Get Real, Baguio!: Simple Solutions for a Small City


I honestly didn’t expect a flood of reactions about my article on Baguio City’s decay. I knew I made minor errors around there which I am grateful have been clarified. Still, most of the comments I received in both this site and Facebook, not to mention the four emails I received, were concentrated on the past; or, to be more specific, how people miss the Baguio of yesteryear. All I could say about all of this is that the pristine Baguio that many of us know in the past is gone, and the only way to actually get things done in this City is to think of the present and create a future that not only is conducive to Baguioites including myself who love the City, but also to those who would visit it.

In the past week or so after my initial article was posted, I’ve been lambasted on both sides of the issue of Baguio’s ruination, especially on the issue of a mass protest against a mall’s expansion project. On the malls’ side I’ve been labelled an “anti-progressive” and an “anarchist.” On the protesters’ side meanwhile I’ve been called an “elitist,” simply because I didn’t want Communists to infiltrate the action. The irony of it all is that both sides are too stuck up their behinds to actually seek dialogue with each other and find common ground. There seems to be a pervading attitude of seeing one’s own side as “good” while the other as “evil.” In the end, it seems that both sides won’t get it. Meanwhile, Baguio continues its rancid decay due to a simple lack of diplomacy.

Beyond this all-too-common struggle between “capitalist pigs” and “tree-hugging liberals,” it would be perhaps best to look to (and act upon) solutions that would really sustain Baguio’s ecosystem. I’m not a city planner or a civil engineer, but being born in Baguio I believe I have a say on what I think is good for where I live and how I live it, in a way where not just one side of the struggle wins.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

1 — ADMIT THAT BAGUIO IS A TRASHY DUMP. This is the whole point of what this hallowed website’s name is all about: getting real. A majority of people in Baguio don’t want to act because they’re (for a lack of a better word) deluded into thinking that the entire City is beautiful, and will remain beautiful, regardless of all the greed and pollution that’s going on around them. Unfortunately, if you don’t want to believe that where you live in is a cesspool, then chances are you won’t clean it up.

2 — STOP VOTING INCOMPETENT LEADERS, THEN EVENTUALLY BLAMING THEM FOR BAGUIO’S ILLS. This is a no-brainer. Politicians, especially on the local level, are prone to exploit everything to push their pet interests, with little oversight. It sounds ideal, but we Baguioites simply need to stop electing officials who we know have ulterior motives that outweigh their altruism. If we Baguioites know all too well that our leaders don’t have the best interests of Baguio in mind, then why in the world did we put them there in the first place?! It’s unnecessary self-flagellation on a massive scale. Throughout Baguio’s history we have proven many times over that our allegiances are to each other, not to the celebrity of names in government. The logic to this is simple: if they don’t put the needs of Baguio first, then get them out of office. This coming 2013 midterm elections, I know whom to write on the ballot underneath “Congressman” or “Mayor”–or rather, whom NOT to write.

3 — BOTH CORPORATE INTERESTS AND ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAVE TO STOP DEMONIZING EACH OTHER AND INSTEAD SEE EACH OTHER ON EQUAL TERMS. Two malls now operate within Baguio’s central business district, with two more near its political boundaries. Now I understand that too much capitalism and “trickle-down economics” that they all generate create an unfair imbalance in both Baguio’s ecosystem and social fabric. I also understand, however, that if the people of Baguio don’t want oligarchic interests to dominate a certain area, that’s when they must enter and express their sentiment, and provide clear solutions that benefit both parties. Calling each other names only alienates both parties from each other, and eventually also alienates those who have various ideas beyond the duelling sides. Having a “with-us-or-against-us” principle doesn’t help, either. For urban renewal in Baguio City to happen, we must admit the fact that there are private corporations that can do good, and sometimes even better.

One idea that’s been percolating in my head that may or may not offend the sensibilities of those reading this article is for Baguio residents to create a collective trust fund. Any money that enters this trust fund could be used to buy land from the government (or from private institutions), which could be used and managed as reservations. It’s too idealistic, I know, and the management alone could be a nightmare, but it’s something to think about that has probably been never done before.

4 — BE AWARE THAT BAGUIO’S STRENGTH LIES IN THE COURTS, NOT IN THE STREETS. I know that Baguio is pretty much a laid-back City, where things still function even if people chill out more than our lowland counterparts. This is reflected with how we approach critical issues: being law-abiding citizens we’d rather fill the council room at City Hall, listen to the people in power, and air our opinions there afterwards. It’s worked so many times before, and it would do so in many years to come. I’m not saying that we should stay within the confines of the hall for every issue; of course, there are times when we need to voice things out beyond it. But as history points out, the battle for Baguio’s ecology is better won away from the streets. Going the “Fiesta Revolution” path is something that Baguioites aren’t really used to, that’s why more often than not that system doesn’t work here as much as in other cities. It becomes too artificial if such a culture is forced onto Baguio. However, if there’s something that Baguio people should retrieve from the past, it’s our old-fashioned trust in due process, and the ability to guard due process, even if the people who claim to wield it aren’t reliable; because if they aren’t, well, we know what to do come election year.

5 — CREATE A TRANSPORT NETWORK THAT PRIORITIZES PEOPLE, NOT VEHICLES. I mentioned in my first Baguio article about our penchant for private vehicles–a need that unfortunately does not bode well for Baguio’s winding road network and mountain air. It takes a lot of political will to actually urge people to make use of Baguio’s efficient taxi system, one thing which I commend Baguio for having. From experience, I know that our taxi drivers are polite, trustworthy and would even give back exact change. Such a gem in Baguio can be cultivated if much more could be invested for creative public transport that prioritizes people. Some streets in the central business district can be totally closed to traffic in exchange for bike lanes or total pedestrianization, and tram lines have been in the works since the early 1990’s (all have been shot down due to “cost issues.”). Not only is such a large investment a boon for the City’s long-term economy, but it would also revive its ailing ecology.

6 — TREAT EACH OTHER LIKE THE PRECIOUS NATURAL RESOURCES THEY WANT TO PROTECT. Baguioites will deny it, but many people here simply do not know how to segregate their garbage, despite a direct order from City Hall to do so. As an example, I previously worked in a university here where paper is classified as “non-biodegradable,” when based on researches paper comprises as much as half of all trash disposed. I aired this with the administration, which decided to “look into” the classification. I have no idea if anything has happened, since I don’t work there anymore. If Baguioites really care about the City’s ecology, then they would find a way to actually start caring about it within themselves. It becomes the height of hypocrisy when people scream to “save the trees” but actually drive down Session Road on a gas-guzzling car. Or eat out of non-biodegradable Styrofoam. Or exhale smoke in other people’s faces, claiming that it’s a “free country” to do so.

In all my years of living in Baguio I have come to realize that any external force that attempts to change Baguio has to go through the gauntlet of its locals. There is truth to the adage that a direct confrontation against an enemy does not necessarily lead to a good solution; the people of Baguio have known this for more than a century. For all its faults Baguio should not be judged as a black-and-white city where the people in power are “evil” and the people beneath them are “oppressed;” such is defeatist, and will ultimately lead to nowhere. I have made my peace with both sides of these issues. Baguio needs to rediscover that there are infinite shades of gray in between that could be used to solve its current woes.

[Photo courtesy]

23 Replies to “Get Real, Baguio!: Simple Solutions for a Small City”

    1. LOL, if you look at that statement very carefully, almost everyone is Baguio is a squatter because it’s all tribal land. Just sayin’.

      1. No really. Paolo is right: Squatters GTFO.

        And please, none of that “everyone is a squatter” BS. I’m Ibaloi and I won’t mind folk coming over and settling so long as they respect the land and the law. Simple things like no littering (lowlander habit), no spitting (nasty kiangan habit), and keeping your booze trip quiet, is something that squatters ignore.

        Unfortunately, real Baguio people are also badly outnumbered by dumbshits with that squatter mentality, and those dumbshits vote other dumbshits (like the Domogan/Vergara team)into office.

        1. 1. I said “almost everyone”
          2. It has nothing to do with who’s ibaloi or not, it’s simple matter of tracing land titles which makes almost everyone a squatter.

          Just sayin’.

  1. Here’s why I have a low regard for lowland people:

    Juvenile gangstas are all lowlanders
    Loud karaoke music: Lowlanders
    Burning trash out in the open: lowlanders
    Developers that knock down pine trees: lowlanders
    AND lowlanders were part of tha hakot crowd that voted more lowlanders into city hall and congress to “represent” Baguio.

    (Folks would say “but Domogan is an Igorot.” WRONG. That poser is from Quirino town in Ilocos. NOBODY likes him from his own Bag-O tribe. Same goes for that Vergara. Both had to haul squatters from Pangasinan, Bontoc, Tarlac, and La Union to vote for them.)

    1. Again, your attitude is not helping the cause. You might as well be in the USA blaming the blacks for the high crime rate.

      What you are seeing are the scum of the lowlands inflicting upon Baguio their trashy ways, which is to be expected from scum. What you need is to be rid of this undignified behavior from anyone–visitor or native–while they are in the mountain city. It’s something like everyone following the strict rules in that, oh, lowland place called Subic.

      1. Sadly, as racist at it may sound, the crime rate in the USA is primarily from the black denomination; especially in the inner cities and the projects.

        Either way, Baguio’s become a dump due to the politicians that have been put in charge of the city.

        I honestly think that Yaranon should’ve stayed as mayor. It’s just that all the corrupt officials got the better of him.

        1. This comment especially caught my eye upon reading this well put together, but poorly researched article.

          Let me start with by saying that the statement about crime rate primarily from black denominations in the USA is an EXTREMELY bigoted comment to make. Crime rate is CORRELATED with black populations, not CAUSED by it, and it is correlated with many other factors including lower socio economic status, education level, safety, etc. I could go on at length about this topic but I digress.

          My main point is that to make this all-encompassing assumption about a topic you apparently know nothing about (as shown by your correlation vs causation misuse) and then proceed to use it to compare your flawed point to a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT group of people (the lowlanders) is, like the article directly preceding these comments: unprofessional, immature, and unnecessary sensationalist.

          We each have the right to our opinions, but discrimination on the basis of generalized stereotypes is comparable to the US implementing Japanese concentration camps during World War II.

          See, that example makes sense and doesn’t encourage stereotypes. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

          -Just a guy

      2. yup, that lowland place called Subic. Nobody wanted to mess with the place because Olongapo had that civic pride. They didn’t allow Manila-based speculators into the place, and they actually worked with the Aeta aboriginals to shoot poachers and illegal loggers with darts and arrows.

        True, we have for too long tolerated that trashy behavior of pikeys, because of “nothing wrong in what they’re doing”, when there really was something very wrong.

    2. @ Don,

      Stop talking! You are just propagating the stupidity of your tribe or whatever you highlanders call your selves!

      Did ever occur to you that Cebu, Manila, Vigan, etc. the lowlanders you despise, were already thriving cultural centers before you highlanders were still dancing?

      Really, you’re a clueless piece!!!

      1. My ancestors practiced dry rice farming, land stewardship, terraform agriculture, and gold mining without mercury long before your ancestors were overrun by white people.

        And yeah, we still dance to the sound of gongs because we have that solid affinity with our culture and nature, something lowlanders have already forgotten because you replaced it with “catholic” idol-worship very widely practiced in those towns you mentioned.

        And not only do our old people chant the legends and myths of our tribe, we have them written down and recorded too, so our tribe has that continuity and affinity among folks. Too bad, all you have would be that “christianized” Florante & Laura.

        So keep diging before calling me clueless, lowlander. We’ve seen what your people did to Manila, Vigan, and Cebu. Granted they were centers of Hispanic culture back in the day, traces of that culture is now ruined by commercialism and Henry Sy’s business model. Something we ignorant, uncivilized, and savage hill people wouldn’t want happening to our place on earth.

        1. Have you ever encountered the term ‘march of history.’

          Sure, you want to preserve your culture and be left alone but do you think Baguio would have developed without the tourists, students, teachers, engineers, etc? You want our (meaning, lowlanders) business, money, and skills but not our trash?

          Taking it on bigger scale, do you realize that there will not be a progressive United States, Australia, etc. if aboriginal and indigenous people were left on their own devices?

          I tell you, you will not even have the chance to be commenting on any blog (modern?) if your people did not embrace some modernity.

        2. The march of history is a fact we cannot ignore; we’ve seen it from Baguio’s start a hundred years ago. And thanks to that, we have that uniqueness of having skipped being Iberians before becoming Filipinos. We have always welcomed investments, hence the Country Club and all those placers at the Export Zone.

          We don’t mind people coming over, so long as they respect the land. That’s the whole point. The problem comes in when people try to re-create Metro Manila or Vigan or whatever when they come up and settle here. Baguio is Baguio with its own unique circumstances, which lowlanders conveniently ignore.

          By all means invest, thrive and live in Baguio, but leave the lowland lifestyle at Rosario junction and Bauang.

  2. Sorry, but the line about taxi drivers just isn’t true anymore. Baguio is rife with drivers who:

    – are picky about destinations (allergic sa trapik!)
    – will give you exact change, BUT only after you make a big fuss about it
    – drive like maniacs
    – don’t care for the elderly and their groceries
    – are plain rude (true story: driver let out a weird grunt when I handed a 100 bill and he didn’t have change.)

    There are still those courteous drivers out there, but you’d have to be lucky to get a ride in their taxi.

    1. Kuya Jose, yeah, I would agree to some of those, because most taxi drivers hate dropping people off at Loakan especially late at night unless they know they can get a passenger back. (allergic sa distansya. hahaha) Most of them know the best shortcuts if you ask nicely when you’re in a hurry.

      With the exact change, so far I’ve been lucky with them, because they’ve always given me the exact change, although I’ve heard of stingy drivers as well.

      And when you just talk to them, they slow down. … most of them do. =p

      We’ve always been met with drivers who even help us with our groceries or sacks of rice, or assisting the elderly get out.

      And we make sure to always have change in case the driver doesn’t. I know we sometimes expect that drivers have change, but sometimes they just really don’t. o.oa

      Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but maybe it’s also how we interact with them that also makes the difference for having better cab drivers.

      1. Baka malas lang talaga ako pagdating sa taxi hahaha. But yes, passenger attitude makes up for half of that; sometimes napapansin ko na sira na yung araw ng driver by the time we ride their taxi, because of previous passengers and the stress of traffic.

  3. I once came up with this stupid little electric tricycle design that – combined with a solar-powered recharging system – won me 15K at a motor show.

    It would promote Baguio as some kind of green nature city if this thing somehow got into production.

    Barring that, the last time I went to Baguio to climb the stairs up to the Lourdes Shrine (personally liked the semi-abandoned Jesuit campus better), I noticed one of the candle sellers about to drop a deuce in the bushes just off the stairs.

    Forty lashes would work just fine.

  4. I have to say that I really enjoyed reading your article and I really do like some of your ideas, even if they’ll never see the light of day. I am a foreigner and have been living in Baguio for 4 years now. A couple points I’d like to make are ones that you have missed that I’d love to see get a bit more attention. First, when me and my wife moved here in 2008, there was a day of the week designated for pick-up of recyclables. Then, all of the sudden, it stopped just like that. I’d like to see recycling brought back, it would dramatically improve the trash problem. Also, I think every Barangay in the city should have at least a few large composting bins, made of bamboo and wide enough to allow for rapid decomposition of biodegradable material. I know a lot of people may think that compost stinks but the reality is, it doesn’t. I’ve been composting the entire time I’ve lived in Baguio and not only have I prevented all that bio from going to the dump, I’ve created a huge mound of rich, black soil. If the city can focus on these two things, we’ll be in a lot better shape.

  5. genius to comment others ,,,,did you comment your self first,,,,…me…i am proud to be igorot,,,and i miss my place,,,,, ill travel and i see the view of laguna,cavite,olongapo,zambales,vizcaya, tagaytay,metro manila,,and others,,,and i was disappointed what i saw,,,but it’s really true,,,many squatters,,, only foreigner put up companies into their own lands ,,,now where they are,,,i do not know,,
    in our in cordillera,,they live in farming,gold mining,and others,,did you see squatters in baguio city…or you didn’t visit this places,,,see first before u comment…
    don’t tell a story telling a lie,,,God knows,,,,

  6. I want to migrate there in Baguio because of the cold weather How much would I need to live there? I’m a vegetarian so I’m not a picky eater.I heard about IRISAN is it OK if I would build my dream house there?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.