THE onset of the rainy months signals the end of summer and vacations we have experienced, travels we have gone through, and escapades that kept us busy. Local travel is what we look forward the most, during these dry months, as it is only the time that affords us time to sit back and relax. For the past months, Baguio had been hosts to various events like the Panagbenga Flower Festival, Holy Week vacations, conventions and school/groups trips and the like.

Like the proverbial phoenix, Baguio has resume life once more, with on-going developments and various rehabilitations traveling at full speed. Baguio, the City of Pines and cool climes, beckons magnetically to many lowlanders. For local and foreign tourists as well as the regular week end pilgrims to this city, Baguio is synonymous to cool weather, pine trees, picturesque tourists spots and parks, Igorots, fresh vegetables and the ever famous strawberries.

During school breaks and in our younger days, we use to hike from downtown Baguio to the Radar Station at Mount Sto. Tomas. It is a leisurely four hour walk to reach the place and a little less than that time for the trip back. Along the way, we use to look for wild berries and ponds of cool and clear water.

Once we reach our destination and on a clear day, the western horizon beckons the inviting sights of Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan and the refreshing wide stretch of beaches in La Union. The catch of the trip however, to enjoy the view and scenery is to hit the apex of the mountain before thick fog sets in, which usually envelops the whole mountain ranges a little past eleven in the morning.

It is a sad and disappointing experience however, that such hiking expeditions among today's youth have not been vigorously and actively pursued. Perhaps it is time for the tourism office in coordination with the local government units to revive the vacation regatta on a whole year program. It might also a good idea if parks, camping sites, picnic grooves and similar tourism facilities be built along the way and in the mountain.

Another disappointment in this area close to Baguio is the latest news headlines that saw the denudation and cutting of hundreds of trees to give way to the construction of a road leading to a proposed resort development in the mountains of Sto. Tomas.

Apart from Baguio, a known development has been the rapid growth of Tagaytay City as a second vacation resort. For in only an hour from Metro Manila, one can get away from the traffic, pollution and harsh life of the metropolitan city and savor the refreshing cool unpolluted air and beautiful site especially of the eye catching Taal Volcano at the middle of Taal Lake.

In Tagaytay, one likewise enjoys an immediately felt change of cool climate in the late afternoons and in the evenings, and a perpetual breeze all day long. One can walk leisurely along the ridges of the mountains and get a glimpse of the wonderful gift of nature.

The on-going development of tourism in the country has led Filipinos to appreciate the beauty of their islands better and to become aware of the as-yet discovered sites where nature at least has been left undisturbed and where there is still a lot of opportunity to enjoy the country's natural beauty free from pollution and destructive commercialization.

New resorts have been developed in Northern Mindanao, in Cebu, in different islands, and in Luzon, the seashore in the North has been rediscovered in addition to the established beaches of Batangas and Cavite. Subic, under Philippine takeover, is already a major tourist attraction aside from being home to various foreign and domestic industrial companies. The island of Palawan is now marketed as one of the frontiers of the beauty of nature because of the aggressive conservation and preservation of its ecology, environment and nature parks.

Unlike Westerners in Europe and North America, many Filipinos do not take time out to plan their vacations with their families, for often among working men and women, even among professionals and executives, there are no real vacations.

Work goes on all year long; the only real opportunity to be free from it is by traveling abroad, an option, however, which is available only to the more affluent. The rest go on and perhaps take a weekend or two at most or spend a few days at a resort, which is often on an unplanned schedule.

Not until the Philippines reaches a level of material comfort equal to that of a more developed country will vacations become a matter of attention and careful planning because of the availability of financial resources and capability for a genuine vacation.

Vacations and summer breaks are really for the young, who have the luxury of leisure, freedom from regular classes, and the daring-do to explore unknown and as yet unexplored places of the country which invite visiting and enjoyment. In recent development, adventure parks and similar sites have opened catering to our adventurous populace.

Our young people should take the opportunity given them to make use of this period and the rare chance to explore the natural riches of the Philippines and learn to appreciate what good environmental protection should do for the well-being of our country not only as a place for foreign tourists but above all as part of the national patrimony of the citizenry.

The youth and our older folk should combine leisure and the opportunity to take time out to visit these hitherto unknown and undiscovered places and to avail themselves of the chance to see the Philippines, visit our places of interest and history to re-root themselves in their nation and to appreciate what the Lord has given to us as our inheritance.

Love of country and patriotism will lead our young people and our citizens to cherish this heritage and to preserve it for the next generation. That is what vacation frolics and summer escapades can do to us and our country!

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