I remember when I was child growing up in Baguio the scent of pine trees whenever we play outdoors. I have spent 12 years or more of my growing up years in the summer capital of the Philippines. My appreciation for nature and the outdoors was a by product of the childhood games that we used to play. It was a normal childhood void of video games and PSPs. I have spent most of the years playing outdoors – biking, hiking around the military camp, sliding by the side of a hill using plywood. It was a good way of growing up.
My family lived within the military camp of PMA. My dad was a military instructor and my mom was a plain housewife. It was a simple life and I could not have asked for more. Our play area was the camp and the surrounding forest around it. My parents never feared for our safety as it was heavily guarded. We sometimes opt to go hiking, bringing snacks with us, to discover the greens and trails surrounding the camp. We never got lost. We found our way through and we either ended up where we started or on the other side of PMA. These hikes developed my love for trekking. Sometimes, we just opt to just climb a pine tree and watch the day pass by high above the ground. I even remember my dad used to set up a tent by the garden where we could sleep overnight with him. It was a great way to raise us.
One thing that I vividly remember when I was a child in Baguio was the smell of the pine trees surrounding the house. Even then Baguio was cooler than most parts of the Philippines and people flock to the city to enjoy the cool breeze. Before, one would know that you are already in the city of pines because of the cool weather and the smell of pine trees.
My love for the small city is still evident now as my wife and I have decided that Baguio was good place to settle in and start a family. I honestly think that it is a good place to raise a child. However, things are different now. Baguio still has that cool weather but with the rush of development in the city, the look, feel, and smell of the Baguio where I grew up is already gone. I must say that it is urban development at its worst.
The city landscape is just rows and rows of houses. It was like every vacant lot was just grabbed and houses were just constructed on it that caused the city to lose the rustic look of the old Baguio. It still has open parks but there is one thing missing now – the smell of pine trees. I have been looking for that particular aroma during my weekly visits to the city and I am afraid it is no longer there. The distinct smell of Baguio is just not there. Pine trees are still scattered in the city but I think it is no longer enough or there is just too much crowd in the city that the scent is just simply lost. I still have to catch that old Baguio smell even in the open areas of Camp John Hay
I think most residents in Baguio miss the old Baguio like the way I do.
Now right smack into the center of a controversy, the pine tree is once again highlighted. The influx of shoppers visiting SM City Baguio has created a major concern for Mr. Henry Sy’s business – the lack of parking space. Mall management’s solution is to convert the remaining open lot into more parking spaces. The problem is that the lot is the home of hundreds of pine trees and the conversion would mean that these iconic trees would have to go elsewhere. This plan was vehemently objected, not only be the environmentalists, but by Baguio residents as well.
SM Baguio management has proposed an alternate solution of uprooting the trees and transferring them to another open lot. The solution, as assured by the management, would ensure that no pine trees would be harmed and that it will survive the transfer. Environmentalists disagree and a recent tweet that I had read said that the process would only assure the survival of 25% of these pine trees.
I have signed the petition that is asking SM Baguio to stop the unnecessary transfer of these pine trees. I signed it because I am an environmentalist and at the same time I believe that Baguio needs these iconic trees to regain its former glory. My honest perception is that Baguio can no longer compete with Boracay, Palawan, or Bohol in terms of tourism because it has already lost its original charm.
The sad part of the saga is that the local city of government of Baguio has not taken a strong stand to support its people. It has remained silent to which I conclude that it has taken the side of SM Baguio. It is quite an irony that the peoples’ representatives who were elected to uphold the city’s voice and its heritage remain mum on the issue. It is a deafening silence from them.
Another irony is that SM has been at the forefront of its environmental campaign and yet here they are going against what they said they were standing for – all in the name of profit. This affirms my belief that money does speak louder than principle and values.
The growth and development of the SM business has been very rapid. Case in point, SM is opening in the City of San Fernando Pampanga a 2nd mall. The new mall sits in the middle of the heritage district of the city.
Yes, the new structure sits in the middle of the heritage district of San Fernando. Imagine a modern structure standing alongside a heritage house that has spanned decades. How did that happen? I can only shake my head in disbelief. Once again, the local city government has allowed it to happen and I think that they remained ignorant of the tourism gem right in their doorstep. They preferred the mall rather than the rich heritage that their Kapampangan fathers and mothers left behind.
I am getting an impression that SM is running its business with no consideration as to whether they are stepping on the rich cultural heritage or the environmental value of the place. It is all about money. I won’t be surprised to see a SM mall inside Intramuros someday.
I am glad that the court and the religious sector have taken a stand on the issue. Everyone needs to take a stand. I am taking my stand because my fervent wish right now is for my little girl to experience waking up in the morning under the smell of pine trees just like the old days. And if that means that this should be the start then I am starting now.
Let us save the pine trees of Baguio.
Raving: The Catholic Church in Baguio has already refused to conduct Sunday Mass in SM Baguio in protest to the cutting down of the pine trees. Finally…a strong support from an institution and I just hope that the city government will also take a stand.
Ranting: China is now claiming that the Scarborough Shoal is theirs. PNoy stands on diplomatic resolution. He cannot stand a chance…kailangan niya muna magsumbong sa nanay niya… mommy, ang China o…
Raving: Temperature is rising in Manila. Time to hit the beach!
Ranting: Survey says that most Filipinos want action on the economy. The PNoy government’s distraction on the fight to corruption is starting to lose its flavor. Time to get somebody’s ass impeached again to cover up the failure to manage the economy. And then the teacher said…it is the economy, my dear student.