ARE WE REALLY doing enough to preserve, nurture, regenerate, develop Burnham Park?
Every now and then, since way, way back, we’ve always been needlessly agitated over what’s taking place at Baguio’s premier promenade place. Back in September, we joined up the public clamor, adding our humble voice, for our city policy-makers to put a bit more sense into what seems to be milestone defacement moves being done on our most cherished park, aghast that a parking building of no mean significance was poised on the best place to go for needed recreational relief.
These past weeks, we seem to be losing out, our protesting voices seemingly drowned out by those who have something we all don’t have, the mandate to govern our lives by sheer reason of having been elected and always electable. The parking building — earlier conceived to be just that, perhaps no more than a two-storey structure in lieu of on-the-ground open air parking spaces currently in place at the old auditorium section — appears to have undergone “improvements.” Now, we’re being regaled by a refreshing design of a 4-storey building that seems to have added more floors for boutiques, shopping spaces, eateries, and even some spaces for brief staycation respite. In other words, the parking building is now a parking-cum-mall edifice that will certainly give other malls in the CBD area a tight run for the people’s money.
Last heard, public hearings are to be continuously held purposely to listen to what you and I and the rest of us have to say. Unsolicited business proposals have been received and have been generally discussed in terms of their economic benefits to the city. Never mind the environmental impact that such a travesty may bring about, the defacement of Baguio’s long cherished open public park from where anyone, us lesser mortals especially, can go to for cherishing moments of replenishment and re-connection with what has been left of Mother Nature.
Just what are they doing to Burnham Park and still planning to do may well be the mystifying befuddlement of the year. Recently, it has played host to an undisguised baratilyo fair, even dislodging the zumba enthusiasts among the elderly just engaging in wholesome physical fitness routines. Then, out of the blue, it has become the undeserved place for a carnival the likes of which no one seems able to predict, in terms of public safety and public morals. Apparently, there’s not much we can do when travesty upon travesty is inflicted on our long-cherished public park. No matter how much noise we make. No matter how much indignation we let loose in very choiced expletives.
The oldtimers among our city folks can only writhe themselves in quiet rage, perplexed over the unregulated commercialization of Burnham Park, perturbed that feeble minds and impure hearts are dominantly asserting the authority of a mandate, over and above the authority of a sovereign voice. Last heard, we like to believe that it is a public park, yours and mine to keep and cherish, that should be kept as such, not to be part of child’s play mysteries that seem to cloud up government minds every now and then. As such, it has to have wide open space, it has to have abundant greenery, growing trees whose branches arc across, flowers all around, grass as it was originally designed and put in place, natural air that we can’t breathe in anywhere else.
For the love of Daniel Burnham, make us understand why a parking infrastructure at Burnham Park is needed. Aren’t there enough land spaces, either within or proximate to the CBD area, that any imaginative entrepreneur can use for the targeted 2,000 vehicles? That mall atop the hill is set to complete within the year a parking building said to accommodate about 3,000 vehicles. Won’t this be the permanent relief that we all need from the vehicular congestion that our CBD roads are enduring? What about the commercial buildings along our major thoroughfares which have been built with pre-designed basement parking but have since been flagrantly used as commercial store spaces? Why not require building owners to revert this to their original use?
As we said before, admittedly, there is need for parking spaces that have become too scarce for our urban needs. Far too long has Baguio been wrestling it out with the traffic monstrosity that afflicts our day-to-day life. From one point to another, it now takes a minimum of an hour; on special days (weekenders and other run-of-the-mill tourism events, traffic just grinds to a standstill. Concededly, city planners have long agonized and strived hard to remedy the road paralysis all around. There’s just not enough parking slots for the horrendous number of vehicles that traverse the main and subsidiary thoroughfares.
Those of us who live through the city’s burdensome traffic clearly understand that one effective way of dealing with the daily traffic jam is to allocate parking slots in areas that are proximate to the city main roads. Yes, make Session Road, Harrison Road, General Luna Road, Magsaysay Avenue, Bonifacio Street free-flowing roadways. Yes, put up parking lots outside of these busy thoroughfares.
Do all these please, but not, for goodness’ sake, for history’s sake, not at Burnham Park. Why there, why not any other available lot that the government may acquire? Surely, there are such sites that can readily be used, land spaces that have no historical, cultural and environmental linkages to our life. Clearly, the tug-of-war over the Park’s utilitarian functions merely reflects yet another dark episode between competing interests, that of the economic versus the environmental, those wielding the so-called mandate and those concerned enough that our remaining viable link with the past and the future is being torn asunder.
Burnham Park merely represents yet another man’s or gang’s folly to set aside serious environmental concerns in favor of what can be economically gained today, even if it turns the Park into an environmental wasteland that wreaks havoc on Baguio’s chief allure. Far too long has our environment, fragile as it is now, been abused and degraded. Far too long have residents been clamoring the need, the urgency to protect, preserve, nurture, and regenerate this very environment that is the city’s lifeline, not just from its past, but into the very future that we are readying for generations next.
Do it your way and we’ll do it our own way at day’s end, when the end of days for you will be our final comeuppance.