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When will Baguio's Fate be Determined by its Own People?

It is crucial for Baguio's own people, especially its IP communities, to participate in charting its future.

At the center of a recent controversy is the Revised Baguio City Charter that lapsed into law in 2022 amid opposition by the Sangguniang Panlungsod and some sectors of society. Allegedly, the proponent Congressman failed to hold "proper" consultations to ascertain the general consensus and the collective sentiment of the people. In addition, recommendations and suggestions from the city's local legislature were allegedly ignored.

The establishment of the original Baguio City Charter, formally known as Commonwealth Act No. 196, marked a pivotal moment in the city's development, shaping its fate in ways that resonate even today. But it is worth noting that the driving force behind this was not the interests of the local folks but for the benefit of the colonizers.

In 1900, the American colonial government took control of the Philippines, and soon after, Baguio became a strategic location for the colonial administration. Recognizing its cool climate and scenic beauty, the Americans envisioned Baguio as a retreat and a suitable administrative center. Thus, in 1903, the city was officially planned by the American architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham.

The original city charter, granted on September 1, 1909, laid the groundwork for the establishment of Baguio as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, disregarding the ancestral land rights of its Indigenous People in the process. This special status was meant to attract government officials, particularly during the hot summer months when Manila became less conducive for work.

Over the years, Baguio has evolved, facing challenges and transformations that have been influenced, to a great extent, by external forces and interests. The fate of the city is intricately connected to decisions made by outsiders, from its colonial beginnings to contemporary developments and as if they have not suffered enough displacement and neglect, the city's Indigenous People and their ancestral rights became the least of priorities in all areas of policy making.

Even today, the influence and direct participation of outsiders on Baguio's destiny remains evident. Tourism, driven largely by visitors from different parts of the country and the world, plays a significant role in shaping the city's economic landscape. Also, the leadership of local immigrants who are blind, by choice or chance, to the cultural interplay uniquely present in this jurisdiction also plays a big role in charting the city's evolutionary journey.

Additionally, external factors such as national policies, economic trends, and environmental considerations contribute to the ongoing narrative of Baguio's fate. Decisions made at the national level, often by individuals far removed from the day-to-day realities, culture, and traditions of the place, have a direct impact on its development trajectory.

The delicate dance between preserving Baguio's cultural heritage and embracing modernization is another aspect where external influences come into play. Balancing the interests of locals, who have deep-rooted connections to the land, with the demands of a changing world is a complex challenge. Add this to the cultural insensitivity of some leaders and the Baguio we all love will be lost.

While outsiders have played a role in shaping Baguio's destiny, it is crucial for Baguio's own people, especially its IP communities, to now take hold of their crafting tools and actively participate in charting its future. Local IP communities, immigrants, government officials, and other residents must work together and take control to ensure that the unique charm and identity of Baguio are preserved amid the pressures of external influences.

The original Baguio City Charter, born out of American colonial ambitions, laid the wrong foundation for the city's future. We now have the chance to fix this and thus, as outside forces continue to influence the fate of Baguio through politics, tourism, national policies, and development decisions, it is imperative for locals to actively engage in shaping the city's future. Balancing the interests of all stakeholders will be key in ensuring that Baguio's rich heritage endures for generations to come

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