PARDON the uncouth title, but it is rather appropriate for this week’s regular commentary on the little tidbits of news that flow through the paper.
The matter that caught my eye for this week was the proposal to essentially remodel the Orchidarium in Burnham into a five-story paid parking building. The details are scarce, but we do know that the proposal involves having only one floor remain as the new orchidarium, while the rest of it shall stand on the remains of the green space as we once knew it.
Truth be told, there is a fairly obvious flaw with this proposal, that, pardon me for one indulgence, I would like to quote a brother of mine on:
“PLANTS? UNDER A 2ND FLOOR? Nag-grade 3 ba sila?? Di ba sila nanood ng sineskwela???”
This was the line that inspired this entire column, just for the sheer absurdity of the situation. Without this little bit, the story would have fallen through the cracks, in one eye and out the other. After all, I’ve written quite a bit on what the city’s well-intentioned but misguided (in my opinion) acts of “development.”
And it is true that plants by default do need a bit of sun, which makes having the plant area be in the first floor of an indoor facility a bit of a questionable choice.
But, more than anything, I think this is emblematic of the disconnect between what we as simple residents desire out of Baguio and what the “fixes” to it are.
What we locals want is fairly simple. We want to hold on to our green Baguio, to our foggy domain that has slowly urbanized over time. We want the balance between “the good old days” and the new coming in.
This is also what the local government wants. Sustainable development, it’s called.
Where I think the disconnect happens – and this is just opinion, for I am too smooth-brained to truly know the inner workings behind policy and decision-making – is the vision of development that is being pursued. I’ve written on this in the past in my previous pieces, for anyone who has read my other works.
There is a noticeable trend to “modern” solutions to the city’s woes as of late. Likely well-intentioned, yes, but also varying in practicality and acceptability. We have some good concepts in the pipeline such as waste-to-energy, and on the other end of the spectrum we have the controversial market “development” project and its ilk.
But is this really what we want? For a mainstay of the city to become a glorified parking lot? Sure, it would have nifty new facilities and all, but Baguio is heavily dependent on tourists for its economy – and would they come here when everything to come here for is another concrete high-rise, another mall, another parking lot?
I ask this sincerely, because it does fascinate me, and I could see cases being made for either side.
I digress. Unfortunately, I am in no position to provide alternatives. Traffic has been a perennial problem in the city, and my brain is too smooth to know how to tackle these. But perhaps the first step is to recognize that we cannot just slap band-aids on the symptoms of the problem, and tackle it at its root.
Because when the parking lots have inevitably filled up, we’ll be stuck in gridlock yet again.