Saturday, March 6, 2010

Congratulations, Baguio!

(article published in Cordillera Today last March 1, 2010)

By the time this sees print, the infamous concrete pine tree at the top of Session Road would have been felled already. The reactions we’ve heard so far were mostly praises, although there are still a few who actually continue to defend it and its creator. So what’s the big deal about the damned tree that made that has continually made it the topic of coffee shop and online talks, particularly during election time?

While on one side people are celebrating, on the other side they are trying to wash the hands of the root of that concrete monstrosity, some have even tried to direct the anger toward the current administration, even going as far as saying that it is them who are grandstanding, keeping it there to be used as political leverage in the coming elections. Maybe, maybe not, but while we do wonder why it took this long to finally rid the city of this blight, we must not forget the people who erected this monument to graft and corruption. We must remember that this concrete pine tree was just one, albeit the most prominent one being situated right at the top of the heart of the city, of a string of questionable “concretization” projects in the past. We are not talking about chump change here, the concrete tree alone cost more than a million pesos to build (perhaps enough money to do some substantial rehabilitation work at the Athletic Bowl without the need for foreign investors).

Approve without thinking, spend the people’s money without shame. And why? Who in his right mind would erect a concrete pine tree in the land of pine trees? What were its proponents thinking? Wasn’t there even one person in that circle who could’ve raised the alarm and said, “sir, that’s a stupid idea.” And in a city once famous for its natural beauty, who in his right mind would build something that is fake, a pathetic, ugly, repulsive imitation of a beautiful thing? Really, would anyone put up fake snow in Aspen or Styrofoam pyramids in Giza?
The concrete pine tree was the perfect epitome of a rotten political system – hard-earned taxpayers’ money being spent on something ugly, illogical, totally unnecessary, just so someone can satisfy his megalomaniacal tendencies. What a waste.

One actually cried foul over its demolition saying that getting rid of it is such a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. No sir, keeping it there and not doing anything about it just reminds us of how acquiescent we have become that our elected officials can commit such dastardly acts with impunity knowing that they can get away with it.

The money was already wasted when they built that thing, keeping it there is almost like a declaration that we don’t mind that the people’s money is wasted on useless pieces of (s)crap.
Now, an installation using river stones will be put in its place, the creation of local artist, Gilbert Gano, in collaboration with a group of architects and engineers. An artwork that aims to remind us of the historical significance of Session Road, and perhaps of the city’s entire glorious history. Now, that one makes sense. Knowing where this city came from and how it got to where it is now, perhaps we will be more vigilant in the future and never allow a concrete pine tree to be erected in Baguio ever again.

It’s a small step towards the right direction, a small one, yes, but a step forward nonetheless. And for that, congratulations, Baguio!

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