Culture of Healing

GARBAGE, water, bad air — these have been with us since we can remember, but all we’ve been having as permanent solutions have largely been all hot, intoxicating air. These are pure and simple issues affecting the very environment we live in, are nurtured, and handed down to us from generations past. Year in, year out, running for decades now, it’s been all trash talk, and all we have to show after decades past, is an environment that isn’t worth leaving behind, if legacy is all that matters.

In 2009, when we marked Baguio’s centennial year, we’ve already been quagmired in trash, despite putting out over P100 million annual average expense on precisely how to deal with our garbage woes. Even at that time, perhaps in a courageous effort to fend off all trash talk arising from having to dump our waste elsewhere but on our roads and parks, we’ve been lulled in Alice Wonderland, via the magical word that’s ESL, or engineered sanitary landfill. We’re now close to a decade since, and ESL has basically been a pipedream, a lofty aspiration up there for the taking, if it were just something we can just have for the taking.

Now, that magical word has been replaced by IWM, a mesmerizing acronym that means Integrated Waste Management, something that makes use of an ESL site, minimum of 50 hectares of land-filled area that’s suppose to house the integrated waste management facilities that will liberate us from our poorly disposed waste, turning into compost all the biodegraded trash, while transforming uncomposted materials into an energy source to light up our unenlightened lives.

To this day, we’re still in the sordid work of having to haul garbage out and dump this in landfills elsewhere, the farther the better. It’s sordid work for our garbage menfolk, though good business for those in charge. Now, if only Itogon’s LGU and constituents will give their golden approval to this scheme of siting Baguio’s IWM at the abandoned open pit mining site at Antamok . . . Last heard though, Itogon remains opposed to hosting the project, even as Baguio and nearby BLISST communities would seem attracted to the idea. Last heard, the LGUs are still grappling over this longest-running trash talk, outclassing any De Mille production in scope.

Going into next year, is it back to the drawing board, back to basics, back to the future that once held great promise? Was everything, beginning 2005 when our garbage woes began to afflict us day-to-day, all wasted? Has everything gone to, well, waste?

Wasted opportunities have similarly marked efforts to provide residents and visitors alike with enough clean, potable, and reliable water. It’s supremely ironical that for a city having the heaviest rainfall anywhere else throughout the country, water is a perennial need, since time immemorial.The Sto. Tomas rainbasin facility has been thankfully rehabilitated to catch all that precious heaven-sent liquid, store it, and dispose to serve the city’s southern parts, about 25% of the city’s household and business needs. That’s the good news, seeing that it works fully is just a matter of time. Perhaps in a month or two, we should be having more of what we’re getting in trickles at this time.

Since we can remember, water need has been anchored on our watersheds, about 7 of them throughout the city’s forested cover. Through decades of supposed caring, these water producing sites have declined in profligacy, largely because they have illegally encroached and their generating capacity downgraded. Indifference, neglect, plain idiocy have all contrived to make our watersheds produce much of the water needs that you and I and the rest of us consume.

Which brings us back to the Sto. Tomas rain harvesting facility. For goodness’ sake, if our rain harvesting systems are all it takes to supply any part of Baguio, how come no such other facilities were built all through the years for the other city sections to have a good, regular water source? If all it took was about a P100 million grant to repair the Sto. Tomas catch basin, surely 3 other facilities would not have cost more than the close to P1 billion that had been spent to trash our waste far out there away from our pristine noses. No money for water, but more for trash?

When we talk of bad air, we actually mean that all the air we’re having is simply not clean, not pure, not fresh the way air was and used to be in the olden days. It’s bad, toxic air, the kind that by its scent alone, you’d know is not good pure air. That’s a pity really, since Baguio has been nationally and globally known for its purest air anywhere else. Where we are getting this kind of air is no longer a matter of location. It’s wherever motorized vehicles converge, and that’s wherever in Baguio. Of course, the closer one is within the CBD area, the closer you’d be to be hard of breath simply because you’d rather not breathe at all. Clearly, the air isn’t clean because we’re living a lifestyle reliant purely on coal. Simply, the air isn’t fresh and good because we have been generating all the toxic fumes from the motorized engines we rev up to the industrial machines we pur into life every moment of our carbon dioxide-driven life.

A culture of caring and creativity, that’s really all good and dandy. But, back to basics, shouldn’t we first discard the culture of impunity that has perpetrated the cycle of inaction, indifference, and insensitivity all these recent years? Caring begins when we disallow the perpetrators to continue mesmerizing us with all the trash talk we’ve been hearing all through the years. Caring begins when we anchor our dreams for an environmentally blessed Baguio on how best we can manage our resources for better use by generations next. Caring begins not from what we can weave, from creation to recreation, but from the simple dreams of having to share every day’s single blessing.

At 109, Baguio deserves nothing less than a lifetime of commitment from all of us, nothing spared, everything shared.

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