By Peter Rey Bautista
June 14, 2015

vintage baguio

I was born in this city a true and certified Baguio Boy. I ran the city streets played along it’s creeks and walked along it’s trails. I did run or bike from home to school and back. The scent of pine was everywhere, so too with the dama de noche, marigold and marapait. All these bring memories of the place I grew up in. During this time air quality was never an issue. The air so crisp and fresh. Session Rd. did have it’s own scent too, the smell of coffee from Dainty and freshly baked pandesal in different corners along the road. Spanish bread was my choice with cousins and friends, oh and there was also the scent of pizza from Skyworld because of Shakeys and my favorite in another corner Fiesta Pizza. They just smelled so good, I could not afford Shakeys except the Bunch of Lunch but would still go there to Botak to get my running gear, yes I ran all before running was a fad, though I wish for it to continue. Rations is what I called the goods I bought beside Shakeys, this was military rations I had for my camping then. I just love the surprise of what I had inside the pack, but really I was there too to smell the pizza. But it was Fiesta for me. It smelled so good.

There was’nt enough vehicles then, even when I had my own during college I knew I always had parking and this was all before the earthquake of 1990. It was then when the city and it’s scent changed. There was the stench of death, formaline and dust. It was also after that the city began to redevelop. Construction and Destruction was it then. Then it became a concrete jungle. I would recall our city dad’s say that this is the reality of development the payment of becoming a new Baguio. While at that time it was welcome, I would have wished for it also to be a chance for a Masterplan and not the Vision of one. Sure, it did change the landscape of the city, was it for the better, maybe? There rose a cemented pine tree and a lot more paved roads. With paved roads came also vehicles for this roads. Soon the smell of Session Rd. changed. Food continues to be the scent of choice as to taxi smoke. Still good I guess, though at times there is the smell of longganisa or shawarma, I dont mind inihaw as it still whets my mouth with matching calamansi, soy and sili. Sarap!

But let me go back, my apologies for being sidetracked. The smell has definitely changed and not for the better compared to that time long ago. Apologies again for being sentimental and comparing. Today we had to replant “ficus” in the center island, some would say that they are as ugly as the cemented pine tree, but let me share that this tree absorbs and loves the bad air so that’s it. Enough na. Now every juan knows. Every juan would have also noticed that nowhere is the scent of pine. I would hear from visitors that they would roll down their windows upon reaching Kennon. Now, no way. But blame should not be on any juan. It is just so, in the first place I come from Baguio and travel a lot to and from but never had I rolled the window down just to find scent. Moreso with pine as I knew I would have to contend with trucks, buses or jeepneys all diesel plying the streets. Nevermind the pine. Oh and in fairness to the city, we are “greener” today, I’m serious! Check out old Baguio pictures and there are no trees. Mayor Virginia replanted all the trees we see today along the CBD and the mining companies with that of our forests today.

Now back to the scent of pine, it is true that seldom does one get the scent. Unfortunately our pine trees are dying, no juans fault again. No blaming here. They are just too competitive alongside each other. The reason too why planting them near each other kills the other. Did you know that pine needles have acid or toxin that kills pine saplings. There is no scent of pine, it is the sap that smells or the “saleng”. It is this smell where one knows if some juan has just “killed” a pine tree or trees. The reason too why it became obvious that 700+ trees where cut, all because of it’s obvious scent. Kaya na buko!
Sorry again for being sidetracked once more, back to the scent, since pine trees are dying did you know that I asked the DENR to research and introduce to me and the city for something that can work for the city thus the introduction of the Lemon Cypress. This is one we should look into. Unlike the pine, this holds soil for less erotions, with it too comes water, unlike the pine as it may contaminate water sources with it’s toxicity. The roots of the pine spread along the side and not underneath and won’t hold soil. The reason for many felled pine from strong wind. Also the reason why “balling” will not work for the pine. Fact! The best way to kill the pine is by surrounding it with cement or stones, surely imminent death. Unlike other trees.

Back to the scent, by introducing the Lemon Cypress the smell of the city will surely change, for the better. This is indigenous to Australia, where weather is similar to that of Baguio. Session too can benefit if Cafes al Fresco are replaced with motor vehicles, transfer the sale of Coffee and Flowers in the Public Market to Session Rd. and I guarantee with just this simple acts the scent of this popular thoroughfare will already change the way every citizen will perceive it to be. A change in the city’s scent will go a long way and how the city is perceived to be. Give it a try and see, surely the results will be surprisingly good for every juan. I went on the campaign trail for five times and in all this times I was advised and told to always smell good, as the impression would have led every juan to believe that Peter Rey Bautista not only smelled good but was perceived also to be clean. Maybe? Funny but surely the electorate would easily remember a candidate whose smell was pleasant over the other, the mere shake of hands and a hug would surely express a different reaction, thus being remembered for just smelling better. Maybe a perception only but it was lasting and did change the way I was perceived to be…clean as the analysts would want juan to believe. Just a thought to leave every citizen about the city’s scent.