THE “TOURORISTS” are back.
A social media rant by a resident popped out in an online report about the gridlock that recently locked down Baguio City.
The portmanteau combines “tourists” and “terrorists” to aptly capture the exasperation of Baguio residents after a three-day holiday declared to decongest the streets in Metro Manila during the ASEAN Summit resulted in an exodus to the so-called summer capital.
I was guilty of adding to that congestion. The Baguio hallmarks were still in evidence: pine tree silhouettes, bracing upland air, and the fog, which, according to Carl Sandburg’s immortal line, “comes on little cat feet”.
But of traffic, too, there was more than anyone—resident or “tourorist”—desired. One queued to go inside the city’s only mall, to park a car, to use the toilet, to get a taxi, even to enter the “wagwagan (used clothes)” night market.
I waited for nearly an hour to take out siopao from this popular eatery, which has four floors and is open 24 hours. In the gridlock of that long weekend, snaking lines of people waiting to get in during dining “rush hour” meant rising at dawn to get the siopao that left my husband sleepless.
Is tourism a boon? According to city planners, Baguio’s woes are caused by the influx of visitors (and their vehicles) that bloats the population of more than 350,000 residents in a city designed to hold only 25,000.
I prefer to walk around to know a city better. During this visit to Baguio, though, walking seemed more of a duty, an attempt not to add to the toxicity hovering above irate motorists, jeepney commuters suffering behind long lines, and the frustrated waiting fruitlessly for an empty cab.
Yet, walking has its limitations. History is often found on the outskirts, rarely at the center. Baguio is the capital of the Cordillera region, the largest community of indigenous peoples in the country.
According to Nestor T. Castro’s brief but excellent “A Peek into Cordilleran History, Culture, and Society” (UP Press, 2015), the region derives its name from the Gran Cordillera Central, the mountain ranges serving as the “backbone” of the central part of northern Luzon.
This backbone is not just geographical. The Cordilleras is the bastion of ethnicity, “historically differentiated” from the rest of the country for successfully resisting the “inroads of colonization,” according to Republic Act No. 8371, also known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Acts of 1997.
During this visit, the closest I got to Igorot culture was admiring the weaving patterns of a red-and-black loincloth called “binolda-an” in Sagada. To know why the “Igorot” is a contested being will have to be for another visit.
(firstname.lastname@example.org/ 0917 3226131)
*First published in SunStar Cebu’s November 19, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”