There are many things Baguio City is famous for here in our country – and even abroad – and among them are its cool weather, pine trees, it being dubbed as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, and the Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga, the so-called “Mother of All Filipino Festivals.”
I guess the Panagbenga was described as such because of its come-on attractions to many visitors, whether local or foreign, and because of its wide scope of activities that is well appreciated and participated in by many sectors of society.
However, while it serves as an attraction to visitors to our beloved city, it has gradually become a turnoff to more and more local residents because of the big and bigger crowds, and the annoying heavy and heavier traffic it has amassed through the years.
Not only that, the Panagbenga season has also produced more and more garbage everywhere in the city mainly because our visitors know that they’re not from here and won’t need to clean up after themselves, scattering trash here and there, knowing that we have enough street sweepers to clean up their mess.
What a way of thinking, huh?
But there also are some visitors who are respectful enough not to scatter just anywhere, maybe some having gone through being scolded by local residents to dispose of their garbage in appropriate receptacles, or to pocket them first until they get back to where they are billeted.
But the most annoying thing for local residents is the large number of vehicles that accompany the large crowds to Baguio, which add to the burden of our traffic enforcers and to the irritation of our residents.
Our advice to our visitors is to feel welcome to our beloved city, but please leave your vehicles in your hometowns, because we have more than enough buses to ferry you up to Baguio and back to where you came from, and when in our city, to simply walk around.
Our weather here is cool enough for everyone to walk around. It lessens traffic jams and even makes everybody healthier because it exercises our bodies and it also leads to lesser air pollution all around.
Let us follow the lead of the Kingdom of Bhutan, which has become an unparalleled carbon sink – absorbing three times more carbon dioxide emissions than its 700,000 citizens produce.
At the Paris Climate Talks, the Himalayan Kingdom pledged to keep its forests intact to help the rest of the world combat climate change.
On top of that, Bhutan has even pledged to reforest its land even further. Last summer, it set a world record for the most trees planted in one hour – nearly 50,000.
Families on a Baguio holiday, especially during the Panagbenga when the tourist population peaks, are all encouraged to take advantage of the cool weather and walk to the summer capital’s popular destinations.
Mindful of the gridlocks that spoiled the vacations of many of our visitors several years ago, Baguio businessmen have commissioned a “Walk Happy! Baguio City!” campaign, partly to untangle the traffic jams leading to tourist magnets like Mines View Park, said filmmaker Ferdinand John Balanag.
Balanag produced two infomercials that are now being broadcast online and these target visitors attending this week’s Philippine Military Academy alumni homecoming, the Baguio Flower Festival parades and other activities that would last until the first week of March, and the Holy Week break in April.
The first infomercial was designed as a music video showcasing Baguio’s beauty and its current state, Balanag explained in a media plan he presented to the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation Inc., the Baguio Conventions and Visitors Bureau, and the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio, which financed the drive.
“In presenting two sides of the coin to tourists intending to visit Baguio, it is our objective to make them realize their responsibilities as visitors to the city,” he said.
He also explained that the second infomercial would take visitors through these responsibilities, including where to park without inconveniencing anyone, or how to deal with their garbage given that the city’s main streets do not have trash cans.
“While walking, people will take closer notice of Baguio’s nature and environment, which can make them develop a personal appreciation for the city,” Balanag said.
It was reported by the Baguio City Police Office Traffic Management Branch that around 19,000 vehicles drove up to Baguio during Christmas break, part of the gridlock that started from the highways connecting Metro Manila to this mountain city.
This volume of vehicles added to the regular vehicle volume in Baguio, which has already more than 30,000 registered vehicles.
According to the Department of Tourism, the Baguio-Boracay Task Force, a Malacañang team formed earlier by former President Aquino to draw up a redevelopment plan for the two popular tourist destinations, intends to popularize walking tours for visitors to direct attention to Baguio’s heritage sites.
Remember that Baguio is the only city in the Philippines that was built by the American colonial government in the early 1900s and we must work hand-in-hand to preserve it as much as we can.