Sense and Sanity

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Over the week, we’ve seen how governance gets going, no less exemplified by Mr. Public Servant. In just less than 30 days, we’ve been regaled by the Man himself getting his feet on the ground, criss-crossing major roads to see for himself how his marching orders, first aired when he took formal oath, were being followed. One time, he was hammering up woodplanks that closed down restos at Upper Session Road, one of which he had to return posthaste by evening time to make sure they stay closed.

Along Legarda Road, he’s next seen expressing grave dismay that 45 trees have been “chemically injected” to bring about slow death in an obvious attempt to justify development applications for tree-cutting, since the trees “are dying.” Even the wall protection projects didn’t escape his attention, eliciting an immediate complaint that he himself would take it up with the public works chief. At Harrison Road, he noted the presence of flower vendors that have long established stall spaces right at the perimeter of Burnham Park, prompting out a relocation of the enterprise activity long tolerated for years.

Traffic along the city’s major routes have shown remarkable improvement in recent days, but he hasn’t relented a bit from constantly getting the uniformed cops to be on their toes. Marcos Highway, Quirino Highway, Kennon Road, all principal gateways into downtown Baguio have had quicker traffic flow these days, merely on the strength of the clearing operations that have seriously been in effect since Day One. Jams would unavoidably crop up momentarily, but were unclogged in minutes, because as one cab passenger told the driver, Mr. Public Servant was watching.

The good news is Burnham Park, long the city’s pride of place with historical and natural lifelines with Baguio folks, is now the object of ardent rehabilitation, the likes and seriousness of which we’d soon find from public consultations with key stakeholders. About time, in fact, and long overdue.

For the longest time, environmentalists and nature park goers have long decried the state of deterioration that the Park has been subjected to through the years of wasted effort. A children’s park where play equipment is everything but safe to use. A skating rink that had been roofed, and whose roof is on the verge of collapse. Picnic grounds whose greenery has acquired brownish appearance, no doubt as a result of perverse neglect. A Rose Garden where there are more flower varieties that roses, whose concrete walkways seem to be more of an overwhelming presence than the garden ambience it’s supposed to project. A man-made lake whose waters have grown brackish by the day, the not the clear, pure essence of free-flowing water unhampered by unwanted but undredged debris.

To be sure, there is much that can be done to level up the upkeep of Burnham Park. The P20 million funding support that TIEZA, the former Philippine Tourism Authority, has budgeted for much-needed rehabilitation projects will certainly go a long way, not so much in funding big-ticket items, but more in sprucing up the Park. Small beginnings, when sustained and cared for consistently, can become giant strides. The over-arching goal must be definitive: make the Park a green, open space for quiet relaxation, promenade, and spiritual rejuvenation.

To be sure, everyone involved in the consultations need to have an open mind, tolerant of each other’s point of view. Consensus can only be attained from an acceptance that no single person or sector has the gifted monopoly of great ideas in mind. But please, let the consultations have a timeframe to observe, make these welcome opportunities for the better ideas to emerge and flourish, not just a chance for the righteous-minded to assert superiority every step of the way. At day’s end, everyone must feel good-hearted that he has been listened to, not belittled or even ignored.

For this is when Baguio gets to open its heart and soul for another edition of rehabilitation, circa these millennial times. Speaking of which it’s time to look over how we can upgrade Panagbenga, our city’s jewel of a contribution to festivals galore erupting all over the archipelago. Preparations are better done at about this time, not a month before staging the annual event. This early, it is best that the managing sectors come to terms with specifically identified strategies in accomplishing a stated goal. Shall we run it the way it has been run in recent years? Are we targeting a million or two of tourists flocking into our city to immerse in our Panagbenga culture?

Just to remind ourselves: it has always been our hope that our elder leaders from both the public and private enclaves will finally get to mend their ways towards the unity they are airily professing. We can only implore that they smoothen out whatever inner differences hamper their well-embraced task and simply get themselves to serious tasking in their professional best. Nothing personal, just getting a job done as best they can.

Leadership after all is not just one man’s will over the others, especially so when non-government leaders are involved in so huge as a united undertaking as the flower festival. It’s all about consensus building, setting aside personal beliefs in favor of larger goals — that of giving not just the city but the country a festival ably managed on the strength of shared efforts. It’s all about partnership rooted on prior acceptance of each other’s role.

Burying the hatchet under the rug, not on each other’s back, is simply in order. Government, after all, has the ability and resources to run the flowerfest to its fullest course. But is it the right way? As a tourism event, which the festival is, shouldn’t the engine of performance be collaborated on among the involved sectors, with the private sector taking leadership roles?

Experience tells us that the business of management is somewhat tricky when public and private leaders are harnessed as a single-minded force to enforce a singular policy goal; almost always personalities clash simply because of radically differing attitudes and obviously contrasting styles of going about the things that ought to be done in unison. We also have history to draw good, hard lessons from. Government has not demonstrated ample competence in managing entrepreneurial projects, as attested by how much strain the problem of proper waste disposal has afflicted our small community for decades now.

As in any endeavor, success will always have many fathers. But failure will make the begotten child a forgotten orphan no parent may adopt. It’s time our bickering partners realize this with each other, lest the rehabilitation effort — of our natural environment, of Burnham Park, of Panagbenga itself erupt into a hideous panorama of bruised egos and tottering pride.

Getting back sense and sanity is what it’s all about.

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