Summer cool

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014


WHO can think of mountain cool when it’s chilly nowadays in Bacolod City? I even find myself wearing a jacket normally reserved for fall or winter chill in other countries.

But in this era of climate change, chilly Bacolod is a passing phase. December 2013 in fact felt more like summer heat where city folks head for the air conditioned malls or the beaches to soak in the sun and the sea.

Or probably seek cooler places in the uplands. At 1,540 meters above sea level (masl), no wonder Baguio is the country’s summer capital. The city trumps other urbanized areas in tourists looking for summer cool to escape the lowland heat. Even Negrenses who can afford the travel go there.

For those who have tight budgets for trips to Baguio, there are cheaper alternatives right here in our island.

Last year, CNN Travel featured the 11 coolest towns in the Philippines. And Negros Island has two of ‘em.

We can describe these towns as junior Baguios. Included in the list are Salvador Benedicto town at 762 meters above sea level and Kanlaon City at 792 masl, both in Negros Island.

Yes, height does matter to be cool. As CNN said, in the provincial boondocks, the Philippines has the ultimate paradox: the cool tropical town. Blissful temps, however, aren’t the only things that make these towns cool.

Take Baguio, the king. The alternative seat of governance is the Mansion House, the summer residence of the Philippine president. In Salvador Benedicto and Kanlaon, we have only have municipios to speak of.

In Baguio, the city is home to temperate crops such as strawberries that are processed into jams and jellies. They have souvenir gift shops ranging from woodcarvings—and lately, bamboo carvings—to vegetables, indigenous textiles to the famous “Made in Baguio” brooms. These are prized souvenir items.

I talked to the venders of these items. Through these non-timber forest products, they have been able to send their kids to colleges. Later in life, these college graduates became the city political and chamber of commerce leaders.

In our upland cool towns, Salvador Benedicto has pineapples and nothing much. And oh yes, some venders sell so-called “Made in Baguio” tiger-grass brooms made in the town.

Vegetables in the case of Kanlaon and nothing much. Not even highly-priced Arabica coffee that are planted at the height of 700 masl or higher.
Baguio has universities which jack up the city population at the end of summer and the start of the school year. Students from even the lowlands study there. (If I hadn’t passed my UPCAT for Diliman or Manila, I would have studied at UP Baguio).

Our Negrense mountains have potential for economic growth. And since it has to be developed at a lower level compared to Baguio, we can avoid the urban problems that afflict the City of Pines (no more). There, pine trees were felled to make way for informal settlements.

In the province, investments could be based on the green economy. Better land use planning or solid waste management coming in the heels of green tourism. Since mountain air is cooler, there won’t be a need for air-conditioning, thus lowering power costs.

Can the political leaders of the two provinces take up the challenge of producing green urbanized mountain cities? Can we enjoy cool not only in summer but the year round as part of our climate change adaptation?

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 15, 2014.

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