What tourists see in Baguio

By Atty. Antonio P. Pekas

“Well, I might be dreaming but I have that vision. Others could only think of boxy buildings but these guys have money. Never mind the vision, or any vision.”

When the main road to the city from Metro Manila was Kennon Road, you felt you have arrived right upon entering Benguet’s boundary with Rosario, La Union at Saitan, about a hundred meters from the toll gate. Kennon Road was almost free from fog compared to Marcos Highway where the visibility is almost zero at times even during daytime. You feel you have arrived only at that spot of Marcos Highway where you see the city’s lights at night.
Near the city, Marcos Highway can be as bad as EDSA which is virtually a parking lot many times of the day. A friend of mine arrived from Manila and it took them almost 2 hours to negotiate the last four kilometers up to the Baguio General Hospital (BGH) area. On a good day, That time of 2 hours is what it takes to run from Quezon City Hall to Pozzorubio, Pangasinan or a distance of about 170 kilometers of expressway.
Then when you arrive at the city limit at Marcos Highway, What do you see? Garbage with a terrible stench. Left and right of the road as you go even further are the partially demolished structures to clear road obstructions Cars are parked willy-nilly on the sides of the road.
The whole place appears to be a hopeless one.
And the tourist does not see any sign of any alternate route he could take to reach town in a less trafficky condition.
Some low hanging fruits to take or to implement to improve this sorry state are: To clean up the garbage; Put up very visible signs of alternate routes that could be taken; and Complete the demolition of the illegal structures which now look like they were destroyed by a terrible hurricane. Perhaps the owners should be ordered to completely remove the structures or the city will undertake that at the owners’ expense. That is, they will be charged for the work.
And if we are really serious about making Baguio City more touristy, a law should be passed where owners of structures along that road, and at roadsides around the city, would be required to make their structures better looking or even beautiful. We are talking here about people whose properties are valued at the millions of pesos, not some ordinary wage earners. This should be considered an exercise of the state of its police power.
For failure to do so, they should be made liable to pay financial penalties.
This can also be done by strictly implementing the Building Code. Is unsightly a ground to demolish a building? Perhaps not but there can be other violations to make valuable real estate owners improve the look of their buildings or properties.
After painfully negotiating Marcos Highway, a tourist would then arrive at the center of town. A favorite destination is the public market. A real third world showcase.
Right after then Mayor Domogan caused the clearing of the market of sidewalk vendors who had taken over every spot worth taking over, it has become a little bit wholesome. It was even good walking down from Hilltop down to the other parts of the market. Then something happened much later. I don’t know what happened to the Domogan boys that they allowed the selling of fish and meat around Hilltop and its environs without proper cleanliness being enforced. The vendors of fish, for instance, would be poring water over the tilapia, galunggong or bangus they were selling and the water would flow freely to the road making the area smelly. Flies were swarming all over. This was how it was the last time I walked there about two months ago.
Overall, the public badly needs a redevelopment to make it worthy of a summer capital. What I had been hearing, however, the past 20 years on how it should be done is quite disappointing. It appears that the plan was to put up a big building with commercial stores and parking areas. It will be as ugly as a giant shoe box.
And I repeat what I had been saying all along to make the whole public market, from Hilltop all the way to the Hangar, like a park with small two story buildings where the stalls would be found. In between would be walkways properly landscaped with trees and nice ornamental plants. It would be a wholesome area where people would like to stroll. The closest place I could think about was how the Town Centre at Ayala Alabang was about three decades ago. The owners, however, appear to have been tempted by the big profits they could get from over development. Now, that place is full of sparkling tall buildings. I guess it is true that the more you have, the greedier you become.
This was what should have been done at the burned area where Center Mall now stands.
Well, I might be dreaming but I have that vision. Others could only think of boxy buildings but these guys have money. Never mind a vision.**

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