to make me not forget that the knee wasn’t completely well yet.

Better parking, a smile and a nod, and I can get ahead of the line, so – sure, my pleasure. I paid the second week’s first session and went straight to the market to buy new plants for the garden.

Gout? The person manning the store where I buy pots asked when he saw me limping. Nah, I just really like this cane.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Memorandum and Scare Tactics (in stereo)

The first photo (the skating rink taken from, well, SM) was taken a few years ago, and the second one just a few months ago. Development?

On the one hand, the controversial Memorandum of Agreement is being downplayed as nothing more than an understanding between two parties, the City Government and the development proponents, to pursue and study the possibility of developing the Athletic Bowl. When the MOA was brought to the attention of the public via online status updates and blog entries, we saw how quickly our “honorables,” not unlike Pilate, washed their hands. One “honorable” declared that the whole thing was suspect and did not follow the proper process – of course he didn’t now this when he signed the endorsement and there was still no public opposition to it. Another “honorable” lucky enough to be absent when the MOA was deliberated upon by the City Council and who has done nothing significant at all for Burnham Park in the last two terms suddenly positioned herself as the “only one taking a valiant stand” against this controversial MOA. Bull. There’s a fine line between taking a “valiant stand” and positioning and scoring PR points. It’s election time, after all. (And in case you haven’t noticed, I always place the word “honorable” in quotation marks).

On the other hand, you have the opposition, some of whom are themselves guilty of twisting facts to suit their own agenda. We don’t need to resort to that, really. The fact that there was an attempt to railroad a development project is enough reason to protest. The fact that it was allegedly endorsed by the City Council in record time is enough reason to create some noise. News reports and op-ed pieces condemning the deal and purposely omitting some of the city government's clarifications on the issue were praised to high heavens, but when the issue was reported by another local daily, howls of protests were heard online calling that paper’s, which happen to be partly owned by the mayor’s father, reporting biased. I read the news report in question and found out that it presented the same facts as what the other papers did, except that equal space was given to both sides of the argument.

Let me reiterate and go on record first: I am against the development of the Athletic Bowl, or Burnham Park as a whole, into something that it is not. The Athletic Bowl is a sports facility. A hotel and commercial complex have no place there. And we don’t need another golf course in this city. Daniel Burnham reserved that largest piece of level-land in Baguio for the masses, and to serve as the lungs of the then future city. Let’s keep it that way. Or develop it that way. I jog there, once or twice a week. My children play there, at least thrice a week. I will do whatever I can to help keep it that way. Or develop it that way.

For while you would want to keep it the way it is, the sight last week of Baguio’s young athletes doing the hundred meter dash barefoot was heartbreaking. When I asked a couple of teachers who were supervising that morning’s competitions about it, I was told that while it‘s true that some of the city’s athletes cannot afford to buy a decent pair of running shoes, others decide to do away with shoes during competition for one’s bare soles provide better traction on the track’s dirt surface. No question about it, the place needs to be rehabilitated.

The good thing about the whole Athletic Bowl brouhaha is that it brought to the fore the current state of our city’s main park. The discussions online have spilled over the perimeter of the Athletic Bowl to the now privatized skating rink to the ongoing fencing project. But the sad thing is that facts are being twisted, blown out of proportion and purposely taken out of context by both sides.

“Are you scared? Are you very scared? Well, you shouldn’t be, because you’re on Scare Tactics!” So goes the line from a reality television show where they create make-believe scenarios to scare “victims” usually set up by a friend, a relative or a colleague.

I turn off the television and go online and there it is: Scare Tactics, in stereo.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Misdirected Initiative of Energetic Lumbermen

The news was certainly enough to make your blood boil: the Baguio Athletic Bowl being rented out for a measly 100k a month to a Korean investor who will put up, as alleged in several blog entries, among other things, the following in the area: a commercial complex, a hotel and a golf course.

I wanted to get it straight from the horse’s mouth, so I made it a point to attend the next morning’s “Ugnayan” with the City Mayor. The mayor began the morning's session with an update of what has happened in the last days of 2009 and the first few days of the New Year, and towards the end he attempted to shed light on the Baguio Athletic Bowl issue.

There is a proposal to develop the Baguio Athletic Bowl, he said, and yes, the main proponent is a Korean national. And yes, the proposal is for a 25-year lease. And although halfway though the press con I was already lost in semantics and drowning in government-ese, what I understood from the Mayor’s statements was that the MOA that was signed between him and the proponents was only meant to get the ball rolling, pursue/study the proposal, which he said was only the first step (Grade One) in getting anything done at all.

And as to the details of the proposed development, there is simply none yet, but he did venture some conjectures as to the alleged chismis spreading like wildfire in various online forums.

The proposed rehabilitation and development of the Baguio Atheltic Bowl, he added, which has been in existence for years now but never implemented because of lack of funds and certain administrative issues, has always included: a dormitory for athletes to be located below the bleachers (and that, he said, was blown out of proportion, hence the rumors about a hotel); a driving range (a golf course?) and coffee shops / snack bars / shops that will service the the athletes/users of the facility (a commercial complex).

He thanked everyone for coming to that morning’s forum to get the “real picture” and not rely only on “online chismis” in online social networking sites.

But, chismis or not, the good thing is that the heated discussions on, and various blogs reminded the powers-that-be that they are being closely watched and that the people of Baguio have become much more vigilant.

For me, though, another issue here is that word, "development," and it scares me. As I have said in the past, Baguio's raison d'ĂȘtre is its natural beauty. Anything, as in ANYTHING, you add to, erect, build in Baguio will definitely take away from that natural beauty - whether it's a mere house (no matter how beautiful that house is, it would still scar the land), or a ridiculously huge mall (bye, bye beautiful skyline). Take away as little possible from that natural beauty, I say. Less, in Baguio, is definitely a lot more.

And that's why the word scares me, because in Baguio, development means building "something", and given the track record of our city officials, that could be anything from a totaly unnecessary flyover or a horrendous concrete pine tree. Or a "shed" over a park. The list goes on.

The development of the Baguio Athletic Bowl should be limited to its main function - a center for athletic events. Improve the oval, maybe, rehablitate the bleachers, beautify the surroundings, but its development must not go beyond improving it as a sports facility.

And, seriously, another golf course? For a small city like Baguio, we have too many of that already.

Daniel Burnham was right when he said:

“Unless early protective measures are taken,
the misdirected initiative of energetic lumbermen
will soon cause the destruction of this beautiful scenery.”

As of yesterday, the update on the issue was that the Korean proponents were scared off by the fast growing opposition to their proposal. So for now, those online status updates, blog entries and other online forums serve well as early protective measures, or perhaps as early warning devices.

Let’s keep our eyes open.