Baguio at threshold

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In somber and sobering circumstances, Baguio’s heralded Charter Anniversary took off at the classically renovated Baguio Convention Center. The usual pomp and panoply were not evident, as it should be, since the pandemic still hovered here and there. Without doubt, the threat was palpable enough to drive the festive reasons away; health protocols, made sterner this time due to the Delta Variant, were instead very much in place. Seats at the caverhnous hall were a meter apart, while the gallery stands hardly evoked a ripple, obviously because of very limited in-person restrictions.

At a hundred and twelve years of commemoration, where does the city stand? Does it even stand out, a dozen and a hundred years of existence — for oldtimers, those were the cherished years when Baguio stood out as a becknoning destination. A dream place to be visited at least once a year, that’s what Baguio is, embedded firmly in every Filipino’s vacation plan. For today’s young, the millenials as they proudly call themselves, Baguio is everything worth living in, away from the hustle and bustle of a hurried lifestyle. For people in love, well, Baguio will always be where love begets more love, and therefore, more loved ones and once loved.

Through the years that compress a decade, Baguio life may have been too languid, too carefree, to dreamy — but for those who have kept faith with what builders and dreamers have painstakingly labored all their public life, Baguio continues to be a noble work of progress. In recent months, despite or because of the lingering pandemic, life may have grounded to the basic needs, but getting to live on sheer tenacity, much of which teeters on the brink of losing everything, Baguio remained sacrosanct, even revered, for all that had been squandered due to collective neglect and abject tolerance.

But losing what had been there  is never a hindrance to winning back what remains in terms of human dignity, of earned esteem, of deep-seated longing for a recovery of what had been claimed due to carefreeness. That is exactly what have marked Baguio’s recent years — an abrupt change from the slow, steady, and sustained push towards a sturdier rise in what can capably be claimed. The virus remains a potent, deadly threat, but by and large, Baguio folks have stayed the course. Struggling, oh yes. Fighting it out, oh yes.

It takes more than just saying No when Baguio’s stakes are out there to bet on. We shall persevere, we will overcome, and yes, we shall be consecrated to live by the visions of old, when Baguio was just a rancheria grazed upon by the herd. Today, we are a city pushing hard to get on the herd mentality, for the immunity it offers. Oh yes, Baguio will withstand test and trials, as the city had throughout most of the growing years. Adversities may be upon us in battalion, but so did so many stumbling blocks in decades past.

It’s really all up to today’s generation of leaders and citizens to keep pace amid the challenges of the times. The pandemic remains a deadly threat, no doubt serving as a disliked, even hated, intruder that has dampened the revelry and mood of any celebration. Last year, covid did it, scrapping off not just Baguio day in all its glorifying circumstance but all other jovial gatherings reminiscent of the carefree past.

Talking Baguio is walking the talk at a time like now.  Yesterday has passed and is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come, awaiting to be shaped by what we do now. Today is that day, always the day when every action must succeed every plan.

To us folks who refuse to yield an inch of the way forward, a safe, smart and sustainableBaguio Day everyone — they who live abroad, unable to visit dear ol’Baguio due to the pandemic-induced travel restrictions, but still able to send online their shared greetings of hope; they who live here in stark refusal to leave out for good, believing in a prospective Baguio future for family and kids; they who have always dreamt of being a Baguio visitor, enjoying the sights, relishing the experience of breathing in a Baguio experience uniquely all its own.

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AS LOUDLY predicted, the change to a less harsh, but still punishing, restriction wouldn’t make a dent. Everyone seems just content, eking out what may yet be the crucial difference between the living and the dead. The scale-up continued its merry-making ways, seemingly unfazed by whatever lockdowns are up and about.

The metro — Greater Manila plus all adjacent provinces from as far as Laguna down South to Cavite to the West, to Bataan to the Northeast — listed up numbers so high and unprecedented to ooze out the creeps. Any thousand-mark nearing 20,000 is a frightening reality. And then, in one feel swoop, all in a day’s time load, the numbers gallopped to 22,000, the record-breaking case-count ever.

No doubt, uppermost in loosening down restrictions, from ECQ to MECQ is the economy. It’s that one big scary word, stupe all. Else why the increased mobility on the road? It isn’t just an exodus to Paradise, but an exit from Hunger.  Billions of pesos worth of damage continues to hit the stuttering growth drivers. But, then again, there’s always the health and safety reasons to consider. Under ordinary times, economic needs could have shifted the response gears another notch up, rather than the modified restricted level it has just been imposed.

As cases sky-rockets upward, hospital systems were breaking apart, with covid cases — invariably of the Delta variant strain — continuing its steep climb. It’s not yet a surge, assure the health officials — beleaguered they may have been over unspent, unliquidated, unutilized billions of budgetary allocations set for 2020. Never mind that there’s so much fuss over what’s really taking place, from the ground up. Oh, it’s a surge alright, the Octa research observers chimed in. If registering 17k, then 18k, then 19k in three successive days is NOT YET  a surge, it makes one wonder what would it take, what kind of on-the-ground reality should set in, before surge it must be.

Admittedly, the case load in the Metro may be somewhat on a decline, but — let’s not be mistaken about it — it doesn’t solidly attest that something downward is taking place. Always, when case counts are listed up, there’s a good (or bad) number of labs that didn’t turn in their own results.

Yes indeed, the awesomely distressing numbers remained upnorth, no doubt resulting from too lax a mobility these past weeks, except for the checkpoints that have invariably turned into chokepoints, the vehicular line extending far down. And why wouldn’t the numbers remain in an upswing, averaging at 12,000 in just a day throughtout the week, even listing up beyond the 14,000 count twice in that period?

That kind of a reality can only signify that prior to the recorded upsurge, the infections were already there, hovering here and there, regardless what viral lifeform it was, dreadfully now caused by the worrisome Delta Variant. Oh yes, all along, the people have been lulled into complacency, prior to the ECQ lockdown, that Filipino resiliency being what it is, we’d get past this scary variant. After all, vaccination has been going on with a relentless seriousness that is just as disrespectfuly as the viral strain.

Let it not be ignored.. It shall always be a weigh-in thing between health and livelihood, between jabs and jobs, between the vaccine and the virus. The ayuda effort is by itself a magnanimous response to an obvious economic need. Lock down mobility and people are prevented from working in jobs that have dis-materialized due to business shutdowns or scaled down operations. Hunger disrespects rules, and people may just die from it, not having the wherewithal to support basic needs, not just for themselves, but for the families they’re struggling mightily to raise.

As for the vaccination program, it has actually been a roller-coaster of an effort, a now-you-have-it, now-you-don’t kind of affair that government implementors have been hammering out with the populace they’ve been encouraging to get jabbed. One reason why the vaxx effort is having a snail’s pace of execution is the supply problem, and the woes that have been needlessly raised by the simple lack of the stuff.

On good days, millions of the dosage are in our midst. On bad days that can come in a snap, they’re gone. Yet, reports continue to hound wondering pundits why some lucky peeps are even bragging of having gotten the third jab.  Oh yes, there have been days when the vax supply just couldn’t hold, when the vax sites had to be declogged when lengthy lines were being filled up in a matter of minutes, when health authorities were themselves beside scurrying to and fro, devising ways to get the crowd off-roads, when even LGUs who were bearing the brunt of the anti-covid struggle were tweaking the process in on-target adjustment to what was taking place on the ground.

Battling the covid virus has been a unique experience more than a year ago. Resources have been dissipated, vanishing just like that in a matter of consequential days. But the numbers just couldn’t tell a lie, unyielding to a stare-down, simply because they are very real, daunting, forbidding even. Yet, as our Mayor Benjie exemplifies, the Filipino spirit never yields, the Pinoy courage stands out over the challenges facing him. Haggard by the rigors of the day-to-day vigil, the Pinoy in us just trudges along, in good spirit as ever, cheerfully making it out, a joker through and through.

Getting into 2022 amid the festering Delta V, means getting the jokers out. Today it may be the Delta. Tomorrow, it’s something more menacing. There’s but a way forward: To be Angat, Dapat Ingat!