I am now in Baguio City, a week after Holy Week, thinking that my wife, my daughter and I could have a pleasant break from the maddening crowd and the stressful traffic of Metro Manila.
I was wrong. While our trip was pleasant, actually being in Baguio is no longer something to crow about. Session Road, where my favorite restaurants used to be, has become a bumper-to-bumper experience. It’s just like Edsa!
Burnham Park, where I used to take my children, is no longer enjoyable. The place has become a mess. I was told that during the Holy Week, people just parked their cars at Burnham Park and slept there because hotels were packed. And since there were no toilet facilities, they just did there what had to be done. Yuck!
Indeed, Baguio City has ceased to be a place for lowlanders and tourists. It’s dirty. Parking is a chore. It is estimated that the population of 350,000 gets bloated during the summer.
The only place in Baguio that remains pleasant is Camp John Hay. We were booked at the Forest Lodge Hotel right beside The Manor. Here you can still smell the pine trees, an attraction which is slowly disappearing.
Somehow the mayor of the city, its representative in Congress and old residents of Baguio should get together and redesign the city—if they do not think it’s too late. It’s a pity. What has happened to the once-famous summer capital of the Philippines?
* * *
Last year when I was also here, I took the time to look at Bobby Ongpin’s Baguio Mountain Lodges. It is now called the Forbes Park of the city because of the construction of high-end mountain lodges on a 78-hectare property. This used to be Ongpin’s summer retreat destination, when he was still managing partner of SGV.
Ongpin bought this property which he envisioned as a citrus orchard. In fact, on top of the hill is still his three-room cabin which I saw when he invited me.
I visited the place again a few days ago and many changes have since taken place. The road, which used to be full of potholes, is now paved. It is amazing how Alphaland has changed the landscape. Some 300 homeowners now live here.
The master plan of these lodges was completed in the US. It is the same planner who worked on Balesin Island Club. The lodges are being sold individually as horizontal condominiums, and the land will be proportionately owned as well.
There is adequate security; the property will be enclosed by a concrete 8-foot security perimeter fence. All the amenities you can think of are also there.
Some 50 lodges will be delivered by yearend; another 100 are forthcoming next year, and 150 in 2019.
Alphaland thinks of everything, indeed. Along the road, a commercial center will be constructed.It will house the best restaurants and shops—even a laundromat!
There will be three helipads.
I asked, how many have made reservations? I was told the line was very long notwithstanding that the introductory prices were at P40 million to P50 million. I can only dream of staying there since the price is beyond me.
* * *
I am told that the “five-six” Indian Singhs are back in business, capitalizing on the country’s underground economy.
The Duterte administration has threatened to outlaw the lending practices of these motorcycle-riding Indians because of their usurious interest rates.
But when small Filipino businesses earn the trust of these lenders, it is so easy to borrow money. It’s a fact of life that some Filipinos are afraid to go to banks. So this lending practice continues to thrive.