By: Glo Abaeo Tuazon
The city begun to tire. Then it started smelling tired. Lately it simply smelled. The stink permeating the once beautiful place I proudly called home. I spent all my life in this city. Aside from the occasional travels away from home when my job calls for it, I was stuck here…willingly. I was born here. For all I cared about I am one of the luckiest people to have had the opportunity to be rooted in this tiny but beautiful and tranquil place. Until about lately.
Though I may not be very old to have seen the glory days of Baguio, I would sink to the stories of my folks about those times when much of the place was still exceedingly safe and fascinatingly serene. In my very young mind then, I would often see the place as shrouded in some kind of mystical tale. Like most young girls were enthralled with buds and blossoms, I would without a miss liken Baguio City with the many blooms during summer and the cold, misty tree-lined promenades comes the last quarter of the year approaching December and the Holidays. We kids would delight in the very simple things such as trees to climb, grass beneath us to roll on, the rain to soak in and the rivers to thrash about and catch tadpoles from. To me that was a blissful phase. I was full of life and hope that I thought I could walk barefoot into the sunset.
Growing up I have come to understand the meaning of change and transition. I would not have minded at all, the saying that change is inevitable, an accepted line to me. But it all came down in one big swoop that is both unnerving and scary. To this day, the anxiety of what worse things to come fills my subconscious, like a gnawing thought, stale and rotting like the garbage around the city streets, growing maggots with the passing days. Decaying with every passing minute and not many seemed to mind. I once thought the blind were unfortunate, the thought seems to change now. In more ways than one, they are luckier than us. They do not have to see all the pains in this world. They are content with the colors in their minds borne by the smell, the sound and the feel of the things as they see fit with their “fingers”. Because when they see with their hands, they have the option to just let go of what they see when it hurts, like a finger burned.
BILLBOARDS RISING. And so the billboards started rising too. Big commercial ads staring down on people from pedestals of buildings. Maybe there’s a wanting there to make this tiny haven like a little Manila for all we care. Commerce has come to the point of being number one priority, like education once was the star presentor in Baguio. Now they stand side by side, education sometimes commercialized too.
MARKET SCENE. And yet beyond these billboards is a riot in the market scene. People from all walks of life walking among the gawking vendors, lost in the tide of humanity selling wares to mean their day’s meal. The passionate sellers seemingly possessed, hollering chants of “bili na bili na kayo” with whatever they have in hand, waving slippers, cloths, food or tickets at people’s noses in the hope of selling one or a couple. I look my way around and disappear the next quieter corner, exhausted at the scene.http://mountainprovince.net/wp-admin/post-new.php
TOURIST SPOT AND CONSTRUCTION RISING. I reach a bend and come out to a street clearing, still congested though. In front of me is a construction site, fenced in for security and safety. Inside are platoons of men, like soldiers doing battle with the elements. The sun searing them and the rains pouring buckets when the skies cry. On this piece of sodden earth will soon rise another building. Proud and spit-shiny, it will add to the desolution of the once simple image of my beloved city. Around Baguio, there are hundreds more like this, constructions big and small, all convening to crowd and change the city scenery.
And night came. I sit with a coffee mug inside a café watching the lights flick on one by one. For awhile the yellow orange hue washing everything outside was beautiful. It hides the imperfections of the city, like an acne cream minimizing the effect of an unwanted facial zit. Temporary. Then the loud sounds of bars and honking of horns and screeching of tires on the pavement cut the still of the night, to be repeated on occasions. The loud bar sounds a constant though. Answering each other in flights of crescendos lasting until about two in the morning.
At four in the morning, the cold city streets begin to lift up the veil again, revealing joggers intent to get the most of life out of the slowly cramping city. Burnham Park a joggers favorite. The park used to be beautiful, parades of sunny flowers waving in the wind. The boats and other floaters along the lake a welcoming site. Now cars in assortments line the streets to the lake, sometimes oblivious to the pollution they bring about. The exhaust staining the rims of noses with dark soots strained by the nasal hairs. Tourists contribute to the population growth of the filled-up city. They come in batches to appreciate the “beautiful city” or what is left of it. In more ways than one, ours is something far better that theirs and yet I complain. I think our love of the city has waned, not good or sufficient enough to have protected and preserved it.
We created festivals to lure more people in, to lure more investors in, the more people and investors, the more progressive the city will become. Or so we thought. In between the lines only a few benefits from those we created though. We still forgot the little ones. The little ones that built the pillars of the city, without their hands these great minds and ideas of the big ones are useless and ineffective. They toiled with their hands and tasted the salt in their sweats to polish the city we live in now. Yet we still forget them.
Twilight came the next day and the cycle of life goes about the city in daily routinary schedules, not missing a bit or a lot is lost. Most of the little ones go to bed early, exhausted from the toils and spoils of work while some of the big ones stay up a lot longer, planning more schemes, more buildings, more streets, more businesses, more festivals to lure more investors, more people, to make the city more “beautiful”, more progressive, more competitive…
The “city of hope” will rise again in the morning.