A Brief Lesson on Online Hysterics

I’ll get to the point: never assume that every issue posted on mainstream social media is true. Over the weekend, Baguio’s Facebook community went on alert when a picture of two documents was posted online by a certain popular provocateur.

The photograph shows a letter of request to the Baguio government to allow a certain exercise group to use a portion of the park for their activities; beside this is the official receipt revealing a transaction of PhP500.00 paid by the group.

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In no complicated language, said provocateur then exclaimed that this was “proof” that people now needed to pay PhP500.00 just to work out at Burnham Park. To date there have been around 585 replies to the posting, all expressing varying levels of disgust and shock that Baguio’s local government has now apparently found a way to fleece people for an exorbitant amount of money.

At almost exactly the same time as that pair of photos went viral over Facebook, this came out:


This photo is of the central pool of Burnham Park’s newly-renovated Rose Garden, a bone of contention that I might focus on in a later posting. Like the first photo, this also garnered a lot of negative attention; most posters then believed that even the simple joy of taking pictures in Burnham Park now needed payment.

I think it would be best for me to start with this latter photo first, since it obviously says “Burnham Pork Meme” at the lower right, and the yellow sign is doubtlessly photo-manipulated. Despite the fact that a journalist for Sun*Star Baguio already posted an unretouched photo of the same scene sans the sign, the hysterics didn’t seem to dissipate. Worse, people who read the “meme” tag on the lower right of the photo completely and deliberately ignored it and still claimed that Baguio’s government was still hellbent on charging people for taking photos.

On October 11, 2013, a day after the photos went viral, an aide to the Baguio City Mayor’s Office released this statement:

BURNHAM PARK IS FREE FOR ALL, except those who use the premises for commercial purpose or simply those activities that require paying of fees.

EVER SINCE, NO FEES ARE BEING COLLECTED FOR WALKING, JOGGING OR RUNNING AND TAKING PHOTOS AROUND THE PARK. Anybody can go and do their regular morning walk, jog or run around Burnham Park. Anybody can also take photos of the park. In fact, we encourage you to take photos of the park and its attractions and share it to the world. If somebody is collecting fees for using a place in Burnham Park for you to have pictures, the same is ILLEGAL. Report the person doing it so that the proper case be filed against him.

On the issue of the collection of park fees from groups using the premises for organized physical fitness purposes, please take note that the City Mayor or his administration never issued an Order for the collection of fees from the said groups. For the information of all, what the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) has done in order to fulfill its mandate to maintain Burnham Park is continue the regulations and collection of regulatory fees being done and implemented by the then Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) through National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) in collecting regulatory fees from organized groups for the cleanliness and maintenance of Burnham Park at the time at the time they were the ones managing the said Park. This is the basis and the reason why the CEPMO had asked the organizers/teachers of the organized physical fitness groups to pay/contribute One Hundred Pesos per hour for their entire group for the cleanliness and maintenance of the Park for in the first place, they collect Twenty Pesos per hour from each of their members. [emphasis mine] In short, City through CEPMO does not collect from individual users of Burnham Park.

On the issue of the payment of fees or application of permits before taking photos in the park – Ever since, the City NEVER collect fees nor require permits for taking photos in Burnham Park. Taking photos or videos are absolutely free, except for those who use the park for video shooting purposes with or bringing in big equipments for in this case, bond and fees are collected based on the regulations inherited by CEPMO from PTA and NPDC. “

So apparently Baguio’s CEPMO had a reason to collect from the exercise group after all, since the group itself was collecting money (PhP20.00 per hour per person, to be more specific) from those who wished to join them in their activities. As for the first photo with the receipt, the PhP500.00 was payment not for a single session but FIVE sessions (at PhP100.00 each). Nevertheless, this didn’t apparently deter a lot of “concerned citizens” from coming up with their own conclusions while ignoring all aspects of the issue.

Physical fitness is, I believe, a right that each individual inherently possesses, and recreational spaces such as Burnham Park provide a great venue for people to exercise their right, pun intended. The statement above supports this idea, proving that for as long as you don’t profit from an extensive commercial activity on public recreational facilities, parks are FREE OF CHARGE. Jogging around the Burnham Lagoon is FREE OF CHARGE. Taking photos is FREE OF CHARGE. But if an exercise group, which apparently asks for PhP20.00 per person per hour, attracts a large group of people that they block off a significant portion of one of Burnham Park’s roadways, then doesn’t the government have all the right to ask for a fee? I think it’s common sense: for-profit groups exploiting public resources for private gain without paying anything back is not right.

Unfortunately, mass-induced online outrage once again got into the way of reasoned thinking. The often-invoked but rarely-applied mantra that “Parks Are Beyond the Commerce of Man” was resurrected once again against Baguio’s government, downplaying the fact that it was the exercise group that was asking for payment from others in the first place. Meanwhile, boats and bicycles are still being rented in and around the Burnham Lagoon, plants and tree seedlings are still being sold at the Orchidarium, food is still served at the Ganza Restaurant, and numerous vendors still ply their wares across the length and breadth of Baguio’s premiere park. If the Online Outrage Squad continues invoking the mantra, they perhaps need to face the for-profit groups they defend so much.

I now await them, and since apparently I’m supporting the local government on this matter, they might even brand me the Mayor’s “paid hack.”

31 Replies to “A Brief Lesson on Online Hysterics”

  1. For a moment there, even I thought this supposed fee was real, but I waited until someone from Baguio itself confirmed it. Thanks for doing so. Another fake outrage fad debunked.

    1. The people who are up in arms with this picture are actually the same people who have hijacked the “Parks are Beyond the Commerce of Man” philosophy; they ignore it entirely if they use it for their own purposes.

      However, they don’t seem to mind flinging the philosophy against corporations or even the government when either of them choose to manage even just small portions of the park.

      The same is happening to Baguio: for example, a Korean group wants to rehabilitate the overly dilapidated Athletic Bowl, but these so-called “activists” are up in arms because they find it tantamount to the “privatization” of Burnham Park. These “activists” also bitched against the government constructing the Rose Garden fountains because they said it was against the “will of the people.” If so, then why are there thousands of people (visitors and locals alike) enjoying themselves around these fountains daily FOR FREE?

      I actually get the feeling that the provocateur who posted that photo refuses to analyze economics, commerce and how the government functions.

      1. The city government does not have a good record when it comes to dealing Baguio’s lands, properties, whatever you’d like to call them. Case in point, Camp John Hay. I understand, it owes the city millions if not billions. Jadewell, that Baguio property used for parking beside Ganza cannot even be used now due to a court case brought about by Jadewell. So when the city comes up with plans to privatize this or that, residents react negatively to them. The fountains in Rose Garden are a shallow form of artificial entertainment. I’d rather have the city adapted the points raised by Jonathan Best in his essay https://www.facebook.com/notes/save-the-burnham-park-movement/baguios-burnham-park-then-and-now/10150570130958546 Everything we need to do with Burnham Park is covered there. Yet the city ignores it.

  2. The money for the Park was now used as local Pork Barrel by city officials. So, they need to replenish it , thru the pockets of the people, who will use the Park.


      This means NO ONE IN THE GOVERNMENT is collecting money from people in Burnham Park. The fees are only collected if a private for-profit group collects money there for their own financial gains.

        1. Facts do not matter. If people are collecting money for the use of public places. Something fishy is in it. I smell stink.

        2. Hyden Toro says “Facts do not matter.”

          The Pinoy mentality is encapsulated in that one sentence.

  3. Thanking you again for enlightening each and everyone regarding this issue .Requesting the local government or any civic action group or volunteer group to monitor issues,of what going on in the City Of Baguio to avoid discouragement and creating negative feedback .That all people can see and read issues regarding the summer capital of the Philippines . Each and every one of us , has its own moral obligation to correct the thinking of others his fellow human being before hurting others .thank you and Mabuhay Tayong Lahat …

  4. Yes, those big groups who exercise there should be considerate enough not to hog the whole lane for themselves. There are walkers and runners who’d like to use the roads, too.

    1. Exactly!

      No one is telling them to stop exercising, the policy is telling them that if they use a portion of Burnham Park large enough that it can potentially inconvenience others, then they have to give the government its dues.

      I hope my essay clears a lot of things up, because honestly Facebook is turning people into zombies who refuse to analyze issues beyond their comfort zones, even for just a bit.

  5. I had always wondered if the Filipino people are really just fond of conspiracies or are just plain gullible.

    So what happened to the provocateur after the Mayor posted the reply? I would really like to know what kind of reasons he/she would come up after that one.

    1. Of course now they’re dissecting the statement released by City Hall above. They still claim it’s confusing for them to understand.

    2. I don’t know either maybe its because of how the media portrays conspiracies and how it actually happens in real life that is why they are fond of acting like that.

      I can vouch for gullibility though, those “get rich quick schemes” tend to come in mind in that respect.

      I guess the provocateur got a bit of a reality shock I guess since he was like barking at the wrong tree and for an invalid reason.

      You know those people when they don’t read enough of the rules or certain guidelines they just go out on blind rage because of a freaking misunderstanding, and when the “powers-that-be” enlightens them by reading out or spelling out the same rules and guidelines that those outraged people didn’t care to read well, in Filipino we call it, “Napapahiya” and “titiklop na lang sa isang tabi”.

      I guess people should read more books, and watch TV less. If they can’t figure out simple things like that, no wonder why a lot of “our esteemed and beloved educated politicians” just take advantage of that weakness.

  6. THAT provocateur is now singing an entirely different tune. At least that popular “taklesa” on tv knows how to apologize for some misinformed or careless remarks but this provocateur always has reasons for posting such unconfirmed and poorly researched information that she so eagerly posts as facts oftentimes claiming that the universe told her so. Her percieved popularity as a “writer” and a “fighter for the people’s causes” has gotten way over her head. tsk tsk tsk

    1. Interestingly enough, that provocateur is one of the most vocal leaders of that pseudo-environmentalist group Save 182.

  7. @ MidWay, HA! a paid hack…over ten bucks…OMG!
    Who are these people? they have nothing better to do? geez.

    it is also pretty un-believable that people have to be told that NOT everything they read on the internet is true! it now seems that an entire generation of people need to actually be told:
    1) believe none of what you hear and not even half of what you see. 2) things are not what they seem. 3) NEVER volunteer information. 4) keep your personal business to yourself.5) beware of the inquisitor. 6) you have the right to remain silent.

    in these days of people telling anyone who will listen all about their personal lives, via ‘facebook’/twitter etc, etc, etc…it is actually funny when one of these idiots homes gets robbed immediately after they post, on facebook, that they are going on vacation for a week and post the good news right next to a picture of their home (with a picture denoting what street they live on), or get fired from their job for bad-mouthing the boss.then they wonder: ‘How could it all have happened?’. LOL!

  8. Dapat kasi palitan yung nakalagay sa karatula eh unang basa palang iba na yung punto pag ako magjojojoging dyan sa unang tingin kailangan magbayad “Physical exercises and picture taking..” It should be specific in nature and put the complete details.

    1. @Betty: the picture was PHOTOSHOPPED. THAT SIGN DOES NOT EXIST.

      It was created by a provocateur with the goal of getting as many negative reactions as it can.

  9. The official receipt of P500 is enough to call it absurd. Of course there are legal charges for concessionaires and vendors in the park but to charge a group of exercise buffs this amount is just crazy.

    The meme is to call attention to the illegal charging by City hall.

    1. “So apparently Baguio’s CEPMO had a reason to collect from the exercise group after all, since the group itself was collecting money (PhP20.00 per hour per person, to be more specific) from those who wished to join them in their activities. As for the first photo with the receipt, the PhP500.00 was payment not for a single session but FIVE sessions (at PhP100.00 each).”

      I don’t think the amount is crazy. The organizer usually has more than 5 people in his exercise group, has more than one schedule in a day and in a week, and stays for more than an hour, charging P20 an hour per person.

      He should pay his dues. If this deters a group of people from hogging the place to the discomfort and exclusion of others who also want to use wide open spaces in the park but do not charge a single centavo, it is MORE THAN FAIR.

      As for the parking charge, well, it serves two good purposes in my opinion:
      1. so that a single person cannot park the whole day for FREE, again to the exclusion of other people who actually have cars too; and
      2. so that people who may want to go to the park would commute instead of paying the hassle fee. less fuel costs, more ENVIRONMENTAL FRIENDLY.

      ti kayat tayo gamin LIBRE AMIN LIBRE NGA KINANAYON.

  10. i do understand the city govt has to impose certain fees on groups, companies or individuals who use the park for commercial purposes.i am a photo hobbyist, have not seen the original sinage and saw only the photoshopped version on line as claimed by the camps of the local govt.but i was once stopped by a security guard at burnham park for taking photos. bawal kano ket masapul ko kano ti permit.i was just taking photos for my portfolios as well as for my friends on site portfolio and her model. looking around the park, i am not the only one taking photographs as there were other individuals offering photos to park visitors for a fee. i wondered why i was singled out. i am doing a portrait shoot on wedding dresses, naturally i got to have a model, props, equipments and assistants.i guess the guard was not informed fully well on the regulations. when i asked the guard ” bakit bawal ” he said ” kasi na ka dslr ka at may mga gamit ” ano ang difference ng ” dslr sa point and shoot”? with the release of the memo from the mayor’s office clarifying the matter, i hope everyone will understand.those implementing the guidelines especially the guard should understand fully well

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