Wednesday, June 07, 2006

baguio in flux

balanced rock formation. a "new" addition to the botanical garden

baguio holds fond memories for me. i forged enduring friendships and even met my partner in this city that has been known as the summer capital of the philippines. i remember it offered me solace back then and even a desire to make it a second home. i have made several trips to baguio in the last decade. most of them much-needed breaks and treats for loved ones who were first-timers. each trip came with excitement and anticipation, like visiting an old friend. curious as to how time has changed it, wondering if the favored places still held their unique charm.

but through the years what once was a threat of massive development and commercialization has now become a bitter reality for the city of pines. a landscape that early on unravelled rolling mountains covered with lush greenery are now either badly deforested or littered with colored rooftops. traffic along the major thoroughfares worsened. establishments from manila slowly creeped and now opened outlets in the city. top of this is the sm mall operating since november 2003.

and the ukay-ukay stores, the haven of the bargain hunting fashionista, now holds fixed prices. this, i lament the most.

but despite all these, some good things remain. session road still transforms into an eclectic mix of artists, bargain hunters, and a host of other characters wanting a taste of baguio's nightlife. although recently, a 2 a.m. curfew on bars and liquor stores is sure to dampen the spirits of baguio's nocturnal lot.

a most reassuring thing, is tam-awan village, set up by national artist bencab and other baguio artists along a hillside near bokawkan road. entering this artists' village is like going through a portal of baguio past. it is also surprisingly cooler owing to its dense foliage. authentic ifugao huts were installed in different areas of the hillside, treating visitors to climbs along steep pathways to reach each hut, quite reminiscent of exploring the town of sagada. it almost felt like you weren't in baguio but further up in the cordillera region.

as for the usual tourist destinations - the parks - to me, have lost most of their appeal. if anything, they have become painful reminders of a deteriorating baguio, lost to the onslaught of human settlement and development.


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