Baguio of my youth
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2020 - 12:00am

Amidst the problems we are now currently facing with Mother Nature, I am glad to know that the government is seriously looking into conservation and sustainability when it comes to other cities and places in the Philippines. After all, as we struggle to navigate what happened with Taal and what it means for the future of Tagaytay, it’s time we stop ignoring that there are other areas in the Philippines that are desperately in need of help too.

One of our biggest problems is that, on the whole, we are far more reactionary than we are preventive. We always have to wait for something major to happen or something bad to happen before we take action. And sometimes, like this time, it’s just too late. We end up trying to salvage what’s left instead of working on preserving what’s there.

So I’m glad to learn that the government is taking a proactive approach in conserving another beautiful city in the country – Baguio. Baguio is the summer capital and one of the favorite tourist destinations of so many and over the years we have seen it grow and change quite rapidly. More and more people are flocking to the City of Pines and the city is being made to groan under the pressure of so many people and not enough infrastructure. At least we are taking notice before it’s too late.

Similar things happened to Boracay. The more popular the island became, the more and more things opened up, tourists arrived, pollution mounted, and then it passed a point that the government felt the need to shut down the entire island just to be able to help rehabilitate it and bring it back to life. We tend to do that, in general. When something is going good Filipinos tend to push it to the limit until it snaps.

We’ve all seen how Baguio has changed throughout the years. What started as a simple summer destination has grown immensely. It now houses big businesses, large resorts, big chain malls, and so much more. So many trees have been cut down to make way for all of this urbanization and a lot of the old Baguio charm has been lost to make way for new and modern things.

While creating new things and boosting tourism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, this must be tempered with sound judgment and not going too far. It’s good that Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat announced the rehabilitation of Baguio with the concerned stakeholders. This is attuned to the government’s thrust on sustainable tourism and is an important step forward in making sure that Baguio can be enjoyed for generations to come.

This statement comes on the heels of the committed P480-million Burnham Park improvement project of the Department of Tourism (DOT). This is most likely going to be the first step in a longer sustainability campaign as it is the most doable and easy to achieve. The next steps would take place over the next 15 years and would be carefully mapped out by Baguio stakeholders. The national government’s backing rehabilitation efforts will focus on promoting people’s interests, promoting sustainability, creating necessary and enforceable environmental laws, and never violating human rights.

I look forward to seeing how they are going to preserve what’s left of Baguio’s beautiful history. It’s not without history of major natural disasters so hopefully that is also taken into consideration. I still remember going there with my parents and my family in my youth and even with my own family as an adult. I know that we are never going to be able to go back to how Baguio was then, but hopefully, we can preserve it better for future generations.

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Relief efforts are still ongoing for Taal victims and the evacuees from nearby areas and cities. Rehabilitation is still a far-flung thought because as of now we still don’t know what is going to happen. Taal remains at Alert Level 4 and I hope that people aren’t thinking of going back to their homes despite what the local government might say. The volcano is still very active and we have to think of safety first.

So now we focus on helping those displaced by this natural disaster and help them look for a way forward. This means people, animals, and businesses. There are so many ways to help – you can make monetary donations to several organizations or you can collect donations and drop them off at various drop-off points throughout the city.

Immediate needs include blankets, face masks, clothes, easy-to-eat food like canned goods and biscuits, clean drinking water, medication, and basic toiletries like toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and sanitary products, among others. It warms my heart to see so many stepping up to help. We’re all in this together and we should try to help as best we can.

If you want to help there are so many ways to do so. Stores like Landers and SM have offered their shops as drop off points to consolidate donations, Red Cross, major corporations, and organizations like the Philippine Animal Welfare Society have ongoing operations that need your help. You can also follow #ReliefPH for a list of organizations you might want to partner up with.

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