Baguio, future tense

Published January 8, 2020, 12:00 AM

by Jullie Y. Daza


Some lucky people are planning an extended vacation in Baguio as the temperature is expected to drop further from the 11.4 C recorded last Saturday. The cool climate is for everyone, but sooner than later, the city will no longer be able to accommodate everyone unless they go up by foot or on their bikes, and only during the off season.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who dislodged two dynasties of mayors, owes it to himself and his people a 20-20 vision to plan a new City of Pines. By itself, that nickname is no longer valid. That other nickname, summer capital of the Philippines, will mean nothing when residents wake up to a rude awakening and ban vacationists from the lowlands who habitually, seasonally, as Holy Week follows Christmas and Christmas is followed by Panagbenga, turn their garden city into an eyesore.

Between 2019 and the start of 2020, six new hotels have sprung up or are about to join the vertical rise of hospitality. To restate the fact that you cannot stop development — not in our one and only Baguio — the Hyatt hotel property on South Drive which was devastated by the deadly earthquake of 1990 has been fenced off with signs announcing a construction project. Contractor Jose Aliling’s name is prominently displayed on the site, as with the “Pyramid” brand.

An SM Baguio security guard had the confidence to predict that soon there will be no more land to build on. On the last weekend of December 2019, Baguio Country Club’s information officer, Andrew Pinero (as in pines?) said 70,000 vehicles had entered Baguio in one day, Dec. 28. The city’s carrying capacity is 19,000.

Mayor Magalong told DZMM there’s just not enough space to enlarge Baguio the way we know it. And yet, the squatters who have taken over the hillsides and mountain slopes have found a way to live there permanently (and multiply). Looking for a template? Their technology should be studied and possibly copied while we wait for engineers and geologists to give the general-mayor who took down General Albayalde a blueprint to visualize a Baguio of the future…  a playground for our grandchildren to create their own cheerful, loving memories, the way we did.