Monday, June 24, 2013

Free Burnham

The Americans at the turn of the century decided that indeed, Kafagway was the perfect site of for a hill station. After making progress in the construction of the Benguet Road (now known as Kennon Road), they turned their attention to city planning. The search for Baguio’s city planner was on…

Their first choice was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., a landscape architect known for his wildlife preservation efforts. But Olsmted begged off, and two other options surfaced: Charles McKim and Daniel Burnham, both advocates of the City Beautiful Movement.

The City Beautiful Movement was an urban planning and architecture philosophy that flourished in the late 1800’s. The advocates of this philosophy championed beauty not only for beauty’s sake but, “but also to create moral and civic virtue among urban populations.” (Wikipedia, City Beautiful Movement)

That was the primary principle that guided Daniel Burnham, the architect eventually chosen by the American colonial government in the Philippines and was given a formal offer to create “The Plan of Baguio” on May 27, 1904, when he proceeded to draft his vision for the then future city that we now call the City of Pines – Baguio City.

In December of that year, the nearly 60 year-old Burnham arrived in Kafagway and spent nine days on horseback and on foot surveying the site of the future city. In October of the following year, he submitted the blueprint for the future city to then Secretary of War, William H. Taft. The plan took into consideration the future city’s various functions: the official Summer Capital of the Philippines (included in the plan along with various government buildings for the municipal government were structures for the national government when they made the city the official seat of the colonial government during the summer months), a major health resort (the original sanitarium built on Luneta Hill was moved to the present-day site of the Baguio General Hospital to accommodate a much bigger structure), a regional market center and a recreational hub (hence, the numerous sites for parks in various areas of Baguio).

Minac was the biggest piece of level land in the site but instead of ruining that prized piece of real estate with structures, he reserved it for a huge public park and placed the central business district next to it and the buildings for the municipal and national governments on opposite poles. That park is what we now know and have come to love as Burnham Park. That piece of level land, Minac, is what we now know as the Melvin Jones Football Grounds.

Putting gates around it would run contrary to its very essence as a park. Concreting portions of it would be contrary to Burnham’s vision for it as a haven for nature. Privatizing portions of it would be contrary to the basic principle that govern properties of the public domain - they must be beyond the commerce of man.

On June 30, 2013 at 8:00am, we invite you to join us at the Melvin Jones Football Grounds – bring your picnic baskets and mats, old photos of yourself as a child in Burnham Park, your bikes and Frisbees and soccer balls and kites, for a get together that we hope can show our leaders what Burnham Park means to us today, to our heritage, and to our future. Let’s free Burnham from concretization, commercialization and a misdirected sense of development.

Sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/ph/mga-petisyon/mayor-domogan-and-the-baguio-city-council-keep-burnham-park-green-open-and-beyond-the-commerce-of-man

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