The whole night we talked about nothing else but Baguio. Our newfound friend was Baguio-born and -raised, and in the last three decades since he left the city, he has only visited Baguio thrice.
I myself have been living here for 15 years, but as a child has been a regular visitor to this haven nestled up in the mountains of the Cordilleras. Talking about Baguio, sitting at the table by the sidewalk in Rumours on Session Road, as expected the conversation turned into a nostalgia trip for from where were sitting, we could get a vivid moving picture of what the city has become - a hundred and one years since Dean C. Worcester and Luke E. Wright informed the US Philippine Commission that yes, this rancherria was indeed the perfect site for a hill station.
We asked him, why do you keep coming back? He said, despite all the negativities being said about Baguio, there is still something about Baguio that makes one keep coming back. Or something like that.
He asked, after hearing about our adventures and misadventures, successes and disappointments in the past 15 years, why are you still here? I ended saying the same thing. And I add, my relationship with this city has become some kind of a marriage – for better or for worse. Perhaps, even ‘til death do us part.
Not so long ago, Baguio had fewer people, but we had more friends. One thing a lot of Baguio folks miss is walking down Session Road and surely bumping into someone you knew, for these days one can spend a whole day there surrounded only by strangers – strangers whom you see carelessly throwing a plastic cup, or a cigarette butt, or spitting just about anywhere. What do they care? They have no history with the city, and they have no idea about the history of this city.
That’s probably why we also can’t blame the seemingly prevailing xenophobia among the Baguio citizenry – a true Baguioite would do no harm to this beautiful city. There’s this thing that has been going around on the internet that lists the reasons that make one a true “taga-Baguio.”
Well, you’re “taga-Baguio” because you know that the people in Baguio are courteous, and that’s why you won’t drive around town like a maniac; that’s why you would stop at a pedestrian lane; that’s why you would let a car coming uphill pass. You know that this city was once the cleanest and greenest city in the country, that’s why you won’t dirty it, you won’t desecrate its beautiful surroundings, that’s why you won’t build anything that would scar the land, that’s why you won’t indiscriminately cut down trees. You know that Baguio was founded in this place particularly exactly because of its natural beauty, and so you know that if you are here you have to live your life in harmony with that natural beauty. You know that Baguio was a health resort, and that’s why you’ll do anything to keep its natural environment healthy; you will make sure that you won’t add to the already worsening air, water, land, noise and yes, moral, pollution.
And because you’re “taga-Baguio,” through thick and thin, through good and bad weather, through world wars and earthquakes and devastating storms… amidst criticisms and so-called “uglifications”… you’ll stand by Baguio, you won’t go out there to slander her, you’ll do something to make things better.
And that’s probably why that after 30 years, our newfound friend plans to return to the city of his birth. And that’s why we’re still here.
And Baguio will surely hurdle all these obstacles today – because its people won’t have it any other way.