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Next week, we’d all be on tenterhooks as Baguio formally launches a so-called Tourism Bubble, something that would link-up a people-to-people exchange program between us and Ilocano counterparts who must be aching to get over weariness and stress all through the last five months.
Of course, our tourism stakeholders — much of whom have been small and medium sized entrepreneurs — are agog over this tourist program, even as ordinary residents are quite wary of opening up the city to tourism. There is of course the issue of health and safety high up in the list of concerns, which couldn’t be helped at all. The pandemic is still very much in our midst, hovering here and there, and spiking up cases of incidence without as much as a by-your-leave. Which virus anyway would do that?
As frequently explained by our Mayor Benjie, health and safety have always been a paramount concern, reason why mass testing has been ordained every now and then ever since the capacity to do that has been achieved. Now that Baguio is on its third stage of modified general community quarantine, alongside neighboring provinces North and South and East and West of Baguio’s perimeter edges, all the more reason that Baguio should ramp up safety measures.
This tourism program has been, however, long been planned precisely to allow tourism businesses, and their allied enterprises, to get back as much of the income and revenue losses since five months back. The cold reality is that tourism shut down jobs and businesses like no other. How would you quantify losses in terms of numbers, when day in and day out, narratives of plain anguish have been besieging the social network platforms. How would you address grounded businesses whose owners, no rich man’s kids they are, are practically hitting dirt?
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This may well be how Baguio desires to get lost opportunities back, especially the kind of business that tourism has always been through all the decades of tourist influx running by the millions in recent memories. Two weeks back, on the very day the city marked its 111 anniversary, city parks and pride of places were opened to locals — in a setting that lends itself to having locals endeared to our locales. And why shouldn’t this be done — for five months, local folks have been virtually in connectivity with things virtual, while out-of-home errands are done purely on what are essential.
Charter Day it was, and folks that old and young gravitated to re-opened parks precisely to re-connect us with what Mother Nature has found the time to rejuvenate — the environment, in whose bowels everything blessed has sprang for mundane consumption. Lo and behold, the parks have re-grown, the flowering plants again abloom even if unerringly out of season, the green canopy of wide open spaces back in lustrous sheen.
But, as emphasized by tourist planners, the Tourism Bubble simply opens up some kind of a Green Lane for tourists to traverse, point to point, in a Reef to Ridge adventure sure to dissipate the worries of yester-months. It’s an Ilocano journey into nearby places bonded by a common tongue, animated by a common practice, and unified in a longing for serenity over adversity.
But wait, aren’t our highland neighbors part of this grand venture? Already, certain voices have been raised that Baguio seems to have gone Lone Ranger. What happened to La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay, aren’t there tourist places and attractions that can possibly lure up Baguio visitors as part of the highly touted BLISTT sharing program?
Due consultations have accordingly been done, between and among our town tourist official and his counterparts. Again, accordingly, the neighborly importunings have been made in a “come on and be part” of the Reef to Ridge splendorama. All through the neighborly exchanges, it would seem that LGU heads in these places have opted to be watchful first, for them to weigh in the possibilities — balancing safety with economic needs — before taking the risk, as Baguio apparently was readying up for.
No offense there, said our tourism managers, but perhaps the economy in these places is not as badly devastated. Or, their own constituents may just be exercising prudence and caution ahead of temporary reprieve from the economic distress.
For Baguio, it’s all about doing things safely, slowly, and steadily. Opening up business activities is like taking baby steps — tentative, gradual, and calibrated, allowing for falls that only need a rebound. This is as it should have been, as folks like you and I, long jaded by political sweet-talk, have sights beyond the reef and the ridge. Let’s not forget that Baguio is the only Philippine city built from the ground to be nearest the sky. That should explain the tenacity of one’s faith, unshaken amid the lingering pandemic.
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