Saturday, November 3, 2012

We'll be watching

Photo by Leon Karlos Altomonte

Getting the permit for the event wasn’t a walk in the park, it was as if nobody in City Hall wanted to have any part with it. “I’ll Be Watching You,” as we decided to call the event, borrowing from a line from one of Sting’s more famous songs, was going to be a concert of sorts that would celebrate Baguio’s natural beauty and environment. But with the current environmental issue involving the city’s biggest commercial center, Luneta Hill and the 182 trees there (now down to 133), we knew that we couldn’t keep the concert from taking on the character of a protest action, so we decided to mention in our request for a permit to hold the event at the Igorot Park that it was gong to be a rally.

As with all our previous rally permits, we went to the City Administrator’s office. After being informed that the “rally” will be stationary, the office informed us that there’s no need for a “rally permit” and we were directed to request for permission for the use of the park directly from the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO). There we were told to go to their Burnham Park office, where we were told to go back to CEPMO. We drafted a new letter addressed to the head of CEPMO detailing our predicament. When we went back to follow up on our request a few days later, we were told that we should have applied for a permit with the City Administrator’s office. With only a couple of days before the event, we were back to square one.

Photo by Leon Karlos Altomonte

Photo by Leon Karlos Altomonte

But thanks to the accommodating personnel at the CEPMO and the Office of the City Mayor, we did eventually get our permit, and at noon of November 1, 2012, we hauled our musical instruments and sound equipment to the Igorot Park and started setting up for the concert scheduled at 4:00pm.

We knew that people would be asking what the concert was all about, so we prepared flyers to be handed out. In a couple of weeks, after marathon hearings that started in July and ended last October 5, the court will decide whether an expansion project that will cause the removal of decades-old trees on a hill should be allowed or not. The case was filed by concerned citizens and organizations with the sole intention of saving the lives of 182 trees which have been condemned for being in the way of a parking building and commercial center.

Chris Donaal, lead counsel in the environmental case filed against SM City Baguio, performes with his band, Daluyon - Photo by Leon Karlos Altomonte

There weren’t thousands of people this time. No protest slogans. No confrontations with a phalanx of policemen protecting a monument to crass commercialism. That afternoon, there were songs and poetry for and in behalf of those trees which cannot defend themselves from one artificial person’s desire for more money. And with international artist, Sting, supporting our cause, and the proud Igorot warriors standing tall behind us, we know we are not alone in this struggle.

Photo by Leon Karlos Altomonte

The concert ended as peacefully as it started. It was a wonderful experience, and we’d like to do it again, and again… and again.

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