LAST October 14, a cluster of Couples for Christ picked me up for a trip to Baguio City with a brief stop-over in Manaoag, Pangasinan. Earlier, I intimated my wish to go along with the group without, of course, upsetting the seating capacity of the transport arrangement. Luckily, I got the kind nod as desired.
My decision to join the group is not so much to see that City of Pines as the urge to take a first personal experience of traveling along that stretch of Expressways that now makes travel to that part of Northern Luzon faster and hassle-free.
The last time I visited Baguio City was in the late 70’s of the martial law era—courtesy of the Municipal Council of San Simon of which I was then the youngest member. Oh yes, I miss the company of my older colleagues in our council then, who, despite their relative lack of formal education, they exhibited dedication, integrity and delicadeza in serving our constituents. At that time, we served without compensation and there were no kapal moks.
Anyway, climbing up Baguio City that time from San Simon via McArthur Highway takes five to six hours. With the present expressways, travel time to Baguio City is shortened by at least two hours. And so, despite the perennial attribution of irregularities in the award of public works projects, expressways are a boon to Philippine progress in terms of enhanced agro-industrialization, commercial activity and employment generation, to mention a few. Expectedly, the benefits of these modern Roadstars will certainly reach out to other regions comprising the Philippine Archipelago. What with the Build, Build, Build program of government.
There is another re-assuring experience that this journey brings out aside from the salutary contribution of Expressways to our social and economic development. And it is that vast expanse of golden grains blanketing both sides of the Expressways that boosts confidence in the capacity of our land resources to adequately produce our rice requirements. For as the Van progresses, I stare in wonder in the potentials of that fertile rice-lands to disabuse my mind on how on earth this Pearl of the Orient Seas could possibly suffer rice shortage. That is to say when one considers the country’s other major rice granaries, such as, Nueva Ecija and Pampanga, among others.
And so instinctively the names of Arturo “Bong” Tanco and Domingo “Doming” Panganiban, who both served as Secretary of Agriculture during the Marcos Regime and brainchild of that Masagana 99 Program, flash to mind. The program was so successful that the Philippines then is a rice-exporter. I have not heard about these two former dedicated public servants since Marcos was deposed. And so, wherever they are, we need more of their caliber if only to regain our enviable performance in rice production in this part of Asia. It gives me renewed confidence that with our vast fertile rice-fields under the like stewardship of these two former dedicated public servants, the government’s target in rice sufficiency and food security in general will be addressed.
If only for that experience, I thank the Couples for Christ group for kindly accommodating me. I enjoyed the trip, the pilgrimage, and picnic-style lunch at Burnham Park, capped by the group-praying session and sharing of family experiences. And last, but not least, the group’s greetings of Happy Birthday to Edgar Lozano a brother-in-law, of RTC Macabebe.
But, I must be candid to conclude that Baguio City is no longer that Summer Capital City I used to know. For it has lost much of its addictive and enviable inheritance. That refreshing and rejuvenating coolness is no longer readily felt. The population of its magnificent Pine Trees has thinned, presumably by natural causes but ostensibly through human intervention. There is also wanting in the preservation and improvement of its infrastructure and city-maintained tourist destinations. I might be wrong. But I am persuaded Baguio City will sooner than later reclaim its majesty.