Annually, we’ve been celebrating Christmas in more ways than one, topped off by a month-long calendar of activities held in various crow-convergence places throughout the city. From the looks of things, new innovative activities are even now being conceived to make this year’s Christmas festivities several notches better than before.
Under the auspices of a reactivated Baguio Tourism Council, the Yuletide season appears to be taking off from three simple words that may well serve as the catch-all strategy to celebrate Christmas this coming December, as no less enunciated by our Co-Chair, Mayor Benjie Magalong: “simple but elegant”. How this would be translated is the task that the BTC has gladly accepted has in fact been harnessing from blueprint dreams into cold reality.
Let it be reiterated: there now appears a bull-headed, no-nonsense spirit of collaboration among key sectors, no doubt brought together to make a fresh start. Everyone is gladly on the same page, no doubt energized by the breath of fresh air that His Honor has infused. Planning meetings are being done under friendlier engagement, a far cry from what it has been in recent years and decades whenever government and their private sector counterparts are involved in collaborative efforts.
In every BTC-directed meeting, there seems to echo a genuinely spirited discussion, borne on the shoulders of people who are eager to make his and her share to make tourism responsible, disciplined, and well in tune with Baguio’s environment, something that always is perched up there in the primary allure in bringing in tourists into our collective midst.
The coming Christmas celebration is now serving as the platform for the healthy exchange of ideas that are undoubtedly contributing to the making of a festival uniquely Baguio’s present-day social milieu. Derisively termed as but a hodge-podge of different traits, we’ rather just refer to in nostalgic, even romantic notions, the “melting pot” of varied yet harmonizing cultures and traditions that keep the natural environment well protected, nurtured, and even re-generated.
The Norfolk pine tree at the foot of Session Road, long left on its own for half a decade now, is presently eyed as a Christmas tree reborn, not just resurrected, to signify what is simple, yet elegant in projecting the ways Christmas must be marked. It will be festooned and lighted up to be a beacon of hope and glad tidings, amid the emaciating challenges we face, even as we grapple with the day-to-day struggles to remain above ground.
The tree simply stands out in its quiet majestic thrust, towards the skies, symbolizing how mortal hopes and dreams call for divine response any moment of our challenged life. Its stature in the area poses a stark reminder how simply anyone can overpower an economically affluent surrounding typified by buildings competing with each other for dominance and motorized contraptions in an eternal race to eject the toxins into our noses.
There is a centerpiece activity that offers innovation creatively woven into the Christmas calendar. The Christmas Market, so popular in key European cities, will be recreated at the Rose Garden, not just a hodge-podge of market stalls, but a well-designed cluster of 5 chalets each that intends to replicate Europe’s best facades for great Christmas finds and bargain discoveries. These are strategically positioned far apart from cluster to cluster, allowing walkable routes that people can leisurely take while nearest Mother Nature’s finest places at Burnham Park, where flowering plants are in full splendor, where grasses are in gleaming green, where natural communion interconnects life forms in somber retreats.
Other Yuletide activities are even now being asked to be part of the two-month festival, from sectors that have manifested serious interest to have their respective projects aligned with the Christmas celebration. Everyone will be heard and, as funds will permit, be heeded. The challenges may be daunting at this point, but with everyone pitching in cooperatively, these will come to pass.
I thank everyone involved for making possible that BTC projects, at this time, will collectively be endeavored to be on stream, not just in blueprint dreams, but right into on-the-ground realities. The early working initiatives are heartening, and I know that these are being planned and brain-trusted by minds that think, by hearts that beat caringly for Baguio, by souls that are willing to share time, talent and trust.
As pointed out in these mind activities, the main idea is get everyone on board for a tourism program that goes beyond the rhetoric of bygone years, but hard-nosed enough to get over the huge challenges to an industry that needs more than the shot in the proverbial arm.
Tourism is not just about people acting by themselves, in isolation from esoteric aspirations. We’re talking of sidewalk vendors, shoe-shine boys, newspaper peddlers, even government bureaucrats who have been having regular face-to-face encounters with our visitors, they who are getting by in the outskirts of the local economy, but by their first-hand experiences, are crucial in making tourism perky and painstaking.
Tourism is not just about events painstakingly planned to make Mr. and Ms. Tourist pleasantly welcome to make their own Baguio stories in their encounter with us. To be sure, their share of narratives make up a Baguio story of their own, memorable enough for repeat visits, nourishing enough to fill up a grandma’s trove of treasures, enchanting enough to make their Christmas visit enjoyable to re-discover Baguio more and more.
Tourism must heed the call of the times for it to continue thriving. In its very core is Baguio’s natural environment, from which culture and traditions have happily been in living harmony with each other. Not far apart are new discoveries just waiting to be experienced in neighboring communities, where indigenous practices and environmental caring have endured through time, where we have age-old neighborliness of sharing and caring.
Let a constant truth be told: Baguio is Baguio, the mountain resort that has filled every ordinary Filipino’s dream to visit and spend well-managed time to be here, every ordinary family’s aspiration to have memorable visits every now and then, summertime or not. Baguio remains to be a topnotch getaway destination, its cooling climes enough to lure them in at the slightest pretense.
Surely, Baguio’s attraction is not just being a mountain city blessed to be nearest the Philippine skies. It goes beyond the natural air-conditioning system that provides the rejuvenating climes available nowhere else, but hereabouts. In its fullest essence, Baguio’s allure is the natural environment, something tourists worldwide and nationwide cannot find anywhere else. It’s our mountain resources — the pristine forests, the flowering plants dotting the mountain sides, the majestic thrusts that our pine trees make in an enduring reach-out struggle, the grand panorama of sceneries unmatched anywhere, and the jovial welcoming faces that our own folks are ready to manifest anytime.
Surely, there are ways to merge environmental needs with tourism needs, without one being at a premium over the other. Surely, a sensible program can make tourism thrive more in an environment unerringly clean and outstandingly green. Making a tourist visit well-managed is making him experience the magical wonders of a replenishing, nurturing environment. Making him return, with friends and family in tow, will assuredly develop from the memories he had last time, memories that can only come from his experience of the Baguio way.
Giving a fresh initiative to tourism planning and execution is the breath of fresh air to make tourism a pleasurable enterprise shared, not just between hosts people and guests, but even more so, between a government and its private partners seriously resolved to get tourism going, ahead of tough times anytime at all.
This is the huge, daunting challenge the Baguio Tourism Council accepts in shared solidarity with everyone who loves Baguio. We have what it takes to surmount anything, for as long as faith — that unseen force making as stand out like our Norfolk Christmas tree — remains unshaken, unfazed, and unafraid.