(Originally published in my column in the now defunct Cordillera Today in May, 2008)
A sign next to the Magsaysay flyover says, “To Baguio: Make a U-turn, Go To Trancoville Junction, Make Another U-turn, Proceed To Flyover Ramp.”
There are signs everywhere. Up on the sidewalks, on doors, motor vehicles: on windshields or bumpers, on paper or tarpaulin, on billboards: in neon, in color, or in black and white.
You’ve got nationwidest coverage? Sure. You‘ve got it all for me? Ok.Katas ng Saudi? Noted. Will I be there? I’m done with school, but thanks for the invitation. Kailangan pa bang i-memorize ‘yan? You’re right, no need to, and I’d have forgotten it had you not kept on reminding me all day that there’s no need to commit the crap you heap on my helpless ears all day to memory.
Sure, the stuffy central business district; with its roads filled with smoke-belching motor vehicles; its sidewalks crammed with people spitting, pissing, throwing up, loitering, littering and not minding whose toes they step on or shoulders they bump into; its once picturesque skyline now obliterated by giant commercial billboards screaming into our faces to buy this, switch to that, eat here, get drunk there, may be signs of a developed city. But from a different angle, these may be signs of a city painted all over with greed and shamelessness – a portrait of an abused city.
Perhaps the ever growing bank account of the city is a sign of progress. But what kind of future does the city face with it and is it worth it? The signs that say “Don’t Be A Scofflaw,” put up by a corporation with a legally questionable contract with the city government that was found to be illegally occupying public property and usurping the powers of several government entities, can still be seen all over the city. There are still signs proclaiming the city to be the cleanest and greenest in the country, next to piles of uncollected garbage. There are no parking signs next to parked cars, no loading and unloading signs next to jeepneys picking up and dropping off passengers.
What’s a row of bars infront of an elementary school a sign of? What’s a row of sleazy establishments near the city hall a sign of? What’s a police car passing through a red light a sign of? What’s the sight of elderly locals with baskets of vegetables and fruits being chased by the government in our streets where legitimate shops selling illegal merchandise thrive a sign of? What’s the plan to provide elected officials with brand new cars while the same elected officials often cite the lack of money as the reason behind the failure of the city government to efficiently deliver public service a sign of?
I’ve said it before, walking down Session Road, one only has to stop and look at the signs to know where the city has been, where it is, and where it’s going.
The sign may say, “To Baguio: Make a U-turn, Go To Trancoville Junction, Make Another U-turn, Proceed To Flyover Ramp,” or we can simply say, “Straight Ahead.”
Or maybe the sign could’ve stopped at, “Make A U-turn.” Looking at where Baguio is today, that makes sense.