Recent tourism conferences have time and again focused on exactly how government-sponsored promotional efforts should largely concentrate on, given the nCoV threat in recent weeks, but more importantly, on the sentiments of local folks whose host cities and communities have been bearing the brunt of over-tourism, if ever there is such a term.
Then, one term has been used, if rather loosely: NATURE TOURISM. About time, one would be tempted to say, based on historical experiences that have been the bane of locales these past several years. Just last December, as Baguio celebrated An Enchanting Christmastime, the city felt what over-tourism may have meant. Traffic jams here and everywhere, trash thrown every which way, congestion causing much of the vehicular crawl on roads — name it, just about everything ill had been blurted out in sheer despair and exasperation.
And yet, tourism has been the bread-and-butter of Baguio’s rapidly growing economy, perhaps second only to education. What to do next is the agenda that Nature Tourism may have opened up in terms of opportunities waiting to be harnessed, in terms of access that collaborative efforts can very well tap. Juxtaposed against on-the-ground reality, is there much of Baguio’s natural environment — what remains of the once lush greenery all-around anyway — that can withstand the further onslaught brought about by tourists who are mindless of the havoc they themselves have partly caused?
Caring for the environment takes time, not by others but by ourselves. The forest canopy, the garden parks, the luscious floral resources can certainly be brought back in time, healthy, nurtured, nourishing. But, as emphasized, it takes a good deal of time episodes that are neither here and now. Because, what had remained is merely the depleted scanty belongings of a once nurtured past, themselves in swift deterioration — the mountains blossoming of sheltering houses instead of the majestic pine stands of trees struggling to reach the skies.
Time and again, we have been striving to highlight the need, in fact in so urgent a way, just how serious we ought to have been in environmental convictions. Let’s face it, all it takes is to look at everywhere our forlorn sight can bring us to know up close what we’ve committed as a people more concerned of now than of later, as humans still capable of enjoying what is left of a fast-depleting environmental resource, and what we’re doing to alleviate us from the very scourge that has now been upon us for decades now.
Back to basics: are we cooling the earth’s heating atmosphere, amid the rising temperatures that’s been scalding us, from all directions? The California and the Australia wildfires, said to be the deadliest in modern history, gives us the grimmest reminder that we’re losing out fast in this race to calm and cool down a changing climatic pattern. The weather extremes hitting many places, even the unlikeliest ones, offers another telling sad narrative over how humans like you and I have become so reckless in wanton abandon, and therefore vulnerable.
Every now and then, moderate to strong magnitude shakers have been hitting our archipelago in recent months. Powerful storms, the likes of Yolanda and Ondoy, have been crossing over north and south of the country in seeming regularity, testing the very limits of human endurance that folks of lower means are so prone to succumbing.
Ompong and Rosita did just that just two years back, snuffing lives of downtrodden people who were simply caught unaware or unconcerned that something like the grounds falling from heaven would cascade down in a deadly descent. Indeed, the new normal in earth-shakers and powerful weather aberrations has become more and more intense, the forthcoming more furious than the last. Again, it’s all about Mother Nature’s extreme behavior, and what we’ve been all taking recklessly for granted all these years.
Weather temper tantrums in utterly extreme conditions, that’s what we’ve been experiencing worldwide, in a relentless fight-back that Mother Nature has been unleashing in erratically worsening form and shape. When the earth shakes up, it does so not just in mighty heaves, but in suddenly deadly fits and turns. When the weather turns hot, it’s become lethally scalding. When it rains, they come in torrential force, whipped up by lashing winds like no other.
Given the country’s extreme vulnerability to climate change, it is simply right that we do our share in lowering the polluting emissions that have in fact been on the rise from 1990 to 2010 by a surging 65%. When our government set a 70% emission reduction by as much as 70% by 2030 — committed when we signed up our pledged commitment in the global accord forged in Paris — we did so from a conscientious acceptance of a sense of national responsibility. Clearly, we joined up in the worldwide effort to do our share in giving Mother Earth a respite from man’s continuing criminal folly. We recognized the need to be in concert with each other, to abandon our wanton ways and behave as responsible, caring stewards of the only planetary home we can bequeath to generations next.
Walk the talk, walk on by, walk it out. There’s no other choice now, but to heed Mother Nature’s overarching temper tantrums against which we are just mortals awaiting lethal fate. But here we are talking of Nature Tourism, hoping that tourists will continue to trek up here simply because there’s no place like Baguio, simply because Baguio remains uniquely Baguio, a melting pot of tribally fused cultures in harmonized existence with the old and the once young in terms of ethnicity.
Walk the talk, walk on it — it means getting tourists, once here, to enter into the world of nature’s finest and best resources, and into the labyrinth of cultures and traditions that have mesmerized much of our foreign guests far too long, with out without backpacks in tow. This may well be the backbone of a tourism program that hugely relies on how well the message is brought across and where it can be conveyed in greater clarity.
Tourism takers, anyone?