Somewhere in Baguio. New Year's Day, 2009. I sit down with taga-Baguio for an early morning coffee.
Session Road Blues: You better have a good reason for forcing me to wake up early for a morning appointment on New Year's day, bro... salamat sa kape, one sugar, no cream... so what's up?
TB: Baguio's not.
SRB: Ok, what about it?
TB: Don't you miss the old days?
SRB: Oo naman, siempre. I think a lot of people do. This coffee's strong and I'm fully awake now and you have my full attention.
TB: Well, they're not coming back.
SRB: Who's not coming back?
TB: The old days. They're not coming back, ever.
SRB: Why not? A lot of people are clamoring to bring Baguio back to what it was before...
TB: What do they want? The Baguio of the 70's and 80's when there were no malls yet and practically everywhere in Baguio is just five minutes away? Or the Baguio after the war when the city had to be rebuilt practically from scratch because the Americans razed it to the ground by carpet bombing in their attempt to liberate the city from the Japanese?
SRB: Hmmm... yeah, sure... siguro nga.
TB: Or maybe the Baguio during Halsema's reign as mayor, when the city reached Burnham's proposed population limit, and the city enjoyed the latest technological advances while preserving its natural beauty, but that could be a tall order. I don't think they're talking about Mateo Cariño's Kafagway, becasue then we would all have to leave town and leave only the Cariño, Carantes, Camdas, Molintas and Suello clans, give or take a few more families, the first settlers in Kafagway, and...
SRB: No, no, I don't think that's how far they want to go when they say bring Baguio back to what it was before. But a lot of people are beginning to do something about it.
TB: Really? Doing what?
SRB: Talking about it, a lot. In blogs, newspaper columns, in coffee shops, may mga nagagawa naman e para ibalik yung dating Baguio... (M cuts him off)
TB: Like what... getting rid of all the houses built after the earthquake? Because that would probably mean getting rid of more than alf the residencial buildings in the city. Or are they evicting people who moved to the city in the last couple of decades? Because if they do that then that would probably mean evicting two-thirds of the city's population today, which includes you, by the way. Are they thinking of demolishing all the buildings that violated the city's supposed building code? That's a lot of buildings, bro. Are they actually aggressively going after colorum PUVs by putting up check points and checking if their papers are in order and their vehicles are in good running condition? You have any idea how many taxicabs and jeepneys would have to be taken off the street?
SRB: Er, I don't know what to say to you.
TB: Alam mo kung ano'ng kailangan natin?
SRB: I really wish I did. But I have a feeling you do.
TB: Aminin. Tanggapin.
TB: Aminin na lahat tayo medyo nagkulang sa pakiki-alam, at least in the last 15 years or so.
SRB: What do you mean?
TB: Nagkulang sa pagbabantay sa mga taong nilagay natin diyan sa City Hall, hinayaan lang natin silang gawin yung gusto nila. Tapos magrereklamo. Tapos pagdating ng eleksyon, sila't sila rin yung ibabalik natin sa pwesto.
TB: We complain about the fast disappearing pine trees of Baguio, pero nung pinuputol pa lang, kulang naman yung kilos protesta. Reklamo tayo ng reklamo sa problema sa basura, pero kulang din naman yung ginagawa natin para mabawasan yung problema.
SRB: Oo nga naman. Ano'ng magagawa natin ngayon?
TB: Tanggapin. Tanggapin na wala na talaga yung Baguio ng nakaraan, ang nandito ngayon, Bagong Baguio.
SRB: Bagong Baguio.
TB: May Bagong Baguio, and what we need to do now is to make the best out of what we have. The malls are here to stay, hindi mo na maaalis yan. The crowds are here to stay, hindi mo naman maaalis 'yan. Kaya imbes na magtatatalak tayo tungkol sa Baguio noon na wala namang maaaring puntahan, ang pagdaldalan na lang natin e kung ano'ng magagawa natin sa Baguio ngayon.
SRB: So tell me, ano'ng magagawa natin sa Baguio ngayon?
TB: There you go...
TB: There you go, there's a good start... ano'ng pwede nating gawin sa Baguio ngayon?
SRB: Hmmmm, Happy New Year, bro. Salamat sa kape.
SRB: So what exactly was it that you wanted to tell me?