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Let the bidding games begin:
Baguio’s quest to host nat’l events
by Joyce Pascua

MODERNIZED FACILITY- The Baguio Athletic Bowl is undergoing reconstruction to improve the sports facility. Some of the upgrades made involved the refurbishment of the grandstand and the installation of the rubberized track oval. The city government of Baguio expect the rehabilitation of the Athletic Bowl to boost the city's chances to host the Palarong Pambansa in 2018. -- Joyce Pascua

Since its declaration as a chartered city on Sept. 1, 1909, Baguio City has paved its way towards becoming one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Philippines. Various events, such as the PanagbengaFestival, contribute in the continuing increase of the influx of tourists to the city in the past years. Despite the “success” of tourism in Baguio, the city government is eyeing to further promote the city’s tourism, particularly its sports tourism, through hosting different sports events. The city government aims to host in 2018 one of the most prestigious national sports competitions in the Philippines – the Palarong Pambansa.

The Palarong Pambansa is a national sports competition in which elementary and secondary student-athletes from public and private institutions from the different regions in the country compete in various sports events. Organized and governed by the Department of Education, the Palarong Pambansa aims to discover and train athletes that will soon represent the Philippines in international sports competitions.

Since the establishment of the Palaro in 1948, many provinces and cities in the country have hosted the national sports competition. Other cities, including Baguio, have yet to host the Palaro.

Continuing the quest

In the 1990s, the city government of Baguio tried to bid for the hosting of the Palarong Pambansa but it lost to General Santos City. The lack of sports facilities that will qualify the standards of the Palaro was seen as one of the reasons why Baguio failed to win in the bidding. Considered an enduring problem, the lack of sports facilities has impeded the city’s bid of hosting a national sports competition as big as the Palarong Pambansa for a long time.

Baguio City Sports Development Officer Gaudencio Gonzales and DepEd Baguio Sports Coordinator Fernando B. Eleponga particularly pointed out the absence of a quality track oval, which will be used as a venue for the different track and field events, as the main reason for the city’s failure to host the Palaro in the past years.

Standard kasi na may track and field sa Palarong Pambansa,” Eleponga said.

With the expectation that the Department of Public Works and Highways-Cordillera will be able to finish the rehabilitation of the Baguio Athletic Bowl before 2018, Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan, who is also the head of the City Sports Promotion and Development Council (CSPDC), plans to bid for the hosting of the Palarong Pambansa when the hosting of the sports competition returns in Luzon in 2018.

The mayor said they are again considering the possibility of bidding for the hosting of the Palaro since many participants from Visayas and Mindanao have been expressing hopes that the national sports event will be held in Baguio.

Improving Baguio’s sports facilities:

Baguio Athletic Bowl

DPWH-CAR started renovating the Baguio Athletic Bowl in 2014. Doing it per phase, the DPWH-CAR has finished phases one and two of the sports facility.

Loida Taynec, an engineer at DPWH-CAR, said the ongoing construction at the Baguio Athletic Bowl involves the phase three, which is expected to be finished in September this year.

According to Architect Chester Bayao, engineering assistant at DPWH-CAR, there are other phases that needed to be finished but the construction of these phases depends on the initiative of Baguio City’s newly elected congressman, Mark Go, to continue requesting for the funding of the project from the national government. He said there is no funding yet for the next phases as of July 27. This is the reason why they cannot estimate when the renovations will be finished.

Hindi pa namin masasabi kung kailan matatapos ang Athletic Bowl kasi walang master plan. Parang phase by phase na lang, depende sa pagdating ng fund,” he said.

Meanwhile, Domogan said there is already a pending request for the national government to allot funds to implement phase four of the project.

He added that he will continue to coordinate with Go regarding the continuing allocation of funds for the Baguio Athletic Bowl so that the renovation of the facility will be finished before the city makes its bid for the hosting of the Palarong Pambansa in2018.

That is also part of my role, to coordinate with Congressman Go to ensure that the continuing funding for the improvements of the Athletic Bowl be provided,” he said.

“Dapat ay talagang siguraduhin natin. We cannot bid for 2018 Palarong Pambansa kung hindi tapos ang mga iyan.”

MODERNIZED FACILITY- The Baguio Athletic Bowl is undergoing reconstruction to improve the sports facility. Some of the upgrades made involved the refurbishment of the grandstand and the installation of the rubberized track oval. The city government of Baguio expect the rehabilitation of the Athletic Bowl to boost the city's chances to host the Palarong Pambansa in 2018. -- Joyce Pascua

Improving Baguio’s sports facilities:

Indoor sports complex

Aside from improving the Baguio Athletic Bowl, the city government also plans to build an indoor sports complex near the Athletic Bowl. Gonzales said the facility will house indoor sports such as badminton, table tennis, and combative sports. He added that the construction of the indoor sports complex will begin after the renovation of the Athletic Bowl is completed.

“Kapag natapos ang DPWH sa construction sa Athletic Bowl, city naman ang papasok. Hopefully by 2017, matapos iyong P60 million (project),” he said.

Domogan said the city government appropriated P60M for the construction of the project and that he is already coordinating with the city’s architects to finish the plan of the facility soon.

He added they will look for other sources of funds in the event the supplemental budget will not be sufficient to cover the construction of the structures.

The indoor sports facility is expected to boost the city’s chances of winning the bid for the hosting of the Palarong Pambansa in2018. Also, it is expected to benefit the athletes of Baguio.

Juanito P. Smith, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Sports Commission Baguio, said the facility can also be used as a training venue for athletes to further improve their skills.

“Ang daming malalakas na athletes sa Baguio pero kulang tayo sa facilities,” he said.

Improving Baguio’s sports facilities:

Melvin Jones

There are other sports facilities in Baguio City, such as the Melvin Jones grounds, that has the potential to serve as a venue for various sports events. Gonzales said the city will use the grounds of Melvin Jones if Baguio will be hosting the Palarong Pambansa in 2018.

“Ang Melvin Jones ang talagang idealground para sa football. Palagi nating naga-gamit iyan kapag nagho-host tayo ng events,” he added.

However, Eleponga said the city government should improve the Melvin Jones grounds if the city plans to use it.

“Wala naman na tayong problema sa Athletic Bowl. Ang problema natin ay sa Melvin Jones kasi ang ground ay hindi evenso it is not conducive for football,” he said.

Nonetheless, Domogan is willing to fix the problem at Melvin Jones. “Aayusin natin iyan. Walang problema.”

Seeking for full cooperation

In order for this endeavor to be successful, the city government seeks the help of both private and public institutions for the venue of sports events and the accommodation of the delegates.

“Kailangan natin ang tulong ng lahat. Kailangan kasi natin ng maraming gym for sport events like the gyms of University of the Cordilleras, University of Baguio, Baguio Central University, St. Louis University, Philippine Military Academy, and Baguio Convention Center. Lahat iyan magagamit,” Gonzales said. “Dapat ma-evaluate na rin natin ang condition ng school buildings kasi nga sa mga public school sila titira.”

Domogan said the city government will prepare the school buildings in Baguio City where the delegates of the Palaro will stay.

Of course we have the different schools na iyon ang ayusin natin. We have a lot of schools that can house our delegates,” he said.

He added that the schools do not need major repairs. “Iyong ipro-provide na lang naman ay iyong beddings nila. Lilinisan lang iyong different buildings.”

Apart from the problem in sports facilities, there are other things the city government needs to consider in planning for a big event like the Palarong Pambansa. Eleponga said one of the main problems the city government needs to address is water insufficiency.

Domogan said the city government will take actions to address water insufficiency in case Baguio City will host the Palaro.

Meron naman iyong pumping station sa Burnham and I am sure that can be remedied,” he said.

Another problem that Baguio needs to deal with if the city will host the Palarong Pambansa is the heavy traffic. Aside from the delegates and their families, it is expected that people from the different parts of the country will swarm into the city to witness the competition.

Nevertheless, Domogan is optimistic that the city can handle a big event like the Palaro.

Our traffic personnel including that of the volunteers will continue to come up also with a traffic plan. Tingnan ninyo ang Panagbenga. We are able to sustain Panagbenga na ang dami rin ang tao na umaakyat,” he said.

Co-hosting the Palaro

A national event like the Palarong Pambansa means that there will be numerous delegates from all over the country who will be joining the competition. With this, Gonzales said that hosting the Palaro alone will cause a burden for Baguio City.

“Mahihirapan sa hosting kapag city lang kasi masyadong marami ang delegation. We have 18regions sa Palarong Pambansa tapos ang lalaki ng delegation nila. Buses pa lang nila napakarami na,” he said.

To address this problem, Domogan said the city government of Baguio plans to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the province of Benguet to co-host the Palaro. If Benguet agrees to co-host the Palaro in 2018, some of the sports events will be held at the sports facilities and venues in the province. Some of the delegates will also be accommodated in the available buildings in the province.

The city government also coordinated with Benguet in co-hosting the Palaro back in the 1990s when the city first attempted to host the Palarong Pambansa.

Gonzales said co-hosting with Benguet will be a great help for Baguio City. “Sa Baguio kapag marami nang tao, medyo nagkukulang na ang tubig tapos bumibigat ang traffic,” he added.

Eleponga, who is also a member of CSPDC, said Baguio City really needs to coordinate with Benguet in co-hosting the Palaro. He explained that the Palarong Pambansa is usually conducted during summer in which universities and colleges still have classes so they might not be available to accommodate the delegates.

“Ipapahiram naman iyong sport facilities. Iyong accommodation lang. Kaya ang mangyayari niyan, iyong ibang delegates ay maha-house sa Benguet. Iyong ibang games din maho-hold sa Benguet,” he said.

La Trinidad, Benguet Mayor Romeo Salda is open to the idea of co-hosting the Palaro.

Whatever na available facilities dito sa La Trinidad, puwede nilang gamitin. Meron iyong gym ng Benguet State University at meron din iyong gym ng munisipyo,” he said.

“We will be happy to co-hostthe Palaro because it will greatly contribute to our economy. Maraming bibili ng mga product ng mga taga dito. The farmers will have more opportunities to market their produce,” he said.

Promoting sports and tourism

Aside from boosting the confidence of Baguio-based athletes, Gonzales said that hosting the Palaro will have a great impact on the sports tourism of Baguio City.

“Lahat ng local government unit, ang ambisyon ay mag-host ng Palarong Pambansa. In terms of sports tourism, kapag nakapag-host ka kasi ng Palarong Pambansa, every now and then ay dito na gaganapin iyong ibang sports events,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Domogan said the most important contribution of Palarong Pambansa to the city, if given the opportunity to host the prestigious competition, is the continuing promotion of Baguio to people from outside the city.

“At least masasabi natin na na-host natin ang Palarong Pambansa. It’s a good advertisement for the city of Baguio. For sure, makaka-tulong din ito sa promotion ng ating turismo, makakatulong sa ating revenues. Malaking bagay ito sa ating economy,” he added.

Is Baguio ready?

According to Eleponga, if Baguio City wins in the bidding to host the Palaro, DepEd will be giving additional funds for further improvement of the city’s sports facilities.

Usually, ganoon talaga. Nagbibigay ang national office sa host kaya sabi ko nga walang problema. Magbibigay sila para sa gagastusin,” he explained. “Malaki naman ang pag-asa ng Baguio na manalo sa bidding kasi halos lahat ng regions ang hinihintay na lang nila ay ang offer ng Baguio.”

With the Athletic Bowl still undergoing rehabilitation, Gonzales assured that Baguio City is ready to host the Palaro by 2018. “Doon sa one year na preparation next year, sufficient naman iyong time,” he added.

Domogan is also confident that by 2018, Baguio City is prepared to host the Palarong Pambansa. “As I said, we have been hosting the Panagbenga, which is a big event. Mas marami pang tao sa Panagbenga kaysa sa Palarong Pambansa. I do not see any reason why we will not be ready,” he said.
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