No longer the Baguio we used to know

Baguio has recently been designated as one of the UNESCO Creative Cities for crafts and folk art. While this calls for a celebration, I can’t help but think about the issues haunting my beloved hometown.

Baguio is no longer the City of Pines. The trees have been replaced by malls, tall buildings, and condos. Are we trying to copy Manila? Manila of all places! Remember how trees were cut to make way for a “green” Sky Park that features environment-friendly facilities. Really?! How smart! Very, very smart, indeed!

I’ve joined a protest walk to stop this madness but sadly, corporate greed prevailed. In a funny twist of fate, the mall’s roof was blown away by a typhoon, not once but twice!

Now comes another “brilliant” proposal of constructing a podium car parking at Burnham Park.

Baguio is no longer the “Clean and Green City Hall of Famer” it used to be. The city is choking. Choking in smoke, garbage, and plastic. There’s an ordinance that bans plastic and Styrofoam. I understand that this is yet to be fully implemented next year but when I was in town the past weekend, it seems like there’s not even an attempt to transition to eco-friendly bags.

Baguio is no longer the Summer Capital of the Philippines that we knew. This title, in fact, has been abused to justify putting up more hotels, more establishments, more cafes. Apparently, there’s almost a hundred registered cafes in the city! Far too many of everything if you ask me.

Blame doesn’t only fall on big corporations, businessmen, and realtors. Baguio residents have allowed the invasion of houses on mountains which appear nice at night but look like garbage piled on top of each other at daytime. It’s easy for us to put the fault on tourists for garbage and too much traffic but we also contributed to these.

Sigh… the rant just goes on.

But the real question is where do we go from here?

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SenseCampPH zeroes in on Sustainable and Livable Cities

According to World Health Organization, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas. With this, city dwellers encounter a myriad of problems such as resource scarcity, energy and food insecurity, traffic congestion, pollution, and natural disasters made worse by climate change, among others. How then can we work towards sustainable and livable cities?

This is the challenge we explored during the first-ever SenseCamp in the Philippines, the MakeSense community’s signature unconference. A SenseCamp is a participatory and participant-led conference where you get to exchange ideas and take concrete action on a specific social issue.

Held last weekend at Kahariam Farms in Lipa, Batangas, the event featured sustainability-related initiatives of various resource persons. Abigail Mapua-Cabanilla, Director of Hub for Innovation for Inclusion, provided a different side of how we see Manila traffic through their human-centered innovation research. Manuel Bretaña IV, Chief Curator of Qubo PH, stressed about the importance of creating more green spaces. Wilhemina Garcia of JunkNot, shared how regular and everyday junk can be transformed into usable items. Phil Gray talked about how harnessing solar power through sunEtrike, an electric tricycle, can move riders in a cleaner, more comfortable, and more cost effective way. Aaron Salamat of RVA Design and Build expounded on green architecture.

Aside from breakout group learning sessions, there were start-up creation and crowd-sourced workshops. Participants were also treated to a panel discussion blended with live music from Benjamin Bernabela and Amalia Morante of Tunay Arts Movement. Benjamin and Amalia became part of the panel together with Manuel Bretaña IV and Zero Waste Advocate, Xavier Martin who gave their insights on creating better cities through individual action.

On top of all the learnings, those who took part of the SenseCamp enjoyed the organic meals, the farm tour, the fun games, and the interaction with social entrepreneurs and passionate, like-minded people.

It was an inspiring and memorable weekend and may all the meaningful conversations lead to collective efforts in truly building sustainable and livable cities.

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