Monday, May 6, 2019

The BLISST concept and the Igorots

Baguio City’s urban landsacpe
There are mixed reactions to the viral video of Dick Gordon saying that Igorots go down to Manila to make “palimos” (beg) because there are no more opportunities in Baguio. Others say that he was just making a point to emphasize the sorry state of the city. This happened during the hearing of the proposed Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, Tublay Development Authority (BLISTTDA).

Here’s my take on that issue. Those Igorot people going down to Manila to make palimos are not from Baguio but from other places in the Cordilleras.

Not all beggars are Igorots and only few Igorots are beggars. And only a fraction or none are from Baguio or Benguet. I remember one time when an elderly from one of the municipalities came to the city to try begging, his relatives immediately took her home when they found out. They said “kababain” (shameful). No matter how poor some of the people of Benguet, they can always get by without having to resort to begging. 

Even one mentally-challenged individual I know don’t go around begging. She just roam the city and the people who knew her just give her food if she pass by their shops.

Even the beggars in Baguio are not from here. The elderlies at the Botanical Garden posing for picture in exchange of cash are also not from here. The shy nature of the Benguet people prevents them to beg, and to them, this is a shameful act. This one is what Gordon should understand.

Baguio is not deteriorating because of lack of opportunities. People come to Baguio because there are many opportunities. Even the beggars from other provinces see better opportunities in the city, and unfortunately, people who visit the city thought that those are the very Igorots they come to see. 

Like any progressive city, over-population is part of the problem and with it comes other issues like housing, garbages, sanitation, land-grabbing, and other problems.

No, we don’t go down to Manila to beg because of the lack of opportunities. We go down to Manila to seek for work because salary rate is higher there. Even if we are a highly-urbanized city, our salary is still provincial rate here (whoever is that author of “provincial rate” when basic commodities is higher in the provinces than in the NCR).

The statement of Gordon to make a point is flawed and if you discriminate a race to make a point, it will just take-away the logic in your argument. 

But we do need change in Baguio and the surrounding municipalities. But it’s already late to relocate people. During the senate hearing, Gordon suggested that people from Quirino should be relocated. Something that the current Baguio Congessman denied having stated but the video doesn’t lie. Gordon even cited the city of Pudong in China as an example where hundreds of thousands of residents were relocated. In his statement, when earthquake happens, the people there will be in great danger. However, that wasn’t the case in the year 1990 when a magnitude of 7.2 earthquake hits the city. Most of the casualties were from the big buildings like hotels and schools. And the school with the most casualties has even built even higher buildings. 

I believe what’s needed is to preserve what’s left and minimize any hard projects in the city. And also stop approving buildings that are higher than 5 storeys. We also need leaders who support no cutting of trees in the City. Gordon said we need to plant more trees but how many thousands of trees were cut in the last 20 years or so approved by the cities administration and the so-called protector of the environment called DENR? 

Any other opportunity for development should be given to the nearby municipalities. If the neighboring municipalities are developed, people there don’t have to search for opportunities in Baguio, thus preventing further increase of population. As they say in Mt. Province, “adi tako bukudan di gawis” (let’s not be greedy and share the wealth). So Baguio should stop taking all the opportunities that comes its way and make a serious partnership with nearby municipalities. But how should it be done? 

I believe Baguio’s charter should be changed also for this opportunity to push through. I remember last 16th Congress when a bill was proposed by then Congressman Aliping to revise the century-old city charter to pave a way for transition to the BLISST concept. It was approved in both the Congress and the Senate but was vetoed by the (so-called) noynoying President Benigno Aquino III. Perhaps under a different President and a better presentation of the bills, this concept will be finally realized.

The BLISST concept is not new, it came out after the earthquake when several Baguio residents and leaders sat down and talked how to revive Baguio after the devastating earthquake. The concept never materialized and we ended up with an extremely crowded city, the history of the earthquake forgotten or set aside. So perhaps, what we need are people who can really understand the situation of Baguio and also understands its people Igorots or not. I believe this is the best way to make the BLISST concept realized.