THERE is a little hubbub in the city works where they are planning, among other things, to have regulations for tour guides in the city. Of course, with the way things are going, this administration will regulate most everything by the time the turn of the decade comes around.
I am not quite libertarian enough to say no gods, no kings, no masters, and I am not Armstrong enough to fight for a law that changes to suit the individual, not the other way around. Regulation I think is good in rational amounts, in balance (as expected from the world’s most laughable centrist) but the crux of the matter is – how appropriate is it to regulate this little industry?
We are specifically taking a look into the proposal to regulate tour guides in Baguio. Details are yet to be fully released, but we know that they are taking some anecdotal feedback from tourists whose trips to Baguio have been, for lack of a better word, marred, by the presence of “untrained, non-local” guides.
One of the obvious restrictions implied by this choice of wording is to only hire locals. On the surface, perfectly reasonable. You want your guide to be someone who knows what you’re being guided through, someone who’s been there. Context is key to a guided experience, and in a foreign city, the context is the culture, the society, and the history. Locals are most likely to know these things.
But what is it that defines a local? Some are undisputable, irrefutably local – the indigenous communities come to mind, they who have been locals since before the modern identity of their locale even existed in the gestalt. The more established and the more elden the bloodline and the roots, the easier it is to make a case for them being local.
But where are the lines? How long must a person have had roots and existed in the consciousness of his community to be considered a local part of it? Do I, and others like me, who have been here for more than a decade, count as locals? When in the timeline does one transition from migrant to entrenched to full-blooded Baguio?
And I would argue that there are more pressing qualifications to be considered a local. One of them is why I argue against calling my own person a local – while I have lived in this city for quite some time, I am not steeped in the cultural, historical, and societal context of this city. I live a fairly isolated life (typically a death knell for a journalist, do not ask me how I function) and I could only guide you in the vaguest, most geographical senses of the word. I could not tell you what stories the small hole-in-the-wall establishments in the alleyways are, what tales lurk in the most obscure and narrow portions of town.
Who are you, who do not know your history? I cannot quite say for myself, and so I think I would not qualify as a guide – if your guide is only there to tell you the roads, you don’t need a guide, you need a map. Your guide is there to show you the hidden context, to extract the value out of a simple trip.
So, I definitely do agree that there needs to be some standard of quality with the tour guides we have. Sure, they must be local. But there must be an appropriate fluidity and discerning eye to whoever it is that will decide who is qualified. Historical and cultural knowledge is not cut and dry, as the experiences and histories of those who lived through those times are neither.
Context defines us as much as we define the context. To show this context to an unknowing, fresh perspective requires not only skill and eloquence but an immersion in this context that goes beyond the physical and geographical.