Baguio and the Silicon Forest

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By Richard Parcia More often than not, when any person asks a Filipino about the United States, the images that he or she conjures up are those of either California or New York. It used to be Disneyland, but with its growing Asian presence and Disneyland Shanghai going online in 2016, Mickey Mouse no longer solidly represents the American dream to a misinformed Filipino. However, Katy Perry?s homage to the California woman never fails to capture the imagination of the present generation, just like what the Beach Boys did 40 years ago. New York, on the other hand, had a renaissance that started during the time of Rudolph Giuliani. The ?city that never sleeps? entered the Filipino psyche through TV and movies. Sarah Jessica Parker fashionably presented New York to the world in such a way that the term Big Apple is synonymous to the word orgasm ? or multiple orgasms. And who doesn?t want that except the deliberately celibate or those who have no choice. Such pop culture references heavily influence Philippine pop culture. Never mind that in reality, California can arguably be the first step to a Sunset Boulevard tragedy. Or Time Square, considered by most travel writers to be overrated, does not capture the other side of NYC which for the uninitiated can be ghastly, gray, or just plain repulsive to the nostrils. Most of all, never mind if California is so different from New York. For the ignorant, to mention any of them is to mention the United States. In my case, though, America is neither state. For me, both states are very visible parts of a single body but neither occupies a big percentage of the whole. For me, America is Oregon. In the many years I had been visiting the United States, I never failed to visit this state. I had been to a lot of states, including the ones I previously mentioned. However, this northwest state just above California is the one that I am always fond of. It was the first place I visited when I first set foot in the US mainland many years ago. I was just there just a few months ago. If you are wondering why a tech blog got converted into a pseudo travelogue, it is because while California has Silicon Valley, Oregon is known as the Silicon Forest. There is something about the northwest that spawns the most high-end technologies. This distinct fact is very important to the point of this article that you will soon find out. The reason why I am writing about the Silicon Forrest is because I was reminded by it by a recent visit to Baguio City. Sadly, though, I was not reminded by the parallelism of the two places, although, they do have some similarities. I was reminded of my favorite state because of what I see as Baguio City?s lost opportunity. The Baguio that I visited in my childhood wasn?t the same city that I visited a few weeks ago. The only thing quite familiar is the temperature. However, since a storm just passed that area, I might be wrong on that aspect, too. It used to be quaint and charming. The current state of the city is one of bad urban planning. It is not surprising that such a thing can happen since this nation, as a whole, can?t seem to understand what good urban planning is all about. In comparison, Oregon has retained its charm in the last ten years. The county of Hillsboro, where I would go often, has more houses and establishments today than what I saw a couple of years ago. This is expected because the area is home to a lot of technology companies. One of them is Intel, which has a fab whose size is about four football fields ? and that just one site. They have more than five in that part of the state. Nevertheless, the amount of development in the state did not diminish its focus on being environment friendly. They had imposed huge taxes on bottled water and its one of the few areas I know that still has safe drinking water from the drinking fountains located in all of the city of Portland. Oregon is a good example on how development has been balanced with the preservation of the state?s natural characteristics. It is a dream state for a techie with a green thumb and an inclination for the outdoors. Organic farming is a norm. It is not uncommon for the state?s technology wizards to go on camping, fishing for salmon, hiking, kayaking, rafting, or just plain running or walking and breathing that fresh air. And, oh, Nike?s headquarters is located there, too. Prefontaine is also from Oregon. I mentioned a lost opportunity for Baguio because basically it is no different from Oregon. Except for the occasional snow in winter time for the latter, the former is blessed with basically with the same characteristics. Baguio could have been the Philippines? silicon forest. It is not a remote idea because Texas Instruments, the biggest semiconductor company in the country, is located there. So is Moog. The big difference is that Oregon planned their development carefully. It does welcome tourists but they also made it attractive for permanent residents. By the way, among the airports that I passed through, Portland International Airport is the best for me. Even better than Singapore?s Changi Airport. Baguio?s problem is that its local government is just focused in making it as just a tourist destination. Don?t get me wrong. I am a big fan of the tourism driven economy. However, it should be tempered with a strong sense of sustainable and environment friendly development. Baguio should be designed in such a way that it can be a model on how nature?s charm can add value to the city?s investment appeal. Oregon?s example is a proof that the model works. Let?s just hope that city?s planners realize this. Otherwise, it will remain as a city that did not lost a huge opportunity but as a city that did not quite get it.]]>

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