Two Team Lakay members saw the bright side in their native Baguio City's temporary closure at the height of the pandemic.
Former ONE champions Eduard Folayang and Geje Eustaquio felt the City of Pines' return to its more natural form.
“This lockdown period was great for the local community because it became a lot quieter. There was no traffic or pollution,” said Folayang.
“The environment hit the reset button and allowed nature to flourish. It was a good opportunity for the environment to recover.”
For Eustaquio, seeing his hometown in such a calm and relaxed state brings back memories of his childhood, when the city was just beginning to urbanized.
“It’s fun to experience this once in a lifetime. Movement in Baguio City is easy now. There’s no traffic, and the environment is even more beautiful now than ever. It looks so much better than before,” said Eustaquio.
“The environment has recovered very quickly. Certain types of birds are back, and you can see living nature right inside the city. When I was a kid, I could see these animals and plants, until they slowly disappeared due to pollution. Baguio City went through a lot of urban development which had an adverse effect on nature. Now, nature is making a comeback.”
Baguio welcomes nearly 2 million tourists every year, mostly coming from Metro Manila and surrounding towns.
Hotels, mountain resorts, homestays, restaurants offering local Baguio cuisine -- even street vendors selling various locally made trinkets and souvenirs -- are all heavily reliant on outside visitors bringing in revenue.
Due to nationwide lockdowns brought about by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Baguio’s local economy was hit particularly hard.
Though Folayang and Eustaquio both appreciate nature’s recovery in their hometown, the two Team Lakay veterans understand the importance of Baguio gradually reopening its gates to tourists in order for its local economy to recover.
“I think for Baguio City, tourism has always been very important. It’s one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Baguio City had to close its doors. Local businesses suffered and a lot of people lost their jobs,” said Folayang.
“As things start to reopen now, I am sure it will give a much needed boost to the local economy and things will start to get busy again.”