Baguio, Tagaytay rehab needed

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After President Rodrigo Duterte’s bold move to transform Boracay back to its clean old glory, Malacañang now hears a barrage of calls urging the president to rehabilitate Baguio and Tagaytay.

The President’s supporters want him to mend the Luzon’s summer places back to their old charm, both as classic tourist destinations.

Up to the end of the 1980s, Baguio was a charming and wonderful place to visit. The bite of the crisp, cool mountain air and the endearing scent of pine trees could not be ignored.

Everything about the city was quaint, as seen in its pension houses and cozy restaurants.

Baguio during the months of December to February was pleasantly cold while the city in summer was cool and comfortable.

Water was always a problem but it was a manageable problem. Enterprising businessmen made supply of water enough for everyone at least most of the time.

Old Baguio was a university town. Students from Northern Luzon trooped to Baguio’s universities, attracted by the temperate climate which made studying less of a burden to many.

Baguio today is an old shadow of its original self. Although the climate in the city remains cool from December to February, it is actually warm during the other months, especially during summer. Many establishments along Session Road have air-conditioners today which was unthinkable in the 1980s.

Sadly, the scent of pine trees is no longer there, replaced by the exhaust belched by diesel jeepneys operating all over the heart of the city.

Vehicular traffic has become a serious problem in Baguio. The solution of the city government took the form of a flyover and an ordinance banning vehicles from city streets once a week.

Condominium projects have mushroomed all over Baguio, obliterating what used to be an unobstructed, continuous view of the mountain ranges around the city. Whatever mountains are still visible today are now covered by squatter colonies. Landslides continue to plague Kennon Road because of deforestation.

Only the old Camp John Hay military reservation and the Baguio Country Club still provide a semblance of the old Baguio climate.

Tagaytay is slowly heading towards the same dead end as Baguio is headed.

Before the turn of the new century, Tagaytay, the only city in the country that offers both a picturesque view of Taal Volcano and a cool climate almost comparable to Baguio, was a quiet, tranquil destination for those seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of Manila.

It distinguishes itself from Baguio by its relative proximity to the national capital region.

Tagaytay meant fresh air, bananas and jackfruit, fresh flowers, the picnic grove and a lodge for those who prefer to stay longer.

Today, there are too many condominium and resort construction projects which saturate the building density in the area. A gambling casino, a shopping mall and the proliferation of restaurants have added to the building destiny.

The ridge which used to allow an unobstructed view of Taal Volcano from the main road is now cluttered with commercial buildings that prevent sightseeing from a moving vehicle.

Diesel jeepneys and tricycles which belch thick smoke and which cause noise pollution are all over the main road. The market district of the city already looks like Quiapo.

To expect a complete overhaul of Baguio and Tagaytay in the same way as what happened in Boracay may be expecting the impossible because the Boracay tourist zone is smaller than Baguio or Tagaytay. Nonetheless, Baguio and Tagaytay are still worth saving, even gradually, by arresting the alarming increase in the building density in the area.

If the Philippines loses Baguio and Tagaytay to urban decay and social apathy, it loses two big chunks of its heritage. Perhaps Baguio and Tagaytay may be nearly impossible to save, but with President Duterte’s political will and his success in Boracay, there is still hope for both cities.

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