Leonora San Agustin on Baguio: What have we done to our city?
Excerpts from Leonora San Agustin’s column that appeared in the 60th anniversary supplement of the Baguio Midland Courier in 2007:
OUR CITY, the once beautiful mountain village surrounded by sun-kissed clouds and blessed with the abundance of raindrops dancing in the light of the afternoons, is going–if not gone!
The city, where I felt the refreshing coolness of the twilight dusk while watching the glorious sunset slowly disappear from the mountains’ violet and hazy gray rim, is not there anymore.
The city, which lulled me to sleep with the secure sense that tomorrow the flowers will bloom again and the sweet resinous scent of the pine trees will waft again, is creeping into the din and rush of taxis honking in the late afternoon rush; jeeps and buses roaring stridently against the shadow of the ugly, high-rise buildings, which deepen the gloom of our city streets with their huge, atrocious billboards.
Yes, those city streets, where as a child and as a teenager I roamed familiar corners without fear, are now filled with vendors and vagrants who dirty the sidewalks, urinate on the canals, and splash graffiti against every blank space they encounter.
Yes, that city, which was once the Mecca of tourists, tired and weary people, and romantic lovers who come for rest in the cool comforting weather, is now the center of dubious cafés, basement-night spots, drunk people, sleeping police patrols and teenagers out for thrill and experience.
Where are you going, my beloved city—progress or decadent stress? No more, my friends! My paeans of beauty, of peace and quiet, of faith in City Hall, and sometimes even of faith in my fellowmen—the “taga-Baguio” of who I was very proud of are no more! Where have all those that we treasure gone?
Gone were the little green and white low cottages where I first went to school. Gone are the two flagpoles of America and the Philippines on top of what was then Luneta Hill. Gone are the pine trees around the school grounds, gone is the merry-go-round that made me sick when Jimmy Halsema and Gene de Guia would whirl it so fast that I had to jump out on the green grass because of dizziness. Gone also are the American teachers who taught us not only English and arithmetic but also good manners and right conduct. Gone is the locus of our dreams and the focus of our minds!