BAGUIO: A BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN LEGACY

BAGUIO CITY, OCTOBER 17, 2003  (OPS) (Editor’s Note: Following is the tenth in a series of backgrounders on Philippine-United States relations that the Presidential News Desk is issuing on the run-up to the state visit here of US President George W. Bush on October 18)

Education is not the only legacy Filipinos could thank America for. This city noted for its pines and cool climate is another.

The vision and governance of great American leaders and soldiers shaped this highland city to what Asians and Europeans consider to this date as a beautiful American legacy.

What this city looked like when Captain Robert R. Rudd, commander of the U.S. 48th Infantry, maintained a mountain post here in 1900 may be different now, but basically, this 49-square kilometer plateau remains in accordance with the comprehensive development plan of architect Daniel Burnham.

Although the American's plan for the city's maximum residents was 25,000 people, the Philippine government was able to conserve and protect the city's environs even as Baguio’s population has already swelled to almost half-a-million to date.

Burnham's development plan (now known as land use plan or town plan) dated back to 1904 when at that time Baguio’s population was composed of only 811 Igorots and 30 Ilocanos, according to the "The Skyland of the Philippines" by Laurence L. Wilson.

While it is true that Baguio only became a chartered city on September 1, 1909 by virtue of Act No. 19644, the American government (Philippine Commission) spent a few millions of pesos for this place, which the Americans dubbed as "Summer Capital of the Philippines" since 1900, being the recreation center of the U.S. Thirteenth Air Force.

In 1901, the Philippine Commission appropriated P75,000 for the opening of the Kennon Road. When this road was finished on Jan. 29, 1905, the American government had already spent a total of P2.05 million.

In 1903, the Americans built the city roads which to date are the main thoroughfares: Session, Gov. Pack, Leonard Wood, Harrison, Brent and others. Governor Cameron Forbes built the Mansion House, which has since become the official presidential house here.

Other American landmarks which have survived over a century now include the city hall, and the US Ambassador's residence - - the historical place where Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita formally surrendered after World War II.

The Americans also spent a lot for the education of the natives that the English language was extensively propagated in this highlands by the "Thomasites."

Earliest Baguio historians like Wilson recalled that to date, many American-educated residents still have fond memories of their teachers, specially the well-loved Alice Kelly.

They also built the Brent and Easter schools which to date are among the leading educational institutions in the country.

In 1905, Camp John Hay, a 1,718.55 acre-reservation, was built as an American recreation center. The Country Club was built earlier, in 1902. Both former American facilities are now world-class sports and tourism facilities. The yearly Fil-Am golf tournament at Camp John Hay attracts hundreds of amateur golfers.

Cecile Afable, a granddaughter of the illustrious Mateo Carino of Baguio, has a wish--that this city would keep the American tradition of ecological conservation and so with the peace and order established under the first Baguio chief of police, Joseph J. Keith who served in that capacity from 1910 to 1941.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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