Saturday, September 18, 2010

Haunted Tree

If only the rest of Baguio’s pine trees were like the concrete one that once proudly stood at the top of Baguio’s most popular thoroughfare, insulting people’s sensibilities for years. Why? Nothing can kill it. It never dies. Not even with sledge and jack hammers and wrecking balls. As the song says, “they stab it with their steely knives but they just can’t kill the beast.”

Due process is what it’s all about, said city’s father during a press conference -- that thing was government property, and you don’t just get rid of it without going through the proper process. I’m sure they can show proof that the construction of the concrete pine tree actually went though “due process,” But I doubt if it can be said though that it went through some thought process. He lambasted the people behind the stone installation that replaced their beloved “monument to corruption,” as another former Mayor called it, for not coming out in the open to take credit for putting it up. He even said that perhaps ghosts put those up. One day the concrete pine tree was there, gone the next, replaced by something the good janitor says he doesn’t even know represents what.

Just for the record, the days after the concrete pine tree was replaced, the news was all over local media. Local cable TV hosts and their guests alternately praised and ridiculed it, so did columnists and radio commentators, and it was all over the local papers. It wasn’t ghosts that did it, it was “designed and executed by a group of volunteer architects and engineers headed by Architect Elvis Palicdon, local sculptor Gilbert Gano and other Baguio residents who contributed to this effort by lending a hand, sharing their thoughts and donating in kind whatever they could to help make this project a success,” according to a news report. The same press releases also said that “The stone pillars symbolized the eight commissioners of the 2nd Philippine Commission that held its sessions in 1904.” So unless our government officials don’t read the papers, or watch TV, or listen to the radio, I doubt if they really don’t know how the installation came to be. But then again, maybe they only watch, read or listen to what they want to see or hear.

As to which is “better,” the concrete pine tree that had a sign that said “plant me, protect me,” or Gano’s installation-art piece, it's a matter of taste, I guess. The only way to find out how the community really feels about it is to hold a plebiscite. We don’t want to go that far. But as to the artistic value of the art work, perhaps the artist should have spoon-fed his audience by actually making life-size realistic representations of the commissioners, ala Madam Tussauds’, then they wouldn’t have to use thought process and their imagination to appreciate the work – there’s evidence that those two do not flow abundantly inside that building filled with people who call themselves honorable. 

There are so many talking points about this issue that I don’t know where to begin – but allow me to focus on one: how it amazes me to see elected officials passionately defending that concrete pine tree, while real trees do not get the same amount of concern from these same people, some of whom even caused the demise of living, air-cleansing, life-sustaining trees. While we’re still talking about the demise of their beloved concrete tree, these are yesterday’s news, forgotten, hardly talked about:

-          Pine trees felled to make way for an unnecessary flyover
-          Pine trees murdered to make way for log cabins (built using “imported logs” – ahhh, the irony)
-          Government allows the “transplantation” of around 400 trees to accommodate the expansion of an industrial site, knowing that the last time a mass relocation of trees was done in the city, it only had a 15% success rate, meaning that potentially around 340 of those trees will die

Now why can’t some of our elected officials show the same concern for these trees as they do for that damned concrete pine tree?

Or maybe it’s not the famous tree in Loakan that’s really haunted, it seems like the concrete pine tree harbored more ghosts than any other -- and it looks like it will continue to haunt us for a while longer.

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