THE City of Pines. The City in the Sky. The City of Lights. Congested houses. Mushrooming hotels. Crisp strawberries. Veggie loaded. Souvenir items all over. Wonderful scenarios. "Baguio City, here we come!"

Linkage Building and Cultural Exchange: Silay City and Baguio City. That was a not-so-cold morning but we got a hot reception at the artistic office of Mayor Morris G. Domogan. After the sugary introduction of our staff, we reiterated the message of Mayor Oti Montelibano and Vice Mayor Mark Golez to the people of Baguio. The tokens from Silay include copies of our coffee table book, "Silay: The Sweet Life", and cute boxes of piaya and muscovado butong-butong produced by the Association of Silay Native Delicacies' Producers.

We sat down like cabinet members and the interaction started. We gave Silay's flagship program on community development, tourism and culture, youth activity scheme, business and investment, health and feeding program, socio-economic agenda, environment and biodiversity concerns, abstract of education strategy, fiscal management, livelihood and skills training slate, infrastructure priorities, concerns for senior citizens, agriculture and veterinary routines, peace and order, more.

Mayor Domogan's best practices include road concreting, clean and green program, traffic safety, medical mission, intensive tax collection, elimination of red tapes, more benefits to senior citizens, more funds to education, rehabilitation of parks and historical structures, assistance to cultural minorities, livelihood and scholarship program, IT equipment for barangays, reforestation, sports and tourism development, anti-drug/anti TB campaign, rehabilitation of roads, construction of flyovers, effective linkage with NGOs and social welfare projects.

Domogan is known to his people as "the Messenger". His emblem is WORK. Worship God. Obey God and laws. Renew relationship with God. Know God. Domogan also emphasizes CASH for his governance, employees and people. Competence. Attitude (as your attitude determines your altitude). Skills. Honesty. He wants those working under him to have the ability to perform on the assigned tasks, produce and deliver valuable results. "Poverty is not a lifetime sentence for those who work hard and never give up. Together, let us continue to dream and aim high, preserve and WORK to possess the necessary CASH to SUCCEED!" He was mayor for 3 terms. Congressman for 3 terms. And, now mayor again!

Baguio City Tourism Office provided us a good guide, Alex Sanchez, who brought us to varied sites for us to observe how Baguio community-based tourism and livelihood programs affect the economy of the residents. Ibay's Silver shop produces 92.5 original silver for all its products. Strawberry farms adopt traditional and modern technology to continue producing the best strawberry and more preserved delights anchored on strawberry. Mini souvenir stores sold products from the cottage industries - apparel, gift items, leather accessories, folk toys, village delicacies, fresh fruits (grapes, Sagada orange, lychees). We also visited the Good Shepherd Convent and Mountain Maid Training Center boasting of their edible linguas, esculent preserves and other palatable eatables.

The Lourdes Grotto (252 steps) is still an attraction for devotees and pilgrims. Baguio Cathedral caters to people from all walks of life - sinners and saints. The Pink Sister monastery is a solemn place for reflection and for curious people to see why the "sisters wear pink." The Mines View Park has lost its luster. The view is not that attractive anymore because the place is overloaded with stores selling all items which measure how much money you have in your pocket. Burnham Park (boating area) is still loaded with strollers - families, sweethearts, tourists and sometimes snatchers.

We were lucky to have obtained a pass for The Mansion, the official residence of the president of the Republic of the Philippines in Baguio. We were allowed to take center stage and grab the presidential microphone. We took the advantage for posterity sake. Philippine Military Academy gave us a glimpse on how military leaders are made. Museums at Fort del Pilar are manifestations on how men of strong will and commitment are fashioned to serve the country with courage and bravery. The giant toys of war on display fascinated us. Lunch at Baguio Country Club hosted by a friend was more than a dream. It was in there where the rich, the famous, the golfers and the popular meet to see and be seen. Another lunch hosted by another friend at camp John Hay (Dencio's) was another fantasy experience when we were treated like fairies at the lotus garden.

A window shopping galore at SM-Baguio was the least for tourists like us travelling on a very meager tight budget. SM-Baguio is the only SM Mall in the Philippines without centralized air con system. The most impressive exposure for us was our public market savoir-vivre. Baguio City Maharlika Market was old but very clean and orderly. It is a real melting pot because vendors, producers, farmers, visitors and residents come across to buy daily needs, pasalubong or simply to see what life in Baguio is all about. Fresh vegetables are fascinating, delicacies are superb, household items are cheap and people are friendly.

In our Baguio sortie, we thank Mayor Montelibano, Ma'am Marissa, Tita Charit Locsin, Budget Office, Treasurer's office, Accounting Office, City Planning Office, the City Administrator's Office, Internal Control Unit, and all those who helped us.

Heartfelt thanks come from Susan Velez, Solo Locsin, Armin Paredes, Mike Golez, Panoy Corteza, Gerle Sulmaca, Leo Canson, Inday Arbella, Ging-Ging Belonio, Glenda Malacad, May May Salmingo, Rina Rose Pacete, and yours truly.