Madame Baguio Copes with Population, Development, Creeping Age


Every July 11 marks United Nations (UN) World Population Day. Exactly Tuesday next week, it brings to the fore the plight impinging on a remarkable urban setting, popularly known nationwide as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines.”

By reckoning of thousands of Daily Laborers who know the Summer Capital of the Philippines, or Madame Baguio City to be precise, formally declared a chartered city in September 1, 1909, Madame Baguio would by this year be 108 years old.

However, there’s another school of thought basing its historical data that since the Americans established their administration in 1900 in Baguio City and, during that time it being the capital of Benguet, she must be 117 years old.

It was during the 1900s when American architect Daniel H. Burnham master-planned the urban development of Baguio.
Not a contentious issue, however. Fascinating though, is Madame Baguio’s years, an age romantically exciting to bachelors of her same age who never experienced romance. Or even married men of her same age.

Burnham’s plan wasn’t meant to accommodate a large population. But rapid urbanization disemboweled Burnham’s skeletal plan of a strictly controlled growth and development.

Baguio City has a population of 318,676 persons, by the 2010 Census of Population and Housing. What these numbers imply?

Years will roll, Baguio’s population won’t decrease, but will largely increase. Madame Baguio will take into her fold more people, contrary to Burnham’s wishes, or wishes of its planners today.

Population will always be a demographic ticking time bomb. By and large, none can regulate entry and exit of domestic population transiting from Baguio to another area. A fact.

One wonders that at such age, Madame Baguio packs the resiliency, understanding, romance and even the nuance to accommodate with her heart the whims and caprices of a bulging population desiring to explode her seams.
She wails helpless, as population roars mad, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.”

Some dwellers with Madame Baguio are troubled denizens. She offers her hand for all to live with her in peace and harmony. But others want both of her hands – including her feet.

Humans, as said, can be unsatisfied, and can lead to trouble. We want to get all. Mine, oh mine, and if consequences arise, can undoubtedly be troubling, indeed.

As Ah Kong wailed last week to Carlito Sumapay from Region 1: “Naggulo ti panagbiag, pare” (Life is troubled.)
Sumapay answered:” Ay kunam pay, pare. Nakarkaro ti biag kon ah. Nagpakasarak iti biyuda nga naam-ammok idiay Baguio ken adda anak na a balasang. Mapalabas ti sumagmamano a tawen, pinakasaran met ni Tatang ko diay balasang. Nanang ko ittattan diay balasangen. Manugang ko ni Tatang kon. Asawak, biyenan ni Tatang kon. No aganakda, apong nak diay kabsat kon. Sus maryosep ti biag.

In Madame Baguio’s case, some people just love stirring a hornet’s nest, using her to suit their fancy and dumping the poor lady after having exploited her. They pile garbage on her, spit, vomit or urinate on her streets. Many use her as wiping mat, disembowel her intestines looking for the infamous Yamashita loot or plainly don’t give a damn if she looks like a hag with unkempt hair.

They argue, “Anong paki mo?” (What’s it to you?). “Anong paki mo, my foot!” angrily howls Baguio resident Berto Sandoval, further roaring, “Dang it! When in Rome, do as the Romans do!”

“What’s it to you,” attitude is clearly antagonistic to the physical well-being of Madame Baguio for which it is known for: it’ s natural beauty and elegance.

It requires a certain kind of conditional love to stay with Madame Baguio and fight for her. One doesn’t need to travel far to realize that she is a crucible of civilized living, where most of its citizens’ intellectual and creative ideation, innovation and communication takes place. Or more.

Rather than hapless attacks on planning policies by policy makers, in the likes of our mayor, Manong Mauricio Domogan, aldermen, Peter Fianza, Faustino Olowan, respected human rights lawyer Joe Molintas, good persons as God ever created; other councilors, community leaders with exception of none, maybe we can do better by helping offer intelligent, constructive ideas that propose new principles for planning and remolding a smart functional city, and how we might be able to harness conceptually simple and immeasurably far reaching solution in improving Baguio urban life’s fabric and experience.

Just like any woman reaching mature age and pining for her lost youth and beauty, so is Madame Baguio, now becoming as old as her hills while taking on board a rising population she considered her children, relatives, friends and acquaintances.

And whenever she saw you, she said, “I’m so happy I saw your face.” (Interpret): “Pirme ragsak ko nga rinagadik ti rupam.”

Op kors, many denizens of Madame Baguio will claw tooth and nail to keep her from harm’s way. Many don’t want harm befalling her.

For Madame Baguio is a city where beauty comes in unbeautiful ways, like its morning air which is soft as unfinished dreams and a place that never sleeps and one can come and reinvent himself/herself as a dreamer or doer. Or a fool, like Ah.

Madame Baguio’s holistic place is waiting to be reclaimed by us. We can choose to surround ourselves with disposably entropic clutter, or reanimate her with conscious artistry and adaptive permanence.

In all, it’s about our attitude towards Madame Baguio. Like she wants it said, “My attitude is based on how you treat me.” (Interpret again, this time in Tagalog): “Ang ugali ko ay nakadepende kung papaano mo ako ilibre.”