Last week, another social media article came out discouraging people from going up to Baguio due to traffic congestion.
Predictably, several readers reacted with some interesting observations.
One said the only thing different about the city from other places in the country is the cooler temperature.
The reader went on to say that, given the inconvenience brought about by the traffic, the tourist attractions that people are scrambling to see are not worth the hustle at all.
That reader is of course entitled to his or her own opinion but it does not seem to be shared by the vast majority of tourists who continue to flock to the city.
Indeed, the additional one day holiday this Christmas resulted in a lot more visitors this year than in previous years.
Another writer suggested that, to better enjoy the city and what it has to offer, tourists should try to interact more with the local population.
Someone reacted to this suggestion by saying that there is really no need because most of the residents of Baguio are basically transplanted people coming from the lowlands. There is some truth to all these observations, but Baguio in fact has a lot more to offer to tourists.
It just depends on one’s interests.
It is not only the more comfortable temperature all year round due to its elevation that tourists want to experience when they come to the city but a whole range of other activities as well.
I agree, however, that the cooler temperature is the biggest attraction.
There is no other urban center in the country that can offer the kind of comfort that the city offers to its visitors.
For this and this alone, the city will continue to attract visitors regardless of some negative reports.
And if the city can restore many of the old tourist attractions that used to lure many visitors 30 to 40 years ago and add a few new ones, there will be a lot more to enjoy and see.
The famed Burnham Park, for instance, now needs professional landscaping help to upgrade and expand it.
The old city auditorium where social events were held in the old days should be reconstructed and the athletic bowl should be transferred somewhere to widen the park. The old skating rink should also be brought back.
The park as it is right now is simply no longer enough to accommodate the increasing number of daily visitors.
It is to the interest of the city government and the Department of Tourism to partner and redevelop the park.
What is happening with the park instead is that more and more stalls are being allowed which is destroying its ambiance.
If Architect Burnham were alive today, I am sure that he will object to what is happening with the park.
The city government should also consider transferring the bus stations along Governor Pack road and develop it into another tourist center.
The old Baden Powell hall where the American colonial administration used to hold their sessions during summer can then also be restored as a tourist attraction instead of being utilized as a cheap hotel surrounded by squatters.
Another area that needs redeveloping is the Father Carlo loop where the Baguio post office and the city cathedral are located.
Currently, the post office building—constructed in 1933—no longer looks like a post office because of the many stalls attached to the only existing American colonial building in the city.
The cathedral, on the other hand, has been fenced off and turned into a pay parking area and the church is now surrounded by buildings that ended the serenity of church worship.
There are scores of other tourist attractions that need attention like the Mines View Park and Mirador Hill that the city should also look into as well.
The city may also want to enhance the art scene like sponsoring concerts, a theater for performing artists and an honest-to-goodness museum.
The City government at the moment is focusing its attention on improving the traffic situation.
Many of the sidewalks have also been upgraded to encourage walking.
The focus, however, is the construction of multi-level parking facilities around the central business district.
Although there is a need for more parking, the city should not put all its marbles on this solution.
This was already looked into before and the finding was that parking will have to be part of a multi prong approach to maximize results.
This was in the early 1980s when the first Baguio traffic and transport study was done. Some World Bank experts were invited to look at the problem and found out that the terrain features of the city somehow limits the maximization of traffic solutions.
Some solutions, however, were identified as being viable in ameliorating the problem like improving the efficiency of public transportation and driver discipline.
In the meantime, let us complain less and try to enjoy what is currently available.
A safe New Year to all.