THE HEAT WE’VE BEEN experiencing lately over the controversies engulfing Burnham Park seems without abatement. During the February celebration of our coveted Panagbenga, it’s the use of park roads for the usual trade fair, long abominably objected to for the undisguised money-making venture that it has degenerated into all through the years, not to mention the irreparable damage to the park’s enviable environmental character. Then came the carnivalistic activity that got the head’s up, despite and over the reasonable issues on public health and safety, gambling, and undue business competition to existing concessionaires.
While the issues have remained unsettled, here comes yet again another looming environmental travesty that may yet erupt into something that has embroiled tourism islands elsewhere, notable of which is the country’s premier tourist destination, Boracay. This is about a parking building project that has roused up our citizens in utter disgust over something like this soon a-b uilding right at the heart of the park, alongside a supposed mall, hotel, and other ameneties so prevalent in populous convergence areas down under.
We’re supposed to protect, nurture, and even regenerate Baguio’s long cherished promenade park, given its historical, cultural and environmental importance to a city that prides itself as every Filipino family’s dream summer place. We’re supposed to keep the park’s character unfettered and defaced by hard infrastructures that only serve purely pedestrian interests. We’re supposed to do everything right for the only place that has served as Baguio’s lung amid the daily bombardment of toxic fumes. This we can only do by doing what is essentially right.
Over the last several days now, we’re scandalously treated to the spectacle of residents being asked, not what they want the Park to be, but what kind of supposedly environmentally compliant infrastructure can be allowed. Of course the answer is any building design that does just that, regardless how such a 4-storey parking building will affect — old-timers are calling it defacement — the very pristine character of a promenade park that has more than 100 years of historical attachment to Baguio.
Last heard, a group of civic-spirited citizens — they who have rightly seen how venal the parking building project is to Burnham Park — are readying a citizens’ petition for no less than PRRD to intercede and intervene in saving the park. If he did what is right for Boracay and other coastally operating tourist islands, surely, he would just be as aghast over this latest calvary that Baguio folks are being made to endure. After Boracay, make it Baguio, Mr. President — this is what our conscience-stricken citizenry is pleading for.
Far too long indeed, that Burnham Park has always served economic, rather than environmental interests, in shameless disregard and wanton violation of the very rules and policies that have governed the park’s management, administration, and operation, edicts that Fathers of the City have successively intoned in defense of local government’s readiness to man the frontlines of protection for the park. Protection for whom seems only to beg the question.
Far too long have city folks been taken for a ride down the road of mystifying decisions whenever Burnham Park’s future is staked it out on the line. That future, ladies and gentlemen, can never be defined if its lifeline from the past is torn asunder. That future will remain unsettling for generations next if their linkage to history, culture, and environment is set aside.
Do we need a multi-purpose parking building? Yes we do, but not at Burnham Park, but elsewhere that any private entrepreneur can set up for private gain, while serving an obvious public need. This is what our policy makers at City Hall seem not to realize, what they fail to see in giving due course consideration to an obvious travesty looming large over our city life. Last heard, it seems to be a done deal. Last heard, citizens like you and I and the rest of us are likewise reading their own comeuppance. Just waiting when time’s up.
Singly and collectively, we have the task to do our share by the simple ways that can be done right here and now. You and I and the rest of us are no longer bystanders when it comes to things that will deface our lifeline from the past and shut us out from a beckoning future. If we don’t take care of our own park, much more so when our own leaders seem to be acting the other way, then nobody else will. If we don’t work to manage our future well, if we don’t drastically abandon our reliance on old persistent habits of just shrugging off whatever offenses are taken against our own public welfare needs, nobody else will.
Getting heated up now to do our shared effort is better than getting boiled over later. The finest self-sacrifice we can all do is to sweat it out now to give ourselves a timely comeuppance. Under any standard, doing the right thing is the right thing to do. Burnham Park should show us the way.