Monday, November 15, 2010

How Session Road got its curious name

-by Joel Rodriguez Dizon

     The name is intriguing except, maybe,  to oldtimers. Session Road got its name from the fact that members of the First Philippine Commission--the forerunner of the first post-war independent Philippine Government--passed through this main thoroughfare on their way to attend their plenary sessions at the Commission's headquarters located near the top of this uphill road. No great mystery or legend there, really.
     But over the years, the name "Session Road" began to acquire different dimensions of meaning. Cityfolk gathered at the many cafes and restaurants lining this road to catch up on the latest news, share sports insights, talk about business, school, politics--anything under the sun. In other words, cityfolk would hold all kinds of "sessions"--the sociable way of experiencing the community life--while sitting around the shops or strolling up and down this fairly short stretch of four-lanes.
     It is virtually impossible to walk this road without having to greet someone. If you're looking for somebody and don't have any idea where he might be, it's a fair bet you'll run into him if you just walk around Session Road on any given afternoon. So you basically stayed away from Session Road if you're trying to duck a credtitor or somebody else trying to kill you. This road brings the community together..or apart. But  when Baguio folk leave the city for greener pastures abroad, memories of this road bring them home regularly.
     When I shot these photos, I knew these were not Pulitzer prize material. They are plain street photography. But if you were born in this city, or grew up here, or lived here for any significant
period of time, these photos will trigger a flood of sepia-colored memories. Skyworld Condominium, that 12-storey tall apartment building across Tea House has been gone since the 1990 earthquake. But the Puso ng Baguio acorss Laperal buildings still houses cafes, bookstores, restaurants and these days the ubiquitous internet shop. The Baguio Vicariate owns and operates the Porta Vaga, which is the upscale extension development of Patria de Baguio. It houses boutiqes, Bruce Sorisantos' MusicWorld, an upscale gymn, dental clinics--truly an eclectic mix.
     On most days traffic along this road is fairly light. But progress has caught up with this city, too,  and it now has to regulate traffic to keep the air quality breathable. A number-coding system is not in place. A car whose license plate number ends in 1 or 2 must stay off Session Road on Mondays. Those ending in 3 or 4 on Tuesdays and so on.  On weekends, the road is open to general traffic. An attempt to introduce payparking in 2001 ran into a stiff wall of public opposition and was abandoned.
     For four days a year this road is completely closed to traffic, to give way to a street bazaar, coinciding with the annual celebration of the Baguio Flower Festival ("Panagbenga") around February. If you are a Baguio oldtimer, this is one fact of community life you need to update in your mind. The peak tourist arrival in Baguio is no longer during Holy Week--it has been surpassed by the Panagbenga. If you'e heard of the Ati-atihan of Kalibo, Aklan, or the Moriones Festival of Marinduque--Panagbenga is Baguio's own version of a tourist festival. It replaced the unsuccessful Grand Caniao of the late 70s and early 80s and now ranks as one of the most notable Philippine tourism festivals.

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