From Kafagway to Baguio

By Freddie Mayo and Ramon Dacawi

(Note on the authors: Frederic G. Mayo was one of the best feature writers and broadcast journalists from Baguio and the Cordillera who died in New York in 1997. Ramon Dacawi was a veteran journalist, environmentalist and philanthropist who passed on in July this year. Both were pioneering members of the City Government Public Information Office.


Evidence shows that the general terrain on which the city of Baguio now stands rose from the sea several million of years ago. Fossils of crustaceans identified during the 1950s show that the latest that the area was underwater was during the Pliocene Age. Limestone formations of three or more layers measuring 20 meters thick contain coral fossils and have cracks from which form caves that are extremely permeable to water.
Over these rock formation is red mud, known as Terra Rosa which contains a large quantity of animal remains.
Then vegetation appeared in the eastern part of the city. The assortment of its vegetation is still a mystery. How the Benguet pine or Pinus Insularis, the Brazillian chayote or sayote, the Australian everlasting, the Benguet Lily and the native under-sized passion fruit or masaflora found their way into Baguio’s environs is still a mystery.
True enough, later species of flora which grew only in the temperate and seasonal climate of the northern hemisphere could be traced to the introduction of these plants by the Chinese, Japanese and the American, but the greater number of species are still unaccounted for.
Even before the Americans finally decided to set up a rest and recreation center in this section of the Cordillera, the Spaniards had already accumulated enough data about Baguio’s climate, plants and animal life, and its terrain to pre-empt any plan to establish a highland post in the place originally called Kafagway.
A member of the First Philippine Commission, Dean Connant Webster, heard that the place exists, from a Spanish forester while the latter was hunting tamaraw in Mindoro in 1892. He came to verify these reports only on 1900, and immediately fell in love with the place.
Later records would show that Kafagway was only composed of about seven houses as a rancheria of La Trinidad, Benguet. But then an observer’s report would claim that there were more than 21 houses, with a meeting hall. The disparity could be accounted for the fact that most of the people of Kafagway withdrew to the outskirts of the city to avoid the final confrontation between the Americans and the Spaniards.
Kafagway was inhabited by the Benguet Ibalois. Of the Benguets, then Minister of interior Worcester wrote: They were kindly, industrious, self respecting, silent tribe of agriculturists. They never indulged in head-hunting or caused any serious disturbance of public order, and had persistently refused to give up their ancient beliefs. When I first visited their country, I found their men clad in clouts, supplemented, in the case of the wealthy, by cotton blankets. The woman usually wore both skirts and upper garments, with bound towels over their heads as turbans.
Kafagway, on which the original Baguio townsite stands, means rono or grassy clearings. It was first mentioned by the Spaniard Quirante’s report on the district of Antamok in 1624.


The drafter of Baguio’s charter, former Justice George Malcolm, said that his favorite city was still Baguio although he had already seen Simla in India.
Baguio could truly be called an American creation. The trip up originally was made in two stages. The first was by streamer from Manila to San Fernando, La Union. The second from San Fernando through the towns of Naguillian Sablan by horseback and then either up to Kafagway or La Trinindad which was then established as the capital of the Spanish comandancia.
In order to shorten the trip up to Baguio from Manila, work on the Benguet Road began on January 5, 1901 after the Philippine Commission appropriated US$50,000 for the construction of a connection from Dagupan, Pangasinan. The final cost would come to US$2 million and it would take Col. Lyman Kennon to complete it four years later. In January 1905, Col. Kennon rode up on the first wagon to reach the place over the newly constructed road, now named after him. Due to the initial enthusiasm of the first Philippine Commission, the early development of the city was not only well planned but also well funded.
In 1904, Architect Daniel Burnham who laid out the city of Chicago, visited Baguio and made a plan for its future development.
In the spring of 1905, the Baguio country Club was organized. The clubhouse was a “rude, grass-roofed shed made of pine slabs”.
In 1908, a modern hospital and the governor-general’s residence (now The Mansion, the officials summer residence of the president) were built.
In April, 1908, there was opened a “Teacher’s Camp” to which came American school teachers from all over the islands.
By the end of the first decade, Baguio found itself the proud possessor of a city hall, a storehouse, a corral, market buildings, a hospital-sanitarium, cottages for government officials, an automobile station, a garage, a plumping plant and laborers’ quarters.

While the first immigrant to the general vicinity were probably traders and personnel of the Spanish Comandancia in La Trinindad (now capital of Benguet province), the first to Kafagway came up with the construction of the Kennon Road.
Motley of races manned this construction, notably the Chinese, Japanese, British, Americans, natives of the old Mountain Province, and Ilocanos from Eastern Pangasinan.
The Chinese and the Japanese, who were earlier recruited for the Benguet Road, got immediately assimilated into the city’s lifestyle. They were mostly traders and merchants but later also found themselves developing the multi-million-peso highland vegetable industry in the hinterlands of Benguet. They were later joined by the old trading partners of the Ibaloi-Ilocanos from La Union and Ilocos Sur – who plied their trade via the newly opened Naguilian Road They also engaged in trade and barter, aside from joining the government service or as a teachers in the numerous schools which were put up for the city’s primary and secondary education.
The Indians came in profusion shortly after the Second World War, and the Batanguenos soon after. The Muslims from the south, the Pampangos, the Visayans and the Bicolanos came soon after.
Together with the Americans who stayed behind, these immigrants developed a lifestyle which is uniquely that of Baguio.

After the first sale of residence and business lots took place on May 28, 1906, the next 30 odd years demonstrated immense development. This was mainly due to the efforts of the visionary American Mayor, Engr. Eusebius Halsema.
The telephone system was inaugurated earlier in 1903. The marker was established in 1913. The rock crusher was installed in 1916. The vegetable market was completed in 1918. The concrete pipe factory was established in 1920. The first hydroelectric plants were completed in 1924, so with the Baguio auditorium was finished in 1924. The Baguio Central School was completed in 1924 and an expansion of the sanitary sewer beyond the Trinidad irrigation system was completed in 1929.
Governor General Leonard Wood wrote in 1926: Baguio has 50 percent more people this summer than ever before and a good deal of building. We have a good many conventions here this summer and tremendously large number of attendance of Teachers Camp. Camp John Hay is packed to the limit. Think we can count on Baguio as a real fixture. More and more Filipinos come every year; and in fact it is almost impossible to house all of them this year. The government center is now being used for insular government employees and authorities and others cannot find a place to stay. I think as the years go on, Baguio will be more and more summer capital of the Islands.
The permanent population of Baguio was estimated in 1927 at eight thousand souls, while the number of visitors during the preceding year was estimated to be over sixty thousand.

In the summer of 1902, Anglican Bishop Charles Brent sailed to the Philippines, his island diocese, while the government was already starting to construct the Benguet Road. That same year, Brent sent Rev. John Staunton to look into the possibility of building a rest house for American missionaries and of converting the Igorots to Christianity. Staunton chose a site which later would be known as “Constabulary Hill”, from which he went daily to La Trinidad where he opened a school for Ilocanos and Igorots. Bishop Brent later on went on to establish the Baguio School for Boys and Brent International School as it is presently known. Meanwhile, the fathers of San Patricio or the Belgian Fathers came to the Philippines at the invitation of the bishop of Nueva Segovia. The priest assigned to Baguio, Fr. Serafin Devesse, built – small parish church and attached a small school to it in 1911, and purchased some land overlooking Campo Filipino. So, from modest beginnings did St. Louis University start as well as the old Holy Family Colleges.
Easter School was founded in 1906. Maryknoll Convent School (Marishan) was established in 1938. The Seventh Day Adventists founded their school in 1948. The Philippine Bible College was founded by Ralph E. Brashears in July that year. The united Church of Christ pioneered in the field of pre-school education in the early sixties. Baguio is, perhaps, the first place in the country where ecumenism took an early and firm root.
Perhaps the highest point in the city’s history of missionary endeavor was the visit by Pope John Paul II in February 1981. Before a crowd that drew from all walks of life and religion, the Pontiff said that Baguio played a very special role in the history of evangelism especially those who are classified as ethnic authorities.
The true symbol of the faiths contributing to a single landmark in Baguio is perhaps the Baguio Cathedral. At the time of its construction, all faiths, Anglicans, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, even the pagan native, contributed to its cause.

On December 8, 1941, a group of Japanese planes bombed Camp John Hay before proceeding to their main target at Clark Air base in Pampanga. When the Japanese main invasion force landed in Lingayen on December 22, 1941, Filipinos joined the Americans by staying put in their positions.
On December 23, the United States army evacuated Camp John Hay after instructing the civil government to continue in office. On that day, too, the Americans commander, Maj. Donald van N. Bonnet, ignorant of the efforts of the USAFFE troops in holding the Baguio-Rosario junction at Saitan, moved across the mountains to the Cagayan Valley and left Lt. Col. John Horan to face the advancing enemy. Horan already knew of the Japanese landing in the north. Before pulling out, Horan wire gen. Douglas MacArthur with the message: ‘My right hand in my vise, my nose in an inverted funnel, constipated my bowels, open my south paw,” On December 24, Horan was ordered to save his command.
In the morning of December 26, the Japanese arrived at kilometer 4 on Naguilian Road. Around 11:20 in the morning, three truckloads of Japanese soldiers entered the city without firing a single shoot. Late in the evening of December 27, eight hundred more Japanese soldiers arrived. The Japanese immediately began policing the city but left Mayor Valderosa in office.
On November 11, 1944, the 66th Infantry under Dennis Molintas raided Baguio, cut communications, and fired at the Pines Hotel, the Furukawa oil dump, the military garrison at Pacdal, the Baguio Country Club and other targets. On January 6, 1945 japanese at the market were strafed by American planes bombed city hall and other parts of the town. On March 15 came awful carpet bombing to drive our the Japanese . One of the fatalities was former Mayor Halsema who was buried at the city cemetery.
On April 25, 1945, two American tanks belonging to the 130th Infantry appeared at Quezon Hill and a few days later, Baguio was liberated.
On September 3, 1945, General Yamashita formally surrendered the Japanese forces in the Philippines at Camp John Hay.

The Americans who first came up with the US Army close to eighty years ago were an adventurous lot who stayed behind to make their fortunes, mostly in mining within the Benguet area. Among these pioneers was Phelps Whitmarsh, an Englishman correspondent for a New York magazine. Another was Tex Reavis, a colorful sour-dough who used to drive his horse up from his stake at Antamok to the old Pines Hotel where he would deposit his pouch of gold dust at the bar and invite everybody to rounds until it was time to ride back to his place.
In 1903, the Benguet consolidated Mining Company was founded by the soldiers Nelson Peterson and Henry Clyde, putting up their respective claims in Antamok in favor of the corporation.
Another mining firm which began operation in 1905 was Baguio Gold.
In the 1930’s, described by historians as the decade of the Gold Rush, things became better. There were only 94 mining locations registered in the Mountain Province in 1929. In 1931, mine taxes amounted to close to half a million pesos. In 1939, it was P7.9 million pesos, the bulk of which came from the Baguio-Benguet area.
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company in Mankayan, Benguet was founded during the mining boom and grew to be the biggest copper producer in the Far East.
On June 21, 1958, the mill at Philex Mines in Tuba, Benguet was inaugurated.
These developments, however, should not wipe out the fact that the igorots were actually the first in the islands to produce gold. Their method of panning gold persists to this very day.

From the chaos wrought by the Second World War, came the confusion of the period of reconstruction. Appointed as the first mayor of Baguio under the Philippine Republic was Pedro Armena, followed by a native son of Baguio, Dr. Jose Carino. Under Mayor Carino, the new auditorium was built, the Santo Tomas waterworks was completed, a loan for six buildings at the city market was secured, the new city hall was begun and the Asin Hot springs was opened. Several government buildings were also reconstructed.
Mayor Gill Mallari followed next. As city mayor, he tried to cut down unnecessary expenses as a measure of pulling out the city from the red. For a short while, Mayor Benito Lopez took over, followed by Alfonso Tabora.
Mayor Tabora initiated artesian wells to complement the water supply of the city. His other biggest achievement was the confinement of the problem of squatters. He was also particularly known for planting islands to separate directions along main roads. Similar to those cities he visited in Europe.
Dr. Bienvenido yandoc was the last to serve Baguio under the old charter, but his tenure was short. Then lawyer Luis Lardizabal was elected to become the longest-serving Filipino mayor. Except for a four-year turnover to Mayor Norberto de Guzman, Lardizabal continued as chief executive. The tenure of mayor de Guzman was marked by vast immigration to newly opened areas in the city such as Aurora Hill.

History has still be settled about the period from the declaration of, martial law by deposed President Ferdinand Marcos to the time the people’s revolution catapulted President Corazon Aquino to power.
There were no elections until 1979 and relative peace and stability seemed to have taken root. There were slogans and programs, cleanliness in our physical surroundings and in type daily operations of the local government seemed to be the order of the day.
Mayor Lardizabal continued until be was replaced by former Air force Ernesto Bueno. Bueno was responsible for bringing into the city coffers P21 million which was mostly spent on the concreting of the major city roads. Under Lardizabal, most of the public utility systems which were installed by the Americans were ceded to private as well as quasi-government entities.
After the February revolution set in 1986, OIC-Mayor Francisco Paraan took over and addressed himself immediately the problem of squatters. The transition was perhaps the most peaceful in the country as Bueno readily yielded the reins of the local government. Paraan brought along with him the management expertise of the private sector. For a time, he was able to contain the proliferation of squatters. Mayor Ramon Labo, Jr. was the first mayor to be elected under the constitution. He immediately started working on restoring the city’s image as a prime tourist destination and, as philanthropist, spent his own funds for the uplift of depressed communities and individuals.
Mayor Jaime Bugnosen was at the helm when a devastating earthquake hit on July 16, 1990. Two hundred sixty five people died in that tragedy that leveled numerous high-rise buildings and isolated the city from the rest of the country. Economy was at a standstill while relief operations continued even after the aftershocks had long died out. Slowly, residents who had for weeks and months lived in tents on streets and open spaces, returned to pick up the shattered pieces of their homes and lives and shed off their mourning clothes.
People who saw the extent of the devastation thought Baguio would never fully recover from the tragedy. Then Vice-mayor-elect Mauricio Domogan took over from Mayor Labo after the 1992 elections and immediately pursued calamity rehabilitation projects and service delivery programs. He underscored honesty and dedication, unity and cooperation as guideposts to his administration.
Today, the city has gone far beyond erasing the traces of the 1990 tragedy, mainly through the combined efforts of local and national leadership. With sustained support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose special concern for Baguio has been concretely manifested by her frequent visits to oversee the multi-million peso projects funded by his administration, the unprecedented pace of concrete and social infrastructure boom were carried on thought the administrations of Mayors Bernardo Vergara, Braulio Yaranon, Peter Rey Bautista and the returning Domogan who all worked to sustain Baguio’s programs.


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