Column – Verhungern – Skyos, skyos, kasya pa


By Angel Castillo

Skyos, skyos, kasya pa, tabi lang, kasya pa, goes the familiar voice of the dispatcher, herding us like lost souls, cramming into the tight sardine can that is the Filipino jeepney. One by one we shuffle in, sitting down, and slowly becoming more aware of the body parts of our anatomies as we compress to accommodate the next passenger. One more can fit. Kasya pa.

We are witness to and participant in the daily entity cramming efforts. Each day, we – and I use we in a sense of camaraderie, despite the fact that I do not use jeeps daily – pile in and wait for the ride. We fill it up, we pack it in. Kasya pa.

On a larger scale, we are also cramming in a bigger sardine can. The can that is Baguio City, scented once with fresh pine, its arteries clogging with cars. The arteries that flow the lifeblood through the cityscape congest and tighten. Kasya pa.

This week, the Watershed and Water Resources Research Development Extension Center (WWRRDEC) under the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revealed the results of a recent study that concluded, among other things, that the city’s tourist carrying capacity has yet to be breached. Kasya pa.

According to their findings, the computed effective carrying capacity of the city is some 2.2 million individuals, which, when compared to the utilized 2019 data of 1.5 million real tourists recorded – all numbers rounded for neatness – shows that we have nearly 700,000 more tourists that we can cram into the city. Kasya pa.

But to what end will we cram? The city is preparing for the next big wave to join the tourists – the students. We are returning to face-to-face classes. Students will once again rejoin the academic heart of Baguio City, a place of learning, a place of learning kabiguhan, a place of learning what one’s self truly is. They will once again fill up the boarding houses, the dorms, the jeepneys. Kasya pa.

Can Baguio take it? The numbers say yes, but what do the people on the ground feel? The local, the resident, the worker who now has to compete with several dozen more passengers for a ride. The homecomer whose ride has ballooned from a brief take-10 to an hour and a half. The traffic, no competition for Manila’s home-grown gridlock, and yet still highly inconvenient, unbearable. Kasya pa?

Despite the WWRRDEC’s findings that we can still accommodate so many tourists as part of the daytime population, they also reported that we have since exceeded our population carrying capacity – one of many different capacities studied – by around 145,000. Similarly, we’ve exceeded the building capacity by 33,000 structures, and we’re short by some 345 kilometers worth of road to properly cater to everyone without significant congestion. And we can’t magically expand Baguio to have 345 kilometers more of road, no matter what the bean counters will say. Kasya pa?

So what can we do? Well, us on the ground can complain. Squeaky wheels get the grease after all. The government will have to take the lead on this issue. Measures need to be put in place to control the population and its flow in the city. And I do not envy them in this job – it is not an easy task to balance the numbers and even out everything in this city, so small and yet packed so densely. The official stance currently seems to be – kasya pa.

Skyos, skyos. Kasya pa.

(Angel Castillo writes the bi-weekly column Verhungern as well as this informational bit in third person. For responses or thoughts, email the dedicated email address.)

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