Friday, May 10, 2013
Twilight in Baguio
Should I list down my choices in this year’s senatorial and local elections? No, I won’t. It’s not about who our choices are, it’s about how and why we arrived at them.
In 1995, I was in Baguio, not as a tourist nor as a young kid tagging along my mother in one of her frequent visits to artist friends in the City of Pines, but as an actor in a foreign film production being shot here. Our locations were Binga and Ambuklao Dams and the mountainsides somewhere in Marcos Highway in the general area where the viaduct is today.
At the end of one particular shooting day, I was with my co-actors on the side of Marcos Highway waiting for the van that would bring us back to our respective cottages at Camp John Hay. The fog cleared to reveal one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. The usually rowdy bunch of theatre actors were silenced by the heavenly spectacle. And as in a stage play’s closing scene, the fog started rolling in again just as the sun disappeared on the horizon.
The van arrived just as a gentle rain poured - twilight in Baguio became more surrealistic, magical when experience through a sheet of rain and wisps of fog. The scent of pine welcomed us in Camp John Hay and soon there I was all bundled up in a thick sweater and a bonnet, being warmed by a mug of freshly brewed Benguet coffee at the nearby Lone Star Steak House and I realized right there and then: this is where I want to spend most, if not the rest of my life.
Baguio City. In less than a year my wife and I moved here.
We did stage plays mostly at the Bulwagang Juan Luna of the U.P. Baguio, jammed with hand drums around a bonfire at Café by the Ruins, floated altars at the Burnham Lake every July 16 for those who perished during the earthquake of 1990, attended exhibit openings and went on impromptu picnics on hillsides along Loakan Road, read books lying on the grass at the Rose Garden. We took walks, lots and lots of long walks – in the rain, under the sun, picking up twigs and fallen branches along the way home to light up the fireplace in the evenings.
One day I heard about the impending turn-over of Camp John Hay to a private consortium posed to turn it into a “world-class” tourist destination – I attended the public hearings and rallies denouncing the plan. Soon after, the city woke up to find its streets surrendered to, again, a private firm that charged citizens P20.00 for parking along the road that are supposed to be “beyond the commerce of man” and those who refused to pay had their cars towed. I joined demonstrations against the then planned mall on a hill and casino at Mountain Breeze theatre in Camp John Hay. The people won some battles, lost some.
The war is still raging, 182 trees are being threatened on Luneta Hill by a greedy corporation, so are hundreds more by a realtor on Marcos Highway, people died and homes got buried under a garbage-slide and the people have been told over and over again that they, the ones in power, "can't do anything."
The war is still raging, with the people and a sustainable future on one side, and a corrupt political system that encourages corporate greed at the expense of the welfare of the people and the city itself on the other.
I know which side I’m on in this war – I’m on the side of picnics under the sun, long walks around town, the scent of pine, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and reading books while lying on the grass. A beautiful, progressive sustainable city in harmony with its natural environment – that is the key principle that guided me in choosing the city’s future leaders on election day, because I want to do all I can to pass on a Baguio that is as beautiful if not more so to my children and their children.