I was invited by a university instructor to participate in a mock press conference for her journalism class. The topic would be our documentary on Baguio, "Portrait of a Hill Station." As soon as the instructor introduced me, and what the topic for the day would be, the students were hardly able to hide their disinterest. And I thought, well, this was exactly what pushed us to produce this documentary in the first place. I also thought that if I could get these students to be interested in the project itself and what it's trying to achieve, then there's hope that "Portrait…" may just make a small dent in next year's much-anticipated centennial celebration.
I believe that the Centennial Commission's tagline, "Fostering a culture of caring," is a great take-off point for next year's celebration of the city's hundredth year, for that was the first thing I thought the young minds infront of me needed – a culture of caring. From the time the instructor gave them a brief background on the project to the time I started giving my own introduction to it, a couple of students tried to stifle a yawn, another looked at her watch and perhaps thought about how long the next 55 minutes would be until the class is over.
Infront of me was the generation whose Baguio is about malling on weekends and mauling by gangsters on weeknights; Gagamba 1 has male strippers and Gagamba 2 has female strippers (or is it the other way around?); instead of fog rolling on to blanket and cool the city in the afternoon after a long day, it's smog covering the skyline during rush hour. They never got to delight at the sight of sunflower covered mountainsides in November, or pine-scented approaches to the city.
After speaking for a few minutes about the Baguio they never got to experience, I made some progress, and the questions started pouring in. What happened to "that" Baguio you're talking about? When can we see the documentary? And one of the best questions for me, What's your next project after this?
And our conversation made me realize one thing: Looking back at the last hundred years, the city's history may perhaps be divided into two major periods: pre-war and post war Baguio. The former paints a portrait of a city built because of and to make the best out of what it had: the magnificent mountain sides, the breathtaking skyline, a generous share of mother nature's resources… or simply put: utter beauty.
The latter gives us a totally different picture, in fact the total opposite of the former. After the war, the city went in the direction of eradicating what it had: the magnificent tree-lined mountainsides were ravaged (those pretty sunflowers trampled on to make way for condominiums and hotels and malls), the breathtaking skyline ruined (the city's horizon today shows a hard, unfeeling, gloomy silhouette of ugly concrete structures), and mother nature's resources abused (how much more than 300,000 people can the city really carry?).
At the end of the mock press conference, I think both me and the students at least agreed on one thing: we wished we had more time to talk more about Baguio. At least I thought that during that hour or so, they were moved, and they cared.
The airing "Portrait of a hill station" has been moved to December 14, 2008, 7:00PM on SkyCable (Baguio) Channel 12.