CHANGING Landscape -- In the course of my three decades of active involvement with photography, community journalism, quad-media and public information, I have practically seen and observed how things changed in the city of Baguio and the provinces of the Cordillera. I have recorded in video and captured wide and close up photos of this upland region from varied vantage points that includes aerial shots.

But, that was just a fragment or a speck of the total picture of the region. I have seen what it is like inside the caves below Baguio’s Dominican Hill, Rock Quarry and Irisan to include that of the once known Crystal Cave which glitter has faded throughout the years.

Beneath the perennial lagoon was a gallery of stuck old tires, bed coil springs and varying plastic wastes. Not many knew but in the early 80s, There were burial sites among the rock and stone formations of Irisan and Green Valley and I have seen it myself. Below the dumpsite, there was a piped water connection that leads to the community below.

Now that we are very much into the new media, my video upload on the recent thrash slide and collapsed wall of Baguio’s dumpsite has gone viral in the net. I happened to go to Kabayan Benguet’s, Mt. Pulag as early as 1989 and back then, one can still see the thick mossy forest along the way although there were traces of Kaingin or the slash-and-burn method of upland farming along the Babaddak area. In the mid 90s, newsmen Peppot Ilagan, Romy Bagbagen, myself and forester Ronnie Petilos of the Benguet Corporation travelled to parts of Itogon, Mankayan, Bakun and the Heald Lumber of Bauko Mountain Province to look at the state of the old and second growth of pine trees planted by the mining corporation and the community. The sight of the summit of Mt. Data was the most dismaying that I have seen as it was supposed to be a national park. Looking back at the images that I have taken and as the only living among the four in that journey, I felt obligated to make known how the once robust forest looked like. Mt. Data was a dipterocarp forest that means it is a habitat of many tree varieties or any of a family of tall hardwood tropical trees chiefly of southeastern Asia that have a 2-winged fruit and are the source of valuable timber, aromatic oils, and resins. The felled oak trees that outlived a person’s lifetime are not likely to be replenished with what the place is like now.

Before climate change became a byword, I was involved with Baguio’s Alay Sa Kalinisan that looks after the cleanliness and air quality of the city and the Baguio Regreening Movement that takes care of the remaining watershed. The BRM included in its scope the waste water problem affecting La Trinidad valley and so we looked at the upstream tributaries of Balili River and planned possible solutions. There was a planning workshop conducted with then Chairman Bishop Ernesto Salgado, former La Trinidad Mayor Nestor Fongwan and the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The late Wilfredo Cacdac was among the lead convener and I vividly remember him mention repeatedly the phrase “we all live downstream” that explains what we were espousing about taking care and not polluting the rivers.

We involved young artists in an on-the-spot poster making contest and the result was truly meaningful with the depiction of endangered rivers losing its marine life due to man’s wanton neglect of their environment.

Truly, we all live downstream in the same manner that what goes around comes around. We wash our car and laundry with detergents and bleaching solutions and some auto repair shops disposes used oil and cleaning agents discreetly to drainage canals and open culverts. It is good that the Solid Waste and Clean Air Act was enacted by congress but this law is wanting full enforcement and implementation.

Now that I am almost incapable to reach other geographic destinations on foot due to physical abuse when I was younger that resulted to my knee injury, I am reviewing my photos and snap new ones whenever I can for academic purposes and personal assessment. I have posted several photos in my Facebook page mentioning the phrase “we all live downstream” and encouraged readers to react. An FB user with the identity of vanhammer commented “The decisions you make & the way you treat people will someday come back to stare you in the face. If you are good & kind to people they will treat you kind. If you are cruel to people & make bad decisions then life will not be so kind to you.

However you act in your life, expect the same to come back to you. It may not happen right away but at some point in your life you will face the consequences or rewards.” In my post showing the open pit mine of Itogon, Benguet, Roderick Sibelius, a regular to my circle of net-friends reacted “So when we cut the 'mountains' down, dig deep making holes making 'her' bare and unnatural for mining Gold and Nickel for the sake of modern man, we humans have introduced unwittingly for the demise: the denigration of our natural ways of like substituting it with own modern ways of 'industrialism', leaving the land 'downstream' devoid of life-the watersheds, the trees, the flora and fauna of the environment is decimated causing landslides, floods and other technology related scourges of our modern ways, along the way exacerbated with overpopulation outputting daily waste, sewage disposal problems. We do have this ubiquitous dilemma as a City in the 'dire straights' that had started about 100 years ago when the 'mining corporations' started this spiral decimation of the environment that is critical now for the 'survival' of Baguio City and living downstream at the Bottom of all these human caused curse”. With that long statement, it looks like I need to expand my hypothesis to include why we need to mine gold, copper and silver.