Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't blink, you may never see the same Baguio city again...!

- by Joel R. Dizon

     If you left Baguio City earlier than 2005, some of the images here will be new. You need to connect these places in your rmemory with these photos to realize that Baguio City is, indeed, changing right before your very eyes.
    Right at the very gateway  to the city, BGH Circle, there is now a two-lane flyover that allows inbound vehicles  to "fly" above the usual traffic bottleneck that builds up in front of the hospital garden. 
     Don't look for the hill where Gasera restaurant used to sit--it has been excavated, flattened and is now the site of the biggest filling station in Baguio, Petron-BGH with 24-pumps. The Treats  convenience store behind it has become a favorite hangout of Baguio motorists, for its excellent coffee and sandwiches. It is open 24-7.
     A few steps above it is a Pancake House outlet, also doing well.
     There is even a 24-hour 7-11 convenience store in this corner now, in the lobby floor of the Starwood Hotel. If you're wondering what keeps business brisk for these establishments, cross over to the expended Baguio General Hospital complex and you'll see the answer. 
     From a cramped 50-room facility, the new BGH with its new annexes constructed on the hill going toward Fil-Am compound now boasts of better than a 500-bed capacity.  The Emergency Room has been transferred from its old site across the Under Five clinic to the  now-bustling West Wing.
     It is not only rooms that have been added to BGH. It has also acquired more modern diagnostics equipment, it is now considered one of the best-equipped hospitals in the entire Philippines.
     The old BGH building is still superbly preserved. The main hall still houses the different major wards (Pediatrics, Medical, Orthopedics, Coronary Care, Surgery and ICU units, Hemodialysis clinic, OB-Gynecology, and others).
     But the most modern operating theaters are now in the Annex building, along with the high-capacity trauma receiving unit. Gone are the days when even emergency cases had to queue for available surgery rooms. In recent major incidents, BGH has had to cope with situations where emergency patients rushed to the ER numbered in the hundreds, just like  the tragic Typhoon Pepeng calamity of 2009.  BGH passed that test with flying colors.  Today, even if a fully-loaded bus fell off a ravine in Kennon or Naguilian Road, BGH doctors and nurses are up to the task both in their number and rising skills.
     On Session road, the most dramatic change is the lower corner where the old DBP building stood for years. In has been replaced by a new six-storey modern office building now dwarfing the adjacent Pines Theater--which, by the way, is no longer a moviehouse but has been converted into a mini shopping arcade.

     Along Harrison Road, the newly-renovated Tion San Harrison Supestore is, perhaps, the only general merchandising establishment in Baguio that is able to cope with the entry of giant SM Supermall. It used to be split into two lots, with the historic Rose Bowl Cafe in between. Fortunately a swapping deal among the adjoining lot owners enabled Tiong San to expand its store to a contiguous area beside it--Rose Bowl restaurant was "bumped off" a few meters to one side to give way to the Tiong San supermarket--and three floors of dazzling electronic appliance displays above it.

Perhaps the most commentable and observable effect of all these new developments is the worsening traffic.  Previously unheard of in Baguio, experiences of getting trapped in gridlock for as long as 30 minutes or even longer during rush hour are now becoming commonplace.  
     Recently, the City government installed new traffic lights--featuring the newest  LED technology.  The changeover cycle is controlled by a computer and right now the jury's still out whether that was a step forward or backward.
    The average commute seems to have lengthened, although gridlocks now  occur "less often" because adjacent traffic lights can now actually coordinate electronically. But it only takes one moron to beat one red light one time--and the limited carrying capacity of Baguio's narrow city streets can get hopelessly clogged..again.

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