Today, Semana Santa in Baguio comes to close, ending a week-long spiritual immersion that Christians the world over must be in need of, given the nature of the times when just being pious in one’s belief attracts so much risk. It’s been a week of R and R, which is what Baguio has been through the years to many Filipinos. No, it isn’t about rest and recreation which is what the nation’s summer capital has become — and has been affectionately regarded all through many summer yesteryears — it’s about the reflection and redemption that many, to be sure, are thirsting for.
These last days, Baguio was again a favorite Lenten respite locations, especially since over down under, the summer heat has been menacingly in the mid-40C heat index. No wonder, we had again a good though bearable number of lowlanders zooming up here for a breather from the sweltering heat down under. Tourist exodus is estimated may not have been in the usual half a million souls wanting to replenish deadening energies, but numerous just the same. That’s about 300,000 individuals using up every available space Baguio can still offer, every single liter of water needed to endure a few days of benevolent city life, every square inch of road their motorized contraption can occupy. Peculiarly, we’re still on the benign climes. Baguio’s legendary temperature may not be in 10 degree C levels, but anything below 16C is still a magical calming cooling balm to sweating suffering souls.
It’s no wonder that while most residents jostle it out for sojourns out of the city and elsewhere — back to provincial roots for badly needed homecomings — our heat-suffering lowlanders brave all odds to beat the sweaty climes over in their midst. Not a surprise that despite the brickbats cast our way of late, Baguio remains a magnetic allure come Holy Week and even on weekends. Not enough water all around? No problem, they’ll just endure it like we residents of this beloved city have been doing, 24/7 everytime. Too much traffic on the road? No problem, they’ll manage to survive the usual snags and snarls, and even the occasional loss of common sense. If they have gone through EDSA’s monumental carmaggedon, Baguio’s version is too puny to match.
Since they’re still here for a final day of pious reflection, while enjoying to their lung’s content the fresh air they expect in a mountain resort like ours, let’s thank them for heeding a few timely reminders for Holy Week in Baguio to be less of a festive vacation and more of a soul uplifting episode in their summertime sojourn. Thank you folks for making our visitors conscious of basic rules to abide by if only to inculcate good, rational, and wholesome ways to enjoy and experience Baguio in keeping with the somber times. Surely, they helped considerably in clogging our roadways, enough to generate jams at every known choke points, enough to eject the poisonous gases up there to make pollution issues more critical, enough to pose health safety concerns, enough to immobilize for hours just about everyone from point to point of destinations, enough for many of us who value Baguio for what the city is to say enough is enough.
But, gladdeningly, our visitors this time seem to have heeded our fervent plea. There was less traffic on the road. Lesser motorized contraptions inching their way up or down Baguio’s snaky roadways. Lesser temper tantrums, lesser mishaps. The somber mood may have done its part in making our roads less vulnerable to outbursts.
As we bid them farewell today, we thank them for staying as cool as our weather system. They have happily walked it out, leaving cars behind, stepping out into our world and feeling the remaining pristine environment we still have — the flowering plants in full splendor along the way, the green grass of untrodded trails, the majestic thrusts our pine trees make to reach the heavens.
A good, divining sign indeed. Our guests may well have joined us in caring with us so that Baguio remains clean and green at all times. Founded, developed and nurtured nearest the Philippine skies, Baguio is all about caring and sharing, between and among our own residents and the visitors. It’s all about the precious environment that Baguio has beyond compare, unequalled in its uniqueness, the very pristine natural setting from which floral resources have grown in full splendor, the very richness that remains unmatched anywhere else.
To be sure, Baguio is never the beach resorts now exploding in uncalled for revelry, never the other valley-cradled places offering playtime activities at sky-rocketing costs, never the other summer sites with not much to offer other than the usual Philippine landscape scenes available elsewhere. Baguio is Baguio of summertime thrills, of romantic interludes beyond remembering, of nature cradling people in a benevolent embrace, of a Divine Being watching over his flock in a shared linkage from birth to rebirth.
Baguio has always been where we hold holy the Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection in sacrosanct piety, based on old-established beliefs transcending the borders of modernization. Our own sins we seek atonement, our own avowals for reformation we strive to realize in genuine contrition and repentance. We don’t just frown on annoying noise that disturbs our faith, we castigate the noise makers as much as we flagellate ourselves for all the sins against others, against society, against the environment that has served as our lifeline from the past into the future.
Holy Week in Baguio is spiritually more about living life the right way, regardless when everything seems wrong, regardless when everyone seems out of page, regardless of the reasons for our being. It is about being there for and with our God, when the life is too much to bear, when enduring it out amid the frustration of the days merely generates unwanted thoughts.
We have become Holy this week. We have transformed ourselves and, learning from today’s Resurrection, be whole again in the fullness of spiritual rebirth that comes from redemption. After all, Baguio is where we can experience life from its fullest measure. A joyful Easter everyone!