Why Baguio Is Dying

mukhang peraThe truth is: SM Baguio is just a scapegoat of Pseudo Environmentalists, because they’re politicians who can’t go against the REAL CAUSES of ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION in Benguet and Baguio City: MINING CORPORATIONS who advertise in newspapers and give PR money to columnists, VEGETABLE FARMERS who fund political campaigns, and informal settlers who vote for them.

In my widely read post, “The Rise of Syndicated Environmentalist Causes”, I noted that Project Save 182 mover Karlo Altomonte’s Open Spaces was holding a Valentine’s Day performance at Camp John Hay — an organization which Dr. Michael Bengwayan accused of killing trees a few years ago. I also pointed out that Former John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC) Operations Group Manager Frank Daytec is the brother of Lawyer Cheryl Daytec Yangot” another prime mover of Save 182. Daytec-Yangot is the wife of Acting Baguio Vice Mayor/Councilor Leandro Yangot, a JHMC board member and mother of Councilor Karrmin Yangot.

The mention of how all these movers are somewhat connected to Camp John Hay and Baguio City Politics is somewhat indicative of why the group seems to be targeting one business in particular rather than going after the larger cause of environmental degradation in Benguet — poorly regulated agriculture that displaced hundreds of hectares of pine tree forests.

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Politicians like Daytec and Yangot can’t afford to go head to head against farmers, some of whom may actually be political campaign financiers.

Another group of people that Daytecs and Yangots can’t afford to get angry are the residents and “informal settlers” of Baguio City itself. I pointed out in one of my first posts in Pinoy Buzz on the Save 182 Movement way back in April 2012 that the unplanned conversion of surrounding forests into residential areas was the bigger reason for all the environmental ills experienced in Baguio City:

From the top of the steps leading to the Baguio Cathedral, one could see thousands of pine trees surrounding the city and that was what really justified the city’s other moniker which is “the City of Pines”.

Perhaps the value of the pines that are inside the city itself is perhaps more ornamental or aesthetic than ecologically functional. It filled up the open spaces which were in the design made by Daniel Burnham for the city and somewhat made the city feel more like a part of its surrounding wooded areas.

Now, over the decades, the wooded areas surrounding Baguio City gave way to the sprawl of houses and buildings. This happened in such an unplanned way that it destroyed the vistas that once made Baguio City really remarkable.

Recently, I found a Baguio Resident’s publicly posted pictures on Facebook of the hill of houses surrounding Baguio and it underscores my point that it is not really SM that is killing Baguio City — IT IS THE RESIDENTS THEMSELVES.


As a preface to JB Baylon’s album, he wrote:

The city of Baguio began as a mining town…and in the days of my youth was a great place to head to when summer came…cool breeze, the scent of pine, a perfect getaway.

Today it is dying. And mining is not the culprit…unplanned urban expansion is. When Baguio’s hills are deforested to give way to houses, houses that are wantonly built, allegedly by informal settlers who someone get permits from – or are tolerated by – the authorities – then I fear we have not only an environmental or ecological disaster but also a natural calamity-induced disaster-in-the-making!

It might be best to ask geologists, but it seems to me that Baguio’s hills are not solid as rock but more like clay soil in nature…so I have been asking myself through the years as I notice how the hillsides get slowly covered by houses: will the hillsides hold?

Okay, girls and boys, can you say Cherry Hills landslide? What has Acting Vice Mayor/Slash Councilor Yangot done to ensure these houses will not slide off the hills?

47 Replies to “Why Baguio Is Dying”

  1. Leandro Yangot is not with the local government anymore. He used to be the ABC (Association of Barangay Councils) President automatically making him a councilor of this city. last 2010 elections he ran for congressman but lost. he is again running for councilor this 2013….

    it is true that it is all these one million people here that’s killing baguio

    i personally blame the universities here and the call centers for attracting all these gazillions of people to come here and reside

    why dont all these universities and call centers build their institutions in pangasinan, la union, tarlac or ilocos? where majority of the students and call center agents come from anyway!

    the cost of properties, construction materials, labor are way cheaper in those areas! PLUS!! all these students and call center people do not have to leave their families down there just to come up here to study and work and eventually live here…AND there are no trees to cut there if they want to build infrastructures!! just free and open spaces!

    that is why I really think that if SLU is really concerned with the environment of Baguio by vehemently protesting against SM before, then they should have built their university annex in the lowlands (where their students come from) and not in Bakakeng Barangay where they had to cut trees and congested that area of Baguio…

    1. I think you shouldn’t blame schools for setting up in baguio. SLU is a very old university and it wouldn’t make sense for them to build their annex school far away from the main university. I blame the government and the informal settlers for the condition of baguio right now.SLU is known for being the light of the north and i would want to keep it that way.

  2. the truth is that in the 3rd world things inevitably reduce to the lowest common denominator. heritage, style and culture are subservient to short term greed without any conception of long term integrated planning. baguio is not the only victim, now or in the future.
    irrespective of playing a blame game, the underlying rationale is the community culture, aided and abetted by local politics, which always has a grubby and greedy finger in the pie.
    a case of the blind leading the blind.
    a corrupt mayor adding fuel to the fire
    and somewhere of beauty becoming a cess-pit
    long live korea

  3. There are no real environmental groups in Baguio; just groups of people with their own vested interests.

    It is arrogant for people to destroy Nature, but it is equally as arrogant for people to save Nature.

  4. baguio did not began as a mining town….it was the americans who planned,designed and created baguio as their R&R with a capacity of a quarter of a million people.
    baguio is not dying. it is developing like any other beautiful cities in the world. sm came in adding more beauty to baguio.
    population is the one destroying facade of baguio.
    blaming the yangot and daytec is a sign of ignorance.

    1. On the contrary, SM made Baguio a worse place than it is today. Sure, Baguio was already bad before the Sy’s purchased the land where SM now stands, but SM brought the Pinoy shopping mall culture to a city that quite frankly never needed it.

      The Yangots and the Daytecs are definitely to blame on a large part. If you’ve been reading previous articles and evidences presented by commenters on GRP, you’d find out that the Daytecs have always supported (and will again support the re-election of) the incumbent Baguio mayor Mauricio Domogan, who welcomed SM with open arms.

      It only enhances the point I made earlier: those who claim to be “environmentalists” in Baguio are really those who just want to put their own selfish interests in power.

    2. You are in denial. I have been to Baguio almost twice a year as a child in the 90s. It was beautiful then. I went there last 2009, 2010, 2011, big parts of it are just crap now.

  5. Baguio does not have the monopoly of a city dying from its own inhabitants. Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Bacolod, Davao City, Gensan, Iloilo and Butuan are now showing advanced symptoms.

  6. Was is it here or in the Facebook group that someone posted, life has become so hard and expensive in the rural areas that instead of buying LPG, they just chop every tree in sight for firewood. Now think of this situation for the squatters in Baguio. That may explain one big cause of Baguio’s degradation as a tourist site.

    1. Chino, using wood as cooking fuel has long been a practice in the provinces. The next fuel of choice is kerosene. People in the provinces are usually the ones who have access to the “bayan” or town — it’s pretty hard to bring LPG from the bayan to a remote rural area.


        1. What’s wrong with reclaiming what is meant to be owned? Are you sure that reclaiming ancestral lands leads to deforestation and deterioration of the city? If so, what an accusation you have there against the IPs of Baguio. Do your research first.The Ibalois did not build buildings, condominiums, malls, or mansions in their lands.

          P.S. Granting a CALT is not as easy as serving you your order in a restaurant.There’s a process involved.There are legit titles and there are questionable ones.

  7. I left Baguio City in 1980’s to come to live in the US and the last time I went to visit this beautiful Baguio City, was in 2011. I once thought that Baguio was one of the best places to live, but not anymore. It pains me to realize that it is too crowded, polluted, and God forbid, it could be considered as a dangerous place/ not the safest place to live, in terms of crime rates. I was/ and still am so disappointed and saddened how crowded and polluted the place is now a days. And noticing at how houses are built, it seems like there is no specifications and standards. In the end, houses are built so close together in whatever form or fashion and in some instances, so close to the road. No new roads are built in relations to population explotion. And who is to blame?…. mostly politicians, first and foremost. And to conclude it bluntly, it comes down to failed leadership.

  8. How can you have intelligent analysis if ‘the facts’ on which it is based is false? Yangot is not the Vice-Mayor of Baguio City. He was the no.1 Councilor for a time and became acting vice-mayor but is no longer in the City Government.

    Responsible blogger? Hmmmm….

  9. quote: “On the contrary, SM made Baguio a worse place than it is today. Sure, Baguio was already bad before the Sy’s purchased the land where SM now stands, but SM brought the Pinoy shopping mall culture to a city that quite frankly never needed it.”

    seriously? why sm only?? center mall and cooyeesan were here first. think back…what have you done for baguio??

    anyway i do agree with what you have posted earlier….”just groups of people with their own vested interests”

    1. SM, Center Mall, and Coo Yee San have ALL destroyed Baguio. Add to that the vegetable farmers, so-called “ancestral land” claimants, and also ALL of the residents who choose to have individual houses all over the City.

      All these people destroyed Baguio. Worse, even the hypocritical pseudo-environmentalists like Save 182 are contributing to its destruction by claiming to have a monopoly on “environmental awareness” and “green activism.”

      And why should I mention what I have done to save Baguio? I promise you I have done my part in making the City a better place, but I would rather not brag about the specifics. Posting photos on Facebook of me planting trees and cleaning my backyard is NOT my style.

  10. last time i was in baguio was in 2005 and even then the urban planning and pollution in the city proper made me not want to come back ever

  11. The last time my family went there was in December 2010. Expecting Baguio to be like what they were when they were still small, my children all grown up, and me and my husband, were all disappointed. Pollution and traffic is terrible in the central city. Good thing we’re booked at Hotel Elizabeth which is a little far from the central so less pollution and no traffic. What happened to Baguio? It even stinks. Long time ago when you go to Baguio you will really smell the fresh air and the scent of the pine trees. Now? It’s replaced by the smog caused by pollution. Poor Baguio. It was “once” a beautiful place that we can be proud of. Filipinos are really destroyers of everything good. 🙁

  12. Sad ending to a beautiful article. Sad for the environment, but more sad for the author for failing to maintain focus on the main issue. The main issue of the article, and more importantly Baguio City, and the Philippines in large is not land-slide! The main issue here is deforestation, extinction, destruction first-hand, not second-hand! Land-slide is the lesser of the two evils! This article was supposed to focus on the destruction of nature, but suddenly half way through it turns its back on the real problem and starts getting populistic by suddenly crying out the cause of the deforesters, and airing their concerns for their own survival: will we last a land-slide?! It’s like having an ineffective president who inherits a mess and turns it into a bigger mess, and all we want to do is to impeach him for smoking!

    1. Um, if you read closely, the article only mentions landslides in passing, and as an effect of ecological collapse. The focus on the article is still focused on Baguio’s decay.

  13. It is not only the local politicians who can not go against the real causes of environmental degradation in Baguio and Benguet, but there are also government bureaucrats who have tremendous responsibilities in keeping our environment good. Both do nothing effective except some press releases to deodorize their image.

  14. The failure of the local government is evident in its inability to implement a land use plan. If anyone can construct a house in any place, then you can always have a unsightly and unsafe hill as shown in this article. But who cares about unsightly and unsafe dwellings? what is important is that they (squatters, miners, vegetable growers, LGUs) benefit from it. So this will likely grow and continue, until nature acts and stops it all, in a grand fashion, a disaster that can kill many. Well, history repeats itself…until we learn our lesson.

  15. I Love Baguio very much, but I saw Baguio’s transformation from “Good to Worse” condition. When you get to the proper city it says “The Cleanest and Peaceful City in the Philippines, but to my dismay due to the facts that everywhere you go now there’s garbage’s all over not to mention the “Graffiti” on Street Signs and Government walls etc., a clear act of Vandalism that nobody knows if the Mayor of Baguio is getting its attention or just keeping a eye blinder. Then there’s the uncontrollable muslim vendors who doesn’t respect the culture and cleanliness of the Local Ifugaos, they just go about their business with vested interest and never respect the law of the city. Then most of the land and building and business owners now are Koreans who also doesn’t respect the law and Culture of Baguio City. Lastly, Gang related violence occurring anywhere you go mostly in the wee hours of the day when most tourists are just starting to enjoy the city. Too much infrastructures causing environmental defects. Before when you get to build a building, if the lot contains Pine trees you have to design your house plan to refrain from cutting trees. But now a day it’s all for the cutting and not thinking about what hazardous effect it could lead to. Temperature are shooting up because of this factors and as soon as you passed by the Marcos Highway you will get to see a Mountain growing Houses and not a Mountain Growing Trees anymore, Wake Up City of Baguio and the People who ran the City, it’s about time you preserved what’s left of the City and Stop looking for ways of just Augmenting Income Related means and Please give back some for the Locals of the City for them enjoy with. Discipline Peace and Orderliness are the 3 main factors to get Baguio City back to Pedestal.

    1. Di po lokal ng baguio ang mga Ifugaos. The Ibalois are. Igorots/Cordillerans are the general term to refer to the original inhabitants of the Cordilleras.

      Back to the topic, I don’t think that the destruction of Baguio is caused by Muslims or Koreans or lowlanders alone. Not even just by Yangot and Daytec (who, by the way, is a human rights activist). It’s a collaboration of many things, centered on greed. I very much miss my old Baguio too and I am not sure if we will ever get it back.

      1. hindi na po maibabalik ang mga bundok na pinatag nila. mga punong kahoy pwede pa..,pero ang mgagandang kabundukan na madalas namin puntahan nuon ay wala na

        1. That is the sad fact about Failipinos; they are willing to sacrifice the natural beauty of their country, at a chance to make a profit and to appear “world class” material to the rest of the world.

  16. Just when I thought Baguio is sold to Korea. How come that there are so many korean establishments lately? I think the blame should not be put SM alone or to SLU either. Baguio can never be Baguio without SLU because the institution produced one of the finest graduates in the Philippines. And it has been there since Baguio started.
    The call centers are government projects to increase employment and corruption also.
    How come the government installed fly over in BGH and La Trinidad? Fly overs are suppose to connect two or more areas that will make the travel time shorter and faster. But what you see in Baguio is corruption because “hindi pinag iisipan na project, basta may project lang na masabi”.
    How come that the roads are always under repair? I ask this to one government employee and it was said that there had been changes in the quality control of highways. Not all people are dumb to accept that answer.
    The corruption should not be blamed to few because the past officials are also corrupt except for one because he was forced to resign because he was cleaning the corrupt system and those who went against have the largest catch.
    I cannot even recommend going to Baguio to have vacation but I would definitely recommend Palawan and Davao. There is not much to see or enjoy, feels like you are in Metro Manila because of the poor traffic engineering and urban zoning. Garbage is everywhere.
    People of Baguio act now or you will end up just a memory.

  17. Its too late, we can no longer bring back the trees. Maybe we have to exert more effort in planting more trees rather than bashing SM and the politicians. Its always been a conspiracy.

  18. i can sense baguio needs lots of sincere help in order to turn itself around for the better. i’m a american who fell in love with baguio and the filipino culture. my area of expertise is law enforcement. i will offer up some important comments and observations concerning a epidemic we also have in baguio. please follow my next couple of comments and you will see what i’m reaching out for. “i can’t we can”

  19. the most common crime was physical injury with 1,454 cases; followed by theft with 1,037; robbery, 277; car theft, 113; rape, 89; homicide, 54; murder, 19; and cattle rustling, 8.

  20. lets not forget : drug pushers, drug traffickers, drug runners, drug sindikatas that run and operate freely in neighborhoods and school’s destroying lives for personal gains.

  21. go get them Wilkins Villanueva, the street drug epidemic could not exist if there was no police protection by a few corrupt law enforcement personnel. wilkins villanueva i salute you, your a man of honor and integrity … i’ll be waiting for you to come to baguio to clean up the filthy drug infested neighborhoods where drug traffickers, drug pushers and runners and drug smugglers operate freely. they have destroyed baguio which is now called the dead city due to the protection a few rotten on the take so called law enforcement personnel that have gone un-noticed …

  22. Cleaning up the street drug epidemic is simple to achieve, just remove the main source which is the few law enforcement personnel who have been providing protection for these criminals … no monies have to be wasted on a bunch of programs that do not rid our neighborhoods and schools of the drug epidemic … take out the few rotten corrupt so called law enforcement personel who have been lining there pockets with the filthy money they receive from the protection they provide for the criminals … the real epidemic is the few bad rotten corrupt cops/police not the drugs … “first things first”

  23. 99% of baguio’s law enforcement personnel and agencies are on the job to do service for their fellow baguio citizens because their good kind human beings and they care. they would give their lives if it came to it.

  24. it’s only those few rotten law enforcement personnel that sell protection to the criminals, who have secretly gone unnoticed because of their secret society. they need to be uncovered and brought to justice. and like we say in the u.s. marines ” no excuse is acceptable “

  25. this is as simple as it gets ! ! !
    if their was no protection being sold to the criminals their would be very little crime !!!

  26. i was born and grew up in baguio..,what i remember about baguio was when the wind blew you can smell the scent of pine trees and you will never say ” grabe ang init naman” because the tall trees along harisson road serves as your shed from the heat of the sun..,at camp john hay you can freely go there and have picnic with anyone you want to be with..,unlike now the picnic area is for hire..,as an igorot who are the original settlers of the mountains of the cordillera and not the lowlanders who acts superior towards us it is so sad to see those tall trees being cut and those high mountains being buldorized to constuct high buildings. maybe ten years from now baguio will be just like manila polluted and garbage are scattered everywhere.

  27. too many low income people with not a lot of skills or creativity, arriving in greater and greater numbers, leaving the provincial areas where nothing much is happening; poor leadership; its the problem all over the islands.

    the art scene in Baguio is not so good, either. the music i hear played at the different cafes is boring. university life is not particularly exciting because there’s not a lot of free thought.

    the midland is drab, with way too many obituaries, and boring articles and opinion pieces. the competing papers aren’t offering much that’s interesting, either.

    restaurants, especially along Session, but all over the town, are cheap, commercial, crappola. and over-priced in many cases for what’s on offer.

    Baguio is confused about what it is. is it a tourist town? no. is it a city? it wants to be, but the geography is a little odd.

    the mountains of houses are disgusting and made of low income rooms for rent. what greed fest.

    the “mountain people” are no better than the “low-landers.” that there’s even a distinction is case in point for the cultural problems in the Philippines generally. our group vs your group. neither is anything to write home about.

    the airport doesnt work. there’s no train to manila, let alone a high-speed train.

    there aren’t even any good websites for apartment hunting, or for know about the town. just a lot of junk online. and most of the rental and property prices are inflated beyond belief. completely bizarre.

    people shop and hang around SM because you get better quality there, its a lot nicer, compared to the rest of Baguio that confronts you, which is one big junk store.

    there are ten thousand taxis.

    there are drunks around in the evenings that start fights and carry knives sometimes.

    there is too much crime.

    there’s a lot of methamphetamine. not enough cannabis.

    it seems that old generations are still largely in charge and keeping everything like grandma’s house. but who goes to church, really? and why? to pretend you’re a good person?

    Baguio is a pathetic town today. and we hate it because in fact, it could be so much better. it has an interesting story. there’s some kind of atmosphere under the poverty and poor infrastructure, under the junk, under the garbage, that could come alive, but never will.

    Baguio could be the best town in the Philippines, and a contender in Asia. but its not and never will be.

    that’s why it disgusts us.

    1. Perfectly said.

      I see so many Baguio people with pride, noses held up high. Not sure what exactly are they so proud of, the mountains and climate? Neither has anything to do with the people.
      The old generations are the problem as they’re completely corrupt, it’s a bit like some mafia run town in Italy but with terrible infrastructure. Landlords are the worst in the world, pure greed coupled with unreal dishonesty and arrogance.

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