One hardly hears of good news about Baguio these days. Whether you get it on print, the world wide web or from stories told in coffee shops along Session Road, the sentiment is the same: there's hardly anything left of the Baguio we all knew. Makes you wonder why you're still blogging about the city in some internet cafe in town instead of in some far away land where the money's better, the air is cleaner and the surroundings are greener.
A friend who has since left Baguio with her family after living here for almost two decades once said that the only thing left in Baguio is the cool climate. And that too isn't as cool as it was before, perhaps thanks to more motor vehicles coughing up toxic fumes into the air and with this more engines heating up the city. Not to mention the hot air that comes from mouths of people in high places - but that only heats up people's heads. I digress.
On a bad day I would tend to agree with my friend - on a day when the traffic is so bad it takes you a full hour to cover a three-kilometer distance. Or when they close Session Road to vehicles for a week during Panagbenga for "Session Road in Bloom" which, with all the stench and garbage generated by the hundreds of stalls selling hotdogs and sweet corn and cellphones and hotdogs and sweet corn and cellphones (and a couple of stalls actually selling flowers, the supposed point of the whole festival), feels more like Session Road's doom. Or when I'm refused by a taxi driver because he doesn't feel like driving to where I wanna go, or when a friend shows up with bruises all over and a swollen jaw and a missing phone and wallet, no thanks to a taxi driver slash hold-upper and his cohort who hid in the back of his cab and pounced on my friend who didn't have a clue because he hailed that cab a stone's throw away from the Baguio City Police Office. Or when, you know, you're in the middle of it all and Baguio just doesn't feel like Baguio anymore.
But there are good days, days when there's still so much more to Baguio than its cool climate. There's still that hardly known spot somewhere in Wright Park where you can lay down on a mat on the grass and let your children run wild among the trees and up and down the hill on a clear day.
That same area still offers the best option for afternoon walks - just around the lagoon or through the Little Flower convent up Outlook drive and back towards the Mansion House.
On another afternoon, we brought the kids with us for a jog in Burnham Park, after which some friends met up with us and while the kids went crazy on those trikes for rent,
behind us there were girls flying high up in the air rehearsing a cheerleading routine...
and teen-aged boys doing their own stunts on skateboards and improvised ramps and pipes.
While a pair of much younger boys amazed us with their rollerblading skills as they wheezed past lovers and vendors and a guy getting a full body massage (!)
next to vendor selling hot coffee in the skating rink. At that time of the day, when the sun is already setting, you can rent a boat "one-to-sawa" for the price of an hour.
You can hear the distant crash of cymbals and the distorted guitar sounds and you know there's one of those free concerts going on at the big mall up on a hill, and you're glad tha there's still so much going on outside those concrete walls, and you look around you, out there in the open air, with enough room to stretch out your arms and legs and breath in a deep sigh and as the fog comes down on this weary city, it makes you smile knowing that there's still so much more to Baguio than just the cool climate.
And that's why you stay.