Friday, June 29, 2012

Missing Nora

"Her death feels like a kind of robbery, not of things you have, but of gifts you were expecting. She was 71, but surely there would be another collection of essays, two or three more movies to watch repeatedly, as comforting as a bowl of the mashed potatoes and cold slices of butter she loved? If she were preparing to die, wouldn’t this most graceful sharer tell us about it, in some strangely comforting way?"--Mary Pols, "Nora Ephron: Remembering Everything",


the best & most practical piece of advice

i took away from an essay of hers

is to always do backup


maybe she had lost valuable files

that reconstructing them was a

a palpable pain around her neck


she also wrote how the worrying

over one's children never ever stops

no matter that they are adults already


except now i've learned

to leave my daughters' destinies

in the hands of the Almighty Mother


i still perk up like meg ryan in a girlish way

at the opening of  un-anticipated email

& agree with mr. hanks that

"you've got mail"

is among the most powerful

lines in this language


so i hardly throw away mail

until gmail's robot administrator

warned one day that i had used up

almost 98 percent of my allotted megabytes


those who know her will miss

nora's overbite

although HBO reruns will ensure

her lines will lace

romance ever so lightly on

any month aside from june


--Babeth Lolarga

June 29, 2012

9:28 a.m.

Photo of Ms. Ephron  from

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Foggy town

Window with a view
 That's the most fitting description for the city that I've temporarily left behind.

When I spent my summer there recently, my old girlfriends (all beyond 55 years old) met every Friday and listed all the little woes and worries our other friends had texted in or shared with us in some way . We spent those mornings, whenever chance and weather allowed me to join them, in a room with a bay window that looks over a part of Baguio and Benguet.
Flora and Irene discuss community matters.
It's a distracting view out there if I open my eyes when we're in the middle of our meditation and prayers. But afterwards when the exercise is done, it seems I'm transported elsewhere because of the ever-changing view despite staying in one place. Almost every minute, a different spot of the city or province is unveiled, depending on where the clouds happen to drift by.
Clouds creeping on little cat's feet
Last week, those clouds couldn't keep still. It was as if these puff balls were giving the sun an opportunity to shine on one shot for a few minutes (and help dry the laundry, a commonplace topic when the monsoon rains peter out after five days of them), then that spotlight moved to another area.

Cloud-gazing, wishing others well, being in the company of women--I can't imagine two hours better expended.
Cloud and pine cover
Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, June 25, 2012

A very late Sunday lunch

That is what a family like ours can expect when we begin the day with an unusual breakfast of spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. And Gatorade to replace my pick-me-upper coffee.

Since my daughter Kimi and I caught a tummy bug, we've been indoors all week, except for a morning when I visited a friend who was weaker than me.

So Sunday, our boss Rolly said it was gonna be his treat again. We didn't leave the house until past 2 p.m., but we weren't feeling particularly ravenous because we snacked on Marie's beautiful chocolate cake and pastillas-flavored florettes.

By the time we parked at Mario's, the Sunday lunchtime buffet crowd was gone, and we went a la carte: parmesan chicken and pasta for the younger girls, split USDA steak, well done, and mashed potatoes with side veggies of okra (my fave!) for the oldies. I can't believe I'm in the latter category, but at 57 who can deny that?

Here we are before and after our meals. Satisfied customers, as usual.
There's something about a red and white checkered tablecloth that stirs the appetite.
Here's Butones doing her version of "Bow Bow Belinda" in front of the menu board.
This girl loves warm and plain dinner rolls.
We love this area by the main entrance. It has a super-cushy couch and that elegant stone arc dividing it from the bar. We've had our Christmas photos taken here in the past.
And that's our squeeze doll on the left.
We are family, except for Butones's Tita Ida whom we miss on occasions like this. 
Photos by Kimi Fernandez and Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Víspera del cumpleaños

I really don't know if I'm correct in my elementary translation, or transliteration, of the phrase "eve of birthday." When you are turning 57, it's best to let the persons closest to and younger than you to make certain decisions like should we have cake or not? Of course, we should--kailangan pa ba pag-usapan 'yan?

Having tasted Jayjay's chocolate cake at his 42nd birthday party at Mother's Garden, there was no doubt where we would source the cake. I asked Chiqui Torres, Ph.D., one of the party organizers and good friend of Jayjay's mom, Therese Jison, where the cake came from. She directed me to Marie whose bakery/cafe, Cottage Gi, is near the Caltex gas station on Legarda road and City Camp with telephone number 442-4864.

My resourceful daughter did the calls and requested for extra flowers. Those flowers are not shaped icing that taste like sugar cubes. These particular cake flowers taste like genuine pastillas de leche. I kid you not.

When the cake was ready for pick-up, my daughter was surprised at how colorful the whole thing was. We were supposed to wake up at midnight to finally try it, but we just let the cake cool in the fridge for less than hour, then unanimously decided, "Okay, let's have it!" which is Lolarga code for "Let's eat." 

Even Butones, from whose "trust funds" the money for the cake came from, couldn't resist touching and tasting and having spoonful after another until she was sticky all over. I call her by the flavor "ChocoKai."

What truly sold me to this cake with no preservatives is the receipt handwritten by the baker itself. After she had written out the amount paid to her, she scribbled in "Thanks!" Now, will you ever read that in other pastry shops? I doubt it, but it made the eve of my 57th spin extra special.  To Chiqui, Therese and, indirectly, Jayjay, thank you for leading us chocoholics to Marie.

Photos by Kimi Fernandez

Power to the whimsical

By way of wishing yours truly another year of good cheer and sharing through this space, here is an image plucked from It is a delightfully deceiving photograph by Brazilian artist Andre Feliciano whose works are being shown for the first time at a photo festival in Brooklyn, New York. Special greenhouses have been set up to display his "camera flowers."

I find his work symbolic or representative of what I've been trying to do with this blog, that is, combine words and images. Sometimes I'm told by my most astute critics (they are three: my partner and my two daughters) that my entries are way too lengthy, but that's a rare occasion. I usually break up blocks of paragraph with an image here and there.

Thanks to the ease of Blogger's commands and controls, I can choose to enlarge the image or keep it within normal size.

But who wants normal? Just looking at Feliciano's creation, this 57-year-old grandma agrees that whimsy has power.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

El dia de Tats y Butones

      Baguio days in June tend to be overcast with hardly a hint of sun. So I guess our growing Butones was hopeful that morning for something special to happen. She had been spending a lot of time inside the house because we'd waken to wet and windy mornings that always ruined plans for a walk (actually, a sprint for her now that she's learning to run). So she'd stare out the window with the dusty screen that overlooks the common parking space, waiting for the older kids to come out and ride their bikes or for the neighbors' cars to warm up.
      But rain or shine, I had promised the man of the house that I'd treat him this once to Hill Station's Latin American luncheon buffet billed as "El Dia del Padre." He couldn't bear the idea of leaving Butones, her mamay Kimi and yaya Mackenzie home or being sent off to another restaurant so we could have this date to ourselves so he decided it would be his treat with yours truly adding my share to the bill. Who was I to contradict him?
      The little one got to wear her birthday outfit once more that was a tad loose in April, making her look like a manang than a year-old celebrator. It had a nice tulip hem and made her look like a young sophisticate like her Tita Ida who couldn't be with us.
      In late May, Padma Perez of Mt. Cloud Bookshop told us about the Hill's Father's Day plan, how she was helping the restaurant's dynamo, Mitos Benitez, with the promotions that involved writing the advertising copy in Spanglish. 

      I thought aloud to the man in the house that there may be a lot of meat involved since I was imagining the Lat-Am grasslands and cows and Argentinian corned beef. 
      I was secretly hoping for guacamole and chips and came out not disappointed at all. En punto, on the dot, I loaded my plate with tacos, the smooth guacamole dip, one or two oysters Rockefeller, the same amount of grilled barbecue potato skins, and right away I felt it was a sweet Sunday.
      While I enjoyed that first swing around the appetizer table, Kimi, who was cradling a sleeping Butones in her arms, put on a sour face and reminded me to think of her as hungry mother, too. Her gustatory discovery in the food lineup was the biscuit-like Chilean style sopaipillas that made this grandmother think of flattened Russian tea cookies. Well, we had it with everything from appetizers to dessert.
We couldn't pass up the Caesar salad, it being part of the Benitez family's restaurant tradition.

When Butones woke from her power nap, she had  an appetite for the spaghetti vongole and the not-too-sweet, just-right arroz con leche. She just had a spoonful of mashed potatoes and returned to the pasta and arroz. I could almost hear her humming her secret tune while eating.

Her grumpa, whom she calls Tats like the rest of us, was predictably partial to the oysters (the Caviteño in him) and frequently stopped by the carving station for lechon and the slow roast US beef which he preferred to eat with gravy than the chef's recommended chimichurri sauce.

Kimi was all praises for the vegetable moussaka and I for the paella Negra con aioli and made sure I had no black squid ink between my teeth. The arroz de leche mentioned earlier was the perfect foil to the cloyingly sweet flan de sevilla, a staple at the Hill's dessert list, and the tocino del cielo. The marquez de chocolate was served in shot glasses (where was the tequila?) with tiny plastic spades to scoop out the goodness. Two of those and I felt like shooting through the roof from the choco and sugar high. 

      In keeping with the Latin American-Mexican theme, there was a mariachi band, Los Bandidos (too amiable to look like bandits),  to serenade the diners with popular tunes like "Guatanamera," "Besame Mucho," "Quizas Quizas Quizas," all of which brought back memories of old chum-compadre Amadis Ma. Guerrero, now a choir singer going places.

       We went home burping all the way, craving for that most Spanish tradition: a long siesta. While there is universal consensus that every day is Mother's Day, our family insists that henceforth, every Sunday be El Dia de Padre. Entiendes?

Most photos taken by Babeth Lolarga

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


While recovering from some form of stomach flu these past days, I've been wandering through old emails and found this gem sent by a cousin abroad. The activity takes my mind off the discomfort of spasms and running to the toilet every so often. I am re-posting it here so it won't be forgotten, and I will be more mindful of the hands of women in my life, more importantly of the hands that truly heal. It is again written by that most famous writer of all: Anonymous.

I was privileged to take a photo of “Five Generations of Women” shortly before my 93 year-old Grandmother passed away last year. The photo, shown below, features the hands of my Grandmother, Mom, Sister, Niece and Great-Niece. While I can't take credit for the idea, I was so happy to have had the suggestion & capture this moment. It inspired a friend of mine to do something similar, which turned out so beautiful it became a special keepsake, prior to her father's passing.

Grandma's Hands

Grandma, some ninety plus years, sat feebly on the patio bench. She didn't move, just sat with her head down staring at her hands.

When I sat down beside her she didn't acknowledge my presence and the longer I sat I wondered if she was OK

Finally, not really wanting to disturb her but wanting to check on her at the same time, I asked her if she was OK. She raised her head and looked at me and smiled. "Yes, I'm fine, thank you for asking," she said in a clear voice strong.

"I didn't mean to disturb you, grandma, but you were just sitting here staring at your hands and I wanted to make sure you were OK," I explained to her.

"Have you ever looked at your hands," she asked.. "I mean really looked at your hands?"

I slowly opened my hands and stared down at them. I turned them over, palms up and then palms down. No, I guess I had never really looked at my hands as I tried to figure out the point she was making.

Grandma smiled and related this story:

"Stop and think for a moment about the hands you have, how they have served you well throughout your years. These hands, though wrinkled shriveled and weak have been the tools I have used all my life to reach out and grab and embrace life.

"They braced and caught my fall when as a toddler I crashed upon the floor.

"They put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. As a child, my mother taught me to fold them in prayer. They tied my shoes and pulled on my boots. They held my husband and wiped my tears when he went off to war.

"They have been dirty, scraped and raw, swollen and bent. They were uneasy and clumsy when I tried to hold my newborn son. Decorated with my wedding band they showed the world that I was married and loved someone special.

"They wrote my letters to him and trembled and shook when I buried my parents and spouse.

"They have held my children and grandchildren, consoled neighbors, and shook in fists of anger when I didn't understand.

"They have covered my face, combed my hair, and washed and cleansed the rest of my body. They have been sticky and wet, bent and broken, dried and raw. And to this day when not much of anything else of me works real well these hands hold me up, lay me down, and again continue to fold in prayer.

"These hands are the mark of where I've been and the ruggedness of life.

"But more importantly it will be these hands that God will reach out and take when he leads me home. And with my hands He will lift me to His side and there I will use these hands to touch the face of Christ."

I will never look at my hands the same again. But I remember God reached out and took my grandma's hands and led her home.

When my hands are hurt or sore or when I stroke the face of my children and husband I think of grandma. I know she has been stroked and caressed and held by the hands of God.

I, too, want to touch the face of God and feel His hands upon my face. -- Author Unknown

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fury, frailty in Kiri Dalena’s ‘Washed Out’

Fury, frailty in Kiri Dalena’s ‘Washed Out’
Visual artist Kiri Dalena shows through an installation of logs and two videos just what sort of visitor Typhoon Sendong was.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

To the tall man in the argyle pullover

Yes, he's the big guy in our lives, practically the only one because we're a houseful of women and girls, except for my youngest daughter who lives and works overseas like many OFWs seeking the proverbial green pasture.

Yesterday afternoon we all got ready to dress up in colorful attire for a friend's birthday out in Panorama Cafe at Mother's Garden in Upper Fairview, Quezon Hill. We knew how Mr. Big Guy turns wimpy when it comes to parking on slanted roads or maneuvering narrow curved roads when the weather is uncooperative so he decided early on that we would cab it to the venue.

But there was wee Ms. Kai, all of 14 months old, and who we couldn't expose to the rain and cold, no matter how warmly she was dressed. So Tats, as she calls her Grumpa, conceded and agreed to drive us to town, park his car at the office, then we all hailed and rode a fairly new-and-clean-looking cab for the ride to Quezon Hill as the fog turned milky thick.

We sat at one end of the long table. He sat at the other end with his guy friends. Every now and then, Kai would catch a of glimpse of him, smile her entrancing smile with her eyes turning smaller and her charm turned on a notch higher, and Mr. Big Guy would push back his chair and walk towards us to pick up the baby now turned toddler and take her around so she could get a better vantage point in viewing The View.

My friends in Baguio, Toottee Pacis and Therese Jison, always like to tell me something I have long accepted as a given in our family life today--that Kai has the only guy in our lives 'round her little pinky. Here's the evidence. And so we wish him our loving and lovable best on Father's Day!

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sylvia Plath’s Sketches

Just as amazing as a pen and ink artist as she was as a poet
Sylvia Plath’s Sketches

If you’re seeking refuge, it’s not in the Curved House

 The home as a domain that is generally attributed to women is without conflict or terror.
Rather, it houses one’s most intimate fears and fragile psyche,
nurturing both peace and unrest, dreams and nightmares.

Curved House depicts of an unsafe place where violence, power struggle and distress
are exposed and executed through the manipulation of different media,
from organic to found objects, to marble dust, acrylic on canvas and printed word.
The particular usage of familiar yet foreboding objects and symbols
is a challenge to the spatial and habitual experience of a household—
misplaced doors without keys, an empty nest, a tower of books,
a plate of broken glass, a room remade from memory, a spider out in the open,
a web of chaos, portraits of restless faces and a display of the male phallus.

After two years of conceptualization, Curved House finally debuts as an exposition of
personal ordeals and disconcerting visions of twenty four women participants namely,
Ambie Abano
Agnes Arellano
Marika Constantino
Kiri Lluch Dalena
Maan de Loyola
Racquel de Loyola
Rica Estrada
Karen Flores
Lian Ladia
Cathy Lasam
Lea Lim
Kat Medina
Eden Ocampo
Siddharta Perez
Alma Quinto
Ling Quisumbing Ramilo
Dang Sering
Bru Sim
AJ Tolentino
Mimi Tecson
Lia Torralba
Teta Tulay
Josephine Turalba
and Con Cabrera, curator of the show.

The Blanc Compound opens the exhibition on June 2, 2012, reception starts at 6pm.
Curved House is on view until June 23, 2012.
The Blanc Compound is located at 359 Shaw Blvd. Interior Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City.
For more information about the show, visit or email

Friday, June 15, 2012

End impunity: Run for your life

From Tinay Palabay, spokesperson of the human rights group Karapatan, comes this announcement about a different kind of run to be held at our favorite walking zone at the UP Diliman campus, the academic oval.
This June , as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture will be commemorated on the 26thUP Kilos Na!, Karapatan, All-UP Workers Alliance and Tanggulan Youth Network are inviting you to join us in speaking against the unspeakable, to stand against torture and all forms of human rights violations.

Torture continues to be employed by the state, to break the spirit, dignity and will of those it had deemed “enemies of the state.”  This can be attested to by many political detainees and survivors of abduction who were subjected to cruel and inhumane acts by state security forces.  Many had the determination and will to get over the physical and mental pain of their experience; still many need support for their continued healing. Thousands who were disappeared were also probably tortured, while their families continue to be tormented with the uncertainty of their fate. To date, under the Aquino administration, there are already 96 victims of torture and 76 victims of extrajudicial killings, while 363 political prisoners continue to languish in detention centers. Nine have been forcibly disappeared.

Although the Philippines is a signatory to international human rights instruments such as the Convention against Torture, state security forces continue the use of torture and at the very least tolerates it, as none have been punished for violating the Anti-Torture Law.

This June, the human rights community will also commemorate the abduction of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño six years ago. While their mothers have continued their search for justice when they filed criminal charges against Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and his band of torturers, Palparan continues to evade the warrant of arrest issued against him amid the Aquino government’s lackluster efforts to arrest him. Palparan personifies the prevalent state of impunity in the country.

We would like to enjoin you to give tribute to the victims of torture and all rights abuses, and give voice to the call for justice and to end torture. We invite you to join us in “Run for your Life 2 (This is not a fun run),” an activity that aims to raise public awareness about torture, extrajudicial killings, the plight of political prisoners, human rights violations and the climate of impunity.  

This will be the second time that we will lead this kind of activity, in coordination with other concerned organizations; the first was in 2011, dubbed “Run for your Life (This is not a fun run)”, and was participated in by Sunday joggers, runners and non-runners, bloggers, human rights activists, mainstream and alternative media and other concerned citizens. It was part of the campaign against torture and was held on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.  

This time, it will be a 4.4 kilometer run/walk/jog, to be held on June 22, 2012, Friday, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., around the tree-lined Academic Oval in UP Diliman. 

Run for your Life 2 (This is not a fun run)” is also a part of the series of activities to commemorate the abduction of Empeño and Cadapan, who was also a sprinter/triathlete. To put a “twist” to the usual, there will be a “prison cell,” and participants will be encouraged to keep their eyes open for “Jovito Palparan”, whom they must capture by virtue of citizen’s arrest. The real Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. is a fugitive who remains scot-free after he was served a warrant of arrest for kidnapping and illegal detention of Karen and Sherlyn.  The run will also serve as a fundraising event to generate financial support for the ongoing legal cases against Palparan and all human rights violators, so donations for the run are very welcome. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Long live Cecile Afable & Baguio City

Cecile Afable: Baguio girl all the way to her death

An SMS announcing the passing of Cecile Afable just reached me while I was in the midst of removing/compressing/deleting old files from a computer to increase its speed and not burden the hard drive. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing by being "kind" to this machine that eases my work, but the meandering down the thickets of old files inevitably made me pause over this old thesis proposal I submitted to a University of the Philippines professor sometime in the mid-2000s as a requirement for that subject called a "baby thesis". 

In it are some mentions of Ms. Afable's advocacy in the preservation of Baguio City as a special heritage zone. Sometimes I've come to believe that hers and others' similar voices have fallen on deaf ears with the state the city finds itself in today. 

This blogger hopes that when the eulogies for Ms. Afable pour in, this particular advocacy of hers will be remembered and a renewed call for keeping what's truly good and beautiful about our city will be made. 

I'll miss the sight of her in circa '60s mini-skirt and boots with pointy heels (in being retro, she was quite in). A glass of scotch (or was it whisky?) was always reverently placed in front of her when she attended socials. She cut a graceful figure on the dance floor (she was either in her very late 80s or somewhere in her 90s when I witnessed this) as bon vivant Des Bautista took her for a spin on one of his well-attended birthday shindigs.

Finally, in her defense, I must add that her overall crochety-ness, her gruffness at know-it-all young punks, her grousing at city hall and other public officials who're too comfortable in their swivel chairs behind their desks--these traits made her a woman who never lost her asim and anghang. In short, the last act of her life was what most women in midlife aspire for: that of a juicy crone.

So this one's for you, Ms. Afable, as you join a community of anitos. We'll be looking at the moon, and we'll be seeing you.

A Dream for Baguio City: Declaring It a National Heritage Zone
 By Elizabeth Lolarga 

            Statement of problem
Nearly everyone above 30 years old pine (pun intended) for the old City of Pines that Baguio was, back when its very mention evokes the image of "the summer refuge and literally the golden city of the country," wrote Frank Cimatu, correspondent of Philippine Daily Inquirer.

In Cimatu's report, "City of Pines bats for special heritage zone," he cited an online petition making the rounds of email boxes calling for the city to be declared a special heritage zone. The list of signatories has reached over a thousand and include such prominent names as architect Augusto Villalon, Rene Luis Mata, former Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta, author-scholar Fernando Nakpil Zialcita, art collector John L. Silva, all of whom are members of the Heritage Conservation Society, Maria Cristina Turalba and Issa Avedano of the United Architects of the Philippines Arkitecturang Pilipino, columnist Bambi L. Harper of the Inquirer, noted public relations practitioner Joan Orendain of Orendain and Associates, Sinag de Leon Amado of Women's Media Circle and UP Mountaineers.

All of them and a thousand others are aware of the problem besetting Baguio City—environmental degradation brought about by rapid urbanization.

Their petition partly read: "We believe that in the past two decades, the city of Baguio has experienced a substantial degradation of its unique culture, environment and art. We believe that the approval of certain politicians with no respect for aesthetics and the environment of Baguio to put up concrete structures such as malls, overpasses and flyovers only worsen Baguio City's lamentable decay as a 'City of Pines.' We believe that this overdevelopment and resulting pollution have to stop."
It continued: "We believe, therefore, that the city of Baguio deserves to be declared a   special heritage zone so that the degradation brought about byoverdevelopment can be minimized and gradually controlled. We believe that Baguio City's heritage as a center of culture and environmental awareness is a valuable asset not just to the Philippines, but also to the world."

The petitioners called on the local and national governments "to confer on this unique mountain city the special heritage status as soon as possible, preferably before the Baguio Centennial in 2009, so no further destruction of its limited cultural, environmental and aesthetic resources may continue."

According to, the petition to declare Baguio a heritage zone was spread throughout the Internet and various national print media, gaining the support of more than 10,000 signatories. The petition called on various concerned officials to create the zone before the Baguio centennial on 2009. Initiated by Dion Fernandez, the move has been partially approved in the first reading of a Special Heritage Bill submitted to the Baguio City Council in August 2005.

Villalon, dubbed by Rodrigo D. Perez III as "one of the more prominent crusaders for heritage conservation," wrote in his book Lugar: Essays on Philippine Heritage and Architecture this warning: "The mystique of Baguio, a combination of climate and topography, of mountain pines and flowers, open parks and green and white houses, may have a hard time lasting."
He attributed this negative scenario to "many pine trees (disappearing) from the city center. Wooden houses have given way to the view of concrete, emanating from mushrooming holiday developments and the massive pedestrian overpasses that are now the new monumental view at the foot of Session Road."
But why is Baguio all that important to merit a special heritage status when the time comes? Villalon wrote that "Baguio is indeed a special place, a place of happy memories… Many people today no longer remember that Baguio was meant to be a special place. Founded by the Americans in 1900, Baguio was conceptualized in the early 20 th century colonial tradition of other Hill Stations in Asia."
The same author wrote that there is something in the Filipino psyche that does not seem to value the past. A concept of patrimony is lacking wherein "anything valuable handed down by earlier generations and looked upon as a trust is difficult to grasp for many of us Filipinos. We fail to realize that the tapestry of monuments, buildings and open spaces from our past forms part of our collective patrimony. They record our unique history."
Villalon warned that "unless Baguio takes its future in hand today and legislates to allow a maximum of progress while establishing regulations that rigorously maintain its ambiance as a cool, mountain city of pines, it could lose its charm and its magic in the next few years. Soon Baguio will join the rest of the country with malls and other generic megastructures."

Known as the three witches of Baguio (from left): Ms. Afable, Gene de Guia and Leonor San Agustin. From Art Tibaldo's Multiply account
Apart from Villalon, other voices from Baguio itself are raised against the continued "uglification" of the city, among them old-timers Cecile Afable, editor in chief of the Baguio Midland Courier, Leonora Paraan San Agustin, curator of the Baguio-Benguet Museum, and former Mayor Virginia de Guia. The three, whose ages range from the 80s to the 90s, are trying to stop the building of another flyover that would destroy the beautiful rotunda or roundabout not too far from the Baguio General Hospital. The rotunda not only controls traffic in the area but is planted to flowers and plants. It stands at the gateway of Baguio City. The three old-timers, who remember a time when "the smell of pine and the sight of Benguet lilies used to make us excited to go home to Baguio" (Paraan San Agustin), are convinced that what the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is building—the flyover—"will ruin Baguio's small town appeal and result in the cutting of century-old trees."
As De Guia put it: "We are in favor of development, but development must have direction."   Now that the  DPWH project has commenced, there is a danger that the felled trees will "disrupt the aquifer and pollution would deteriorate Baguio further."
Another writer, Mariel N. Franciso, co-author of Ladies' Lunch and Other Ways to Wholeness and A Spiritual Pillow Book, and a frequent Baguio visitor, said in an interview with the thesis writer that with the flyover, the city has lost "its small-town coziness."
All the more reason to act on Villalon's nagging suggestion. He wrote: "Like Vigan and Taal, Baguio is one of the few remaining heritage cities. It is probably where the biggest collection of American colonial heritage architecture and urban planning is found in the country. Like our Spanish colonial centers, Baguio is just as endangered.
 "The killer earthquake that struck Baguio is thankfully now a memory. Hardly any traces remain of that disaster. With the new disaster that faces Baguio today, man, not nature, is the killer." And there you have it, a new flyover rising. Where did People Power go?

Objectives of the study

1.      To show the urgency of declaring Baguio City or at least its historical areas as a special heritage zone
2.      To explain the significance of Baguio in the country's history and its place in it
3.      To present alternatives to the congested Baguio City and see to its possible adoption
4.      To restore pride of place in Baguio City
5.      To contribute to the re-greening and revitalization of Baguio City
6.      To turn attention on the historical landmarks of the city and lead to their preservation
7.      To revive an awareness of the history of Baguio to make residents and visitors doubly cherish the city and respect it
8.      To bring to the attention of government the state of Baguio City and move it to preserve and conserve historical and environmental landmarks

Significance of the study

As earlier stated, Baguio holds a special place in the hearts of Filipinos. Villalon waxed poetic when he described the sentiments conjured by the mere mention of Baguio: "It is where certain attractions require some amount of physical exertion: horseback riding, bicycling in the park, and paddling on the lagoon. Other attractions demand expending resources of another sort: shopping on Session Road or at the Market. The Baguio we all know and remember is a city of pine trees, flowers and open parks. Are these qualities holding up these days?"

This proposal seeks to find out if Baguio's qualities—the ones that make visitors come up season after season or the reasons that make residents stay despite the pollution and other negative factors—are worth saving for this and future generations.

In another Inquirer report written by Vincent Cabreza, he sought out the city's urban planning expert, Joseph Alabanza, to find out if Baguio is stretched to its limits. Alabanza's thesis is that "Baguio had breached its capacity to provide adequate food, shelter and water to its growing population and must farm out its economic investments to these urbanizing towns where suburban communities can grow."
While petitioners clamor for heritage preservation, Alabanza said "the physical restoration has not kept pace with Baguio's social change. Migrants are still allowed to build houses on mountain slopes, blocking natural creeks and drainages… Buildings have also started to rise higher than the five-storey ceiling proposed by urban planning experts concerned about the city's limestone foundations and underground fractures which became apparent after the 1990 earthquake."
In an interview with the thesis author, Alabanza said, "Baguio should be planned with the neighboring towns in mind so they would be planning together. Baguio has reached its carrying capacity. It faces the problems of solid waste management, traffic, scarcity of water, pollution."

In a Statement of Vision for the city drafted in a 1990 congress, participants expressed their hope to restore Baguio to a "green, clean, safe environment where every household enjoys basic social services and the community is built around a disciplined, self-reliant people proud of their heritage."
Another author, Virginia Benitez Licuanan, in her book Filipinos and Americans: A Love-Hate Relationship—American Colonial Rules as Based on the Story of Baguio and the Baguio Country Club , pointed out Baguio's significance and in effect why it should be preserved, conserved and enhanced: "Baguio is the only American made city in the Philippines. All other Philippine cities are of Spanish origin or organized after the American regime."
She continued, "But Baguio was dreamed up by Americans, discovered by Americans, planned by Americans, built by Americans and, if truth be told, maintained in the beginning mainly, if not solely, for the comfort and enjoyment of Americans."

 This statement echoed Villalon's earlier claim that Baguio is unique in having still existing American-built structures, among them Camp John Hay, Teachers' Camp, Burnham Park.

 The city, designed by urban planner Daniel Burnham after a trip to Baguio in 1904, was laid out by William Cameron Forbes and William H. Haube. They even contacted religious orders, and in time the Jesuits had Mirador Hill while the Dominicans had built on Dominican Hill. These places, by the way, give scenic views of the city.

Forbes wrote how special Baguio was to him: "Baguio is one of the few things which I undertook to do which has not been allowed to suffer since I left. It has continued going onward and upward, becoming more frequented and more popular. I believe that if I had not had my nerve with me and gone right ahead with it, that great boon to the Philippine people would have gone by the wayside."

            In 1900 when Dean Worcester discovered Baguio, there were just 51 people, including a white man, 30 Igorots and 20 Ilocanos, according to Benitez Licuanan's account. But these few people were already environmentalists before the word was coined.

            Benitez Licuanan wrote, "Not only were they few, but they were the kind of people who were attuned to their environment, and their activities no more disturbed the pristine beauty that surrounded them than the growing of the pines and the creeping of the wild flowering vines on the green hillsides."

            When Burnham designed Baguio, he imagined a place where a population of 20,000 could live decently and harmoniously. Today Baguio's population has swelled to 250,000 people and counting. Like any city stretched within its capacity, the city suffers from mudslides (trees having been cut down to make way for houses and other structures), traffic congestion in the Central Business District covering Session Road and Magsaysay Ave., crime, occasional health problems like dengue fever and meningococcemia.

            This study is important because it seeks, in de Guia's words in her column "Baguio Ko Mahal Ko" in the Baguio Midland Courier , to "Buhayin angBaguio!" Her exhortation means that "our city needs a stimulating injection to give it a new life! Baguio has become stale. In recent decades, she has lost her vibrancy that stimulated everyone—newcomer or old-timer—whenever they came to our inspiring, colorful, stimulating city."
De Guia added, "Once upon a time, if you had TB (tuberculosis), the only cure that doctors prescribed was 'go up to Baguio!' With her pure fresh air, Baguio air cured one. Baguio was a sanitarium. Baguio was a medicine."

            Apart from having started a sanitarium early in the century, the significance of Baguio is similar to that of Camp John Hay: it is an environmental sanctuary; it is a historical landmark; and it is an ecotourist destination.

            Woe that Baguio has fallen in the Filipinos' list of top summer destinations. It seems Boracay island in Aklan has acquired the distinction of being the top summer destination in the Philippines.

            Thelma Sioson San Juan, a columnist of Philippine Daily Inquirer, wrote: "The measure of a mature city that's worthy of its place in today's world is its sense of heritage. You can't bring a promise of the future unless you have a sense of the past. Pride of place—that's what you bring to the global table."  Although she was writing about a clean but bustling city like Bangkok, she could very well be speaking for how other historical cities like Baguio should look.


This study is accompanied by photographs of the important landmarks of Baguio. Listed earlier were Camp John Hay, Teachers' Camp and Burnham Park. To this we added some places in grave danger of being destroyed like the rotunda near Baguio General Hospital, which has given way to another flyover,  Baguio Cathedral, Session Road and the public market.

These photographs stand as proof of why Baguio needs to be declared a special heritage zone. In the book Ansel Adams by Barry Pritzker, it was recorded that with Adams' 10,000 fine prints, more than 500 exhibitions and sales of millions of copies of his books, he was able to make many people "aware not only of the natural beauty of the western United States but also, as an ardent and outspoken conservationist, of the need to preserve and protect that beauty for the pleasure of future generations."

The book recounted how as a member of the board of directors of the Sierra Club, Adams went to Washington, D.C., " to lobby for the creation of a new national park at Kings River Canyon, California. There he used photographs as a lobbying tool, noting that photographs of the Sierra by Carleton Watkins influenced the decision to create a state park at Yosemite Valley in 1864, and W.H. Jackson's photographs of Yellowstone played a major role in the establishment of our first national park in 1872."

Although no Adams, Watkins or Jackson, the writer of this study who also served as a photographer hopes her efforts will be heavy drops in the bucket. The photographs of Baguio were blown up to 8"x11" in full color and exhibited at a public venue where the petition to declare Baguio a special heritage zone was put up also on display to get more signatories after which the petition would be turned over to City Hall.

The efforts of Adams serve as guide and inspiration. Prizker wrote, "Ansel Adams personally lobbied Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan to conserve and respect the environment." Would that our efforts reach the highest offices of the land. After all, the Mansion House in Baguio City, also built by the Americans, is a favorite rest and recreation area of many Philippine Presidents.

Adams, who took photos of canyons, caves, mountains and skies, has 100,000 acres of the Sierra named after him through the efforts of Senators Pete Wilson and Alan Cranston—the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area. An 11,760-foot peak at the head of the Lyell Fork of the Merced River in Yosemite National Park was also named Mt. Ansel Adams. So from him we take our cue.

Research Framework

The study and photographs are limited to Baguio City. As earlier pronounced, the city is overcrowded—from Burnham's ideal of 20,000 residents, the city burgeoned to over 250,0000. The problem is how to create a delicate balance between the remaining forest cover and historical structures and the residents' and migrants' need for space. This study shows that such a balance is possible with the revival of the BLIST program. BLIST stands for Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan and Tuba—a way for Baguio to distribute its activities to neighboring towns.

A United Nations Population Fund study showed that with a land area of 50 square kilometers, the city of Baguio could not add more people to its population. The study also named Baguio's big population as the cause of the city's water shortage, air pollution, forest denudation, traffic congestion and other ills.

With the development of the neighboring towns, Baguio can decongest and put a rightful claim as a heritage zone. The city can take its cue from the municipality of Vigan, Iloco Sur, which has been declared a heritage zone by its mayor, vice mayor and municipal council.

All it takes is an ordinance acknowledging the universal value of the historic city of Baguio, requiring the protection and preservation of this irreplaceable cultural heritage and the definition of special streets and avenues or the geographic definition of the core people, perhaps starting from Kennon Road moving upwards.

The petitioners of the Declare Baguio as a Special Heritage Zone compared Baguio's "unique history and blend of cultures" to that of Barcelona in Spain, Chiang Mai in Thailand and San Francisco in the US. As a "center of arts, culture, philosophy, education, tourism, sustainable development and environmental awareness,"  Baguio, the petitioners declare, deserves to be a special heritage zone so that the degradation brought about by overdevelopment can be minimized and gradually controlled."

As a special heritage zone, Baguio needs to be maintained as a historic city, preserved for its history, reconstructed if need be, used adaptation for some old buildings so they may be re-used without losing their cultural/historical significance, restored where need be.
Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks
 This study relies on the social realist theory. In her book Social Realism in the Philippines, author Alice Guillermo wrote: "Realism in the Philippine social realism is not a stylistic term, instead, it is a shared point of view which seeks to expose or to lay bare the true conditions of Philippine society as well as to point out solutions by which these conditions are changed and transcended to achieve a truly human order. It involves observation in the sense that the social realist must necessarily know his subject which is Philippine society with its contradictions and its forces of conflict."
          Baguio has its inherent contradictions. It was built by a colonial power at a time when the Filipino war of independence was raging. The city was meant to serve the new white colonial power who could not adjust to the humidity of the lowland and needed somewhere economical to stay without being shipped back home. Then there was the lure of gold in the Cordillera mountains. In the end, according to Bona Elisa Rusurreccion Andrada in the book Camp John Hay: How It All Began….Where It is Bound, two of American's most enduring legacies to the Philippines were the city of Baguio and Camp John Hay.

           This American heritage, ironically enough, and the remaining natural wonders of Baguio are the subject of the petition to declare the place a special heritage zone that would mean the safekeeping of buildings and artifacts going back to the early century. Originally intended as a convalescent center or sanitarium, the city which grew along the lines stipulated by Burnham, expanded to become the summer capital of the Philippines. Initially, only the well-to-do could afford the trip to Baguio, but as the years wore on, Baguio was on the lips of even the average employee who dreams of taking his family there for a weeklong or weekend vacation. Daily and hourly, buses from Pasay City, Cubao in Quezon City, Manila, Caloocan City and other parts of the island of Luzon go up to Baguio, often full of passengers during the peak seasons of summer and Christmas break. Thus has Baguio entered the Filipino psyche as a place of leisure with exclusive places for the wealthy (Baguio Country Club) and the hoi polloi (Burnham Park).


            This study relied on books, Internet sites, clippings and old photos of Baguio and interviews with Alabanza and Francisco. It   also undertook a photography phase to show the current face of Baguio, positive and negative, and why it needs drastic saving.

            Alabanza described Baguio as "the only city that was designed from the ground up by the American colonial government in 1909." Being such a precious place, it deserves a unique place in the country's ongoing history.

            According to Robert R. Reed in his book City of Pines: The Origins of Baguio as a Colonial Hill Station and Regional Capital , "…Burnham clearly made provision for Baguio's anticipation functions as the summer capital of the Philippines, as a major health resort, as a large market center, and as a hub of recreational activities .. Burnham stated emphatically that the design for the new station was conditioned fundamentally by the paucity of level land within the urban reservation and by the rolling terrain which dominated the settlement in the Baguio hills and advocated strict laws designed to preserve the high quality of the Benguet environment."  

            That was the past when the idyllic spacing of houses was followed, but the city grew exponentially, and some concerned architects and urban planners led by Alabanza, who is chair of the Baguio Centennial, are doing their best to bring out the best in Baguio again.

            In Cabreza's report, "Greening Baguio City," in the Inquirer, the plans to "reinvent" the Baguio landscape and rid it of eyesores were revealed. Among the measures proposed are:

· Edwin Ancheta, an engineer, wants to put more trees on small alleys of the public market.

· Rafael Chan wants to remove the domes made of concrete enveloping Malcolm Square, one of the few city plazas. He also would like to remove the dome over the skating rink at Burnham Park for the reason that "there are very few open spaces left in Baguio. The ideal is not to cover them. People need to look up to the sky," the report stated.

· Alabanza wishes that Session Road be restricted to pedestrians instead of being clogged with taxis and private vehicles. Chan supports him by designing the same road with trees in a "grand re-envisioning of the area."
         Alabanza explained to the writer of this thesis that if one stands on Session Road today, one notices that it is "a glorified passageway" for vehicles headed downtown or vehicles headed up to SM Baguio mall. "The traffic is heavy, and pedestrians can't use the road."

            His daughter Mary Anne Alabanza, who teaches urban planning at the University of Georgia, in a visit to Baguio and a study of Session Road found out that the pollution along the road is "beyond what is high." Furthermore, there are no activities going on along Session Road apart from the stores selling wares and restaurants serving diners.

            What the elder Alabanza envisions and hopes to see started by the time of the Baguio Centennial is the pedestrianization of Session Road. He asked his students in urban design at the Saint Louis University in Baguio to come up with perspectives on how Session Road would look if it is reoriented in favor of pedestrians. This means  pedestrians will not just be headed in opposite directions, whether to market downtown or to SM Baguio uptown, but would have reason to linger on Session Road because it will have activities like concerts and plays. A children's playground will be put in place. Alabanza's team plans to convert the pedestrian overpasses into elevated parks.

           He said there is no opposition from formerly skeptical businessmen along Session Road once they realize that pedestrianization will keep people on Session Road. This translates to more customers. Sidewalk cafes can open. He added that small entrepreneurs from such establishments as Porta Vaga, who are closing up because of competition from SM Baguio, would have reason for their businesses to flourish anew.

            He continued, "The pedestrianization of Session Road and the planning for BLIST are only at the individual levels. What officials must realize is the plans for Baguio and BLIST do not stop at political boundary lines. We are interdependent. We affect each other. That's why I'm for the inclusion of the BLIST towns in the Centennial. Make it a joint celebration."

            Alabanza is for the selective declaration of certain places as heritage zones—"certain portions of Camp John Hay because that's where it all began, and Session Road itself."

            All these plans for the revitalization of Baguio will be mere dreams unless people press on, sign the petition as concerned citizens and submit it to the Philippine government or the city council for action.
Philippine Star food columnist Claude Tayag wrote of a place in France where pedestrianization is in place and the historical worth of a town is preserved in his book Food Tour: A Culinary Journal.

Tayag wrote: "Time stands still at Limeuil. This peaceful, quaint little village of stone houses and winding streets on a hill that stands where the Dordogne and Verzere rivers meet actually dates as far back as the twelfth century. It has been declared one of the 148 most beautiful villages in France and a "Monument Historique," which means the locals and would-residents are required by national ordinance to preserve the original design and structure of their houses and shops. But behind this façade of antiquity, life in the village is actually quite up-to-date. The people here enjoy modern conveniences too—they have electricity, heating and plumbing and they are connected to the rest of the world via the telephone, cable television and the Internet." That is what needs to be done with the entire Baguio: to be declared one big "Monument Historique."
Presentation of Data

            The photographs accompanying this study were taken in September and December 2006 and January 2007. The photographs were enlarged from their 5R size to 8R for public exhibition.

            About the Photographs
 Camp John Hay remains the centerpiece of Baguio. In his book The Skyland of the Philippines, Laurence Lee Wilson called the camp "a lovely upland park composed of
1,718.55 acres of rolling pine-clad hills."

            Based on a report, "the city council is pushing for the
conversion of Camp John Hay into one of the 10 proposed cultural and historical heritage
zones in the summer capital."

            The report continued: "Several historical structures of Camp John Hay were
demolished between 1996 and 1999 to make way for two hotels.

            "Camp John Hay was the military base where Japanese Imperial Army Gen.
Tomoyuki Yamashita surrendered to American Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the end of
the Pacific War.

            "Only the Bell Amphitheater and the Bell House have been segregated as
historical sites under the administration of John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC), the
estate manager of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA).

            "Councilors Leandro Yangot, Edilberto Tenefrancia and Rocky Thomas Balisong
said in their proposed measure that the city now 'realizes the need to preserve its
remaining heritage structures from further destruction ... (and that it) understands that
such a move will increase (Baguio's) tourism potential.'

"The measure puts the heritage zones under the control of a conservation administrator."

            Visitors from the lowland areas make it a point to visit the Baguio Public Market before leaving the city. According to the website, the market is at the lower end of Session Road and behind the Maharlika Center. Different souvenirs typical of Baguio can be bought at the market. Many other products and handicrafts sold from other nearby provinces are also available.

Fresh vegetables, strawberry jam, peanut brittle, dried tobacco, an assortment of fresh flowers, meat, Baguio sausages, fish, poultry, fruits, freshly ground coffee, clothes and clothing material can be found.. So are native products and handicraft such as baskets, brooms, bags, brass, blankets and sweaters, woodcarving and locally made jewelry. From Pangasinan, bucayo (coconut candy) and bagoong (salted fish or shrimp) may also be bought.

Carinderias or small food stores serving delicious and cheap native as well as Chinese or Western menu are at the upper area. These different food choices include Ilocano, Tagalog, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Bicolano and other dishes. The customers of these   carinderias are market vendors, people who work in the market and local residents.

The Baguio Country Club has turned 100 years old way ahead of the city. Its president, Federico R. Agcaoili, in an unpublished manuscript entitled "Paradise of the Cordilleras," wrote about the club's history and his own love affair with the city:

"When I was asked during the centennial celebration of the club what my vision was for the Baguio Country Club in the next century, this is what I wrote: "That is a tough but pleasant question and I will do my best to answer it: I envision a club that will have a well-laid out centennial garden where the members and guests can promenade, read a good book, and spend time enjoying the flowers and the other plants Baguio has become known for. The garden will also be a home or sanctuary to the birds that inhabit the club grounds. Within it will be a centennial chapel where weddings can be solemnized and garden receptions held. A cafetorium will be serving the BCC raisin bread and BCC coffee. A souvenir shop will sell memorabilia and other items. The Employees Credit Union may operate both cafetorium and souvenir shop which will be open to the public on certain days of the week. I also envision the mushrooming of log cabins around the periphery of the club property. They will be on long-term assignment to the members who may authorize a time-sharing arrangement with the club. And finally, I envision the realization of Mr. Potenciano Ilusorio's long-time dream of employees' housing near or within the BCC property. All these can come to fruition based on a 'per decade' projection or plans."

"And in the centennial souvenir program of the club, I also wrote: 'On this the hundredth year of the Baguio Country Club, let us look back at its rich, colorful and unique history. We see that its origins are inextricably linked to the proud story of Baguio and the Philippines. We know that the timeline of the century just passed runs a necessary parallel to that of the Baguio Country Club. And we realize that the American colonial period had indeed left a significant mark on our country, on beautiful Baguio and the club. And thus, we remember, the founding fathers for the vision and the resolve they had one hundred years ago to form the Baguio Country Club.

"'It is with a deep sense of thanksgiving that we look back and with even more gratitude that we in the here and now appreciate all that the Baguio Country Club has become. We are a full-pledged institution whose corridors have seen and experienced innovation, war and revolution and the happiest memories. The Baguio Country Club anecdotes are replete with history-making events and personalities.  All these elements come together to make us what we are at one hundred years- rich in tradition and yet at the cutting edge of modernity. And thus, we give thanks to God the Almighty for the many blessings the club has received these One Hundred Years.

"'Some might say the club has been `partying' since the start of the centennial countdown last year. And indeed we have, because there is so much to rejoice about. There is our heritage. It is there where we can thrive and prosper. It is there where we can look forward to another 100 years. It is there where our community is and it remains well and happily rooted in partnership with the bigger communities of Baguio, Benguet, the Cordilleras, the Philippines and the world! And thus, we celebrate confident that the younger generation of leaders and members will continue the wealth of tradition that has been passed on to them! One hundred cheers!'

"My earliest memory of Baguio was when I was five or six years old. We were four boys in a row and three girls, and I was right smack in the middle as the fourth child. Our parents brought us to Baguio for the summer and left us under the care of an aunt. The "love affair" with Baguio began. The approach to zigzag road never failed to give a thrill and excitement. It was a dawning of only fun-filled days ahead. From one summer to another, the family stayed in various places around the City of Pines: at the "Manila Café" on Abanao Street near City Hall, the Peña Apartments, the YMCA and the Manila Railroad Compound on South Drive which later became the site of the Hyatt Terraces.

"I have a treasure chest of memories of Burnham Park, the boat ride, the bicycle ride and scooter ride, where the heel of my foot got caught in the back wheel; the skating, the picnics; the stroll up and down the pollution-free Session Road; even quiet, retreat days in Mirador Hill, the retreat haven of the Jesuits. When we were in college, my Ateneo friends would stay in Leonila Hill where the Santos family had a house. My youth and family life were peppered with Baguio flashbacks. I simply cannot imagine looking back into my past without the treasured memories of Baguio. 

"When my father was appointed to the Court of Appeals, a cottage was assigned to him, and I would tag along with him when he would spend his entire morning at Star Café on Session Road with Judge Sinforoso Fangonil and Judge Florendo. And it was then that I first had a glimpse of the Baguio Country Club. And I dreamt that one day I would be a member of this prestigious institution and cement my link with this beautiful City of the Mountaintop!    

"Sometime in 1989, the dream came true. My father had passed away a year earlier, and I had been taken in by Atty. Potenciano Ilusorio, his classmate, to handle his legal matters. Mr. Ilusorio helped and sponsored me to become a member of the Baguio Country Club. But it was my fraternity brother in Upsilon Sigma Phi, Des Bautista, who told me that I will have to have a business or practice my profession in Baguio to keep me occupied and generate income for me and my family. In no time, my wife had decided to open her Agua Vida water station business in Baguio. In 1994, I was able to acquire our dream house in Baguio. These afforded us the opportunity to come up to Baguio more often, sometimes staying on and on. 

"In 1998, I became a director of the Baguio Country Club and when Mr. Ilusorio decided to retire, he asked me to assume his position as president. I told Mr. Ilusorio that his shoes were too big for me, literally and figuratively.  It has therefore been truly an honor for me to hold the position he turned over to me for the past several years. The centennial activities and events happened during my watch, and I have truly been blessed to be at the helm of this great club during its centennial celebration. I congratulate management headed by Anthony de Leon for organizing and putting together the significant activities of the centennial.

"The centerpiece activity of the centennial was tree planting. I was so surprised to learn that there were only 2,800 trees within the club after I had them counted. I am therefore firmly committed to plant at least 10,000 trees. I have told those who keep saying that they could no longer smell the pine whenever they go up to Baguio is that their windows may have been closed due to air-conditioning! This may have been said in jest as what I would like them to do is for them to plant a pine tree or trees each time they visit Baguio, instead of reciting a litany of lamentations. Then these trees will provide the "trail for the senses" we are all searching for! Then we can truly make Baguio and the Baguio Country Club the "other home" for our children and our children's children as it has been to us!

"I continue to pray that this 97-year-old City of Pines enjoy all the peace, discipline, goodness, sweetness and beauty. That this city be as close to a paradise as it can ever be, for this has always been the feeling that I have always had, and the vision of my youth: Baguio City–a paradise!"

The historic Session Road, named after the summer sessions of the National Legislature during the American regime, is described by as such: "…(A)lthough Session Road still has the same number of traffic lanes and its sidewalks are still the same width and length, a number of new stores and other business establishments are now found along this road. Unlike the busy streets in the Kowloon side of Hong Kong and in other big cities in America or Europe, there are no billboards found around Baguio. You will, however, find many residents and visitors still enjoying their climb up and down Session Road.

"Session Road is not only the main thoroughfare of the city, but it is also the center of Baguio's commercial district. This is where you will find department stores, banks, a movie house and bazaars. There are also some hotels, bakeries, restaurants, newspaper stands, bookstores, boutiques, cafes and studios along Session Road. And just like the City of Manila and the other cities in the country, there are also sidewalk vendors and in some corners, blind beggars, including pickpockets and cellphone snatchers which you have to look out for.

"Local residents, students in the different schools and universities in the city and visitors alike spend most of their free time just going up and down Session Road."

Once a year for a about a week, the entire length of road is closed for the Panagbenga Festival's "Session Road in Bloom." Here pedestrianization is momentarily in place with stalls on both sides of the road, vehicular traffic is rerouted, and residents and visitors walk up and down the road in search of souvenirs, live music and easily affordable eats. These pedestrians are also there for the sheer joy of taking a stroll.

On ordinary days, Session Road is clogged with cars parked on either side and mostly smoke-belching taxicabs   rolling up and down the stretch. The road is still home to old buildings like Session Theater, which has been converted into a popular restaurant (Volante) and Internet shop, Pines Theater, now home to an ukay-ukay (secondhand clothes) emporium, and the oldest building in the city, the still intact but non-functioning Vallejo Hotel.

Another Baguio landmark dating back to the American period is Burnham Park. The website describes the park as "centered around a manmade lake located at the heart of the city. It was named after the city's planner, Daniel Burnham. The park is a favorite place of local residents and visitors alike. There are different facilities for recreation and relaxation that are available in the park. You can row a boat, have a picnic, attend an outdoor concert, watch a football game, go biking, or just take a leisurely stroll around the park.

"Within the park are tennis and basketball courts, a few restaurants, outdoor kiosks, a children's playground and an orchidarium where various kinds of plants, trees and flowers are sold. Chairs and benches are distributed around the park for those who just want to sit down and relax. The football field at the eastern side of the park is sometimes used for parades, carnivals, concerts, political rallies and for display booths during special events and activities. On certain Sundays and some special occasions, cadets of the Philippine Military Academy perform a parade and review or a silent drill exhibition at the field. Just after the big earthquake that hit the city in 1990, many of its residents fled their homes for fear of aftershocks and temporarily set camp in this field."

On Sundays, Baguio's church-goers mainly go to the Baguio Cathedral where almost hourly masses are held. featured the cathedral's place in the city: "The rose-colored Baguio Catholic Cathedral, located on top of a hill in the heart of the city, is one of the more familiar and most visited landmarks of Baguio. This beautiful structure has twin spires and is one of the most photographed buildings in the city. From Session Road it is accessible by pedestrians who ascend a long concrete stairway of more than a hundred steps. Visitors and churchgoers who would rather avoid the difficult climb drive vehicles through an access road which passes behind the nearby post office building.

"The construction of the cathedral by phases was begun on a hill which was originally referred to as 'Kampo' by the native Ibalois. It was later called Mount Mary by a Belgian Catholic Mission headed by Fr. Carlu, CICM, who was then the parish priest. The cathedral was finally consecrated in 1936 and dedicated to Our Lady of Atonement. During World War II it became an evacuation center and withstood the Japanese carpet bombing of the city in 1945, thereby saving thousands of lives.

"The Baguio Cathedral is the biggest catholic church in Baguio and is the center of religious activities such as during the Holy Week when thousands of devotees from Metro Manila and the provinces come up to the city. During Sundays and other special holidays of the catholic church, you will find vendors along the stairway and also at the church's open patio selling flowers, balloons, newspapers, sweepstake tickets, candles, rosary beads, and other religious articles. Visitors desiring to visit Baguio on a tour should avoid coming up to the city during this religious week. Not only is the city crowded with people, it is difficult to find rooms in hotels and inns and the prices of native handicraft, souvenirs, vegetables, flowers, food, and other commodities and services are rather expensive. Its view deck at the cathedral is a favorite among visitors since it provides a panoramic view of the downtown commercial area, Burnham Park, city hall and Camp Allen."

A little-known and infrequently visited landmark in Baguio is the Aguinaldo Museum on Happy Glen Loop, not too far from the Baguio Cathedral. According to "The larger-than-life size statue of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and the museum beside it is an interesting Baguio landmark ... It is just across the street from the (now defunct) Bonuan Restaurant and has a small park around the statue which is a favorite playground for young children who live nearby. The museum was erected to house personal memorabilia of Gen. Aguinaldo which include the different uniforms and barong tagalogs he once wore, his photographs and those of his family, a work desk, and the wheelchair which he used when he was confined at the Veterans Memorial Hospital. Also on display is a three-dimensional miniature scene depicting his inauguration as president and a replica of the Philippine flag which was originally designed by the general with revolutionary words embroidered on it.

"Gen. Aguinaldo, the first elected president of the Provisional Philippine
Republic, is best remembered for the proclamation of Philippine independence from Spain on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite. It was on this day that a huge crowd gathered around Aguinaldo's mansion in Kawit. On the balcony of his home Aguinaldo had the decree of independence read by Ambrosio R. Bautista, an older and respected leader of the revolution. The decree declared that the Filipinos were tired of bearing the yoke of Spanish rule and that they 'have the right to be free and independent.' When the band began to play the newly composed national anthem, Aguinaldo slowly raised the Philippine flag handsewn by Filipino women in Hong Kong. This signified the birth of a new and independent Filipino nation.

"As a leader, Gen. Aguinaldo fought against Spain and later against the United States for the independence of the Philippines. His term also featured the setting up of the Malolos Republic which had its own Congress, Constitution, and officials of the national and local government which proved that Filipinos have the capacity to govern their country. Aguinaldo was only 29 years old when he was elected president. He died in Quezon City on Feb. 6, 1964 just a month and a half before his 95th birthday. He was buried behind his mansion in Kawit, Cavite, which had become the center of independence day celebrations in the Philippines and a historic showplace.

"The setting up of the Aguinaldo statue and museum in Baguio instead of in Kawit is attributed to the late daughter of Gen. Aguinaldo, Cristina Suntay, who was once a resident of Baguio. This interesting landmark provides local students and history buffs of Baguio access to information about the first elected president of our Provisional Republic and a better understanding of the role he played in our country's struggle for independence."

Few people know that on Independence Day, June 12, the museum remains open so that the original Philippine flag can be viewed.
 According to, "through the vacation normal school which began in Teachers' Camp in 1908… teachers from all over the islands were able to have a respite and some more time for studies..."In a letter to the Secretary of Public Instruction, Governor William Pack outlines his plan to set up a camp in Baguio where teachers can be accommodated. The plan was approved on January 8, 1908, and the camp was opened on April 6, 1908.
       "For a start, four assembly tents were put up for kitchen, dining and storage purposes and two other large tents were set aside for class purposes. Later on, the 'KURSAAK' was constructed in 1909 as a permanent structure and took over the functions of the mess tent, aside from being the social center for assemblies. The next year, other buildings were added, the road traversing the vast hectarage leveled and the athletic field out in its hollow.
"In 1912, Benitez Hall , Ladies Hall, the Secretary's Cottage, the Undersecretary's Cottage the Director and the Assistant's Cottages were built. Several more appropriations were passed to construct the Teacher's Hall, the Tavera Hall and the White Hall in 1927. In 1937, General Luna Hall was built by the Philippine Military Academy.
"(Teachers' Camp) now caters to conferences, meetings seminars and social functions sponsored by the government sector."
A fairly new (four years old on Nov. 21, 2007) and humongous landmark is SM Baguio, the 16th SM supermall, which www.cityofpines.comdescribed as "strategically located on a 79,763-square meter property at the side of the area where the former Pines Hotel stood. The sprawling facility is a stroll away from some of the city's most popular tourist destinations."
While purportedly established to " serve customers of Baguio and the rest of Northern Luzon," the building and opening of SM Baguio has generated as much controversial heat as the  gigantic flyover going up near the Baguio General Hospital rotunda. Although SM Baguio may offer convenient shopping and entertainment to residents and visitors alike, it is seen as a Pacman eating up small entrepreneurs along the traditional commercial district covering Session and Harrison Roads and Magsaysay Ave.   Among environmentalists the mall is seen as having caused the destruction of valuable pine covering on Luneta Hill where it stands.

            Another person in love with city is Mariel N. Francisco. Here are her recollections of the Baguio of the past and the present which she shared with the thesis writer:

"I've been going up to Baguio in the summer since I was a little girl. That means in the 1950s.  Despite the fact that there was only Kennon Road then (no Marcos Highway yet), Baguio was a not-so-distant vacation place for us in Pampanga.  After days of preparation, the whole family—parents, from seven to nine children and maids—would pile into our station wagon and brace for the long trip. 

"We would excitedly wait for the moment on the zigzag when we could open our windows and slurp up the cool, fragrant air that signaled we had arrived!  We stayed at the Amapola Hotel (the building is still there, but I don't know what it is now), but instead of taking all our meals there, my mother would prepare sandwiches, and we would just spread out our picnic lunch under some pine trees. We thought that it was the greatest fun on earth.  Once we made an excursion to Asin Hot Springs, which I don't remember anymore, but I have the pictures to prove it. 
"In our pre-teens we sometimes stayed at Camp Allen because one of my uncles was a military doctor.  When we and our cousins were in our teens, our parents would rent a house for the summer and leave us there with a cook.  The parents took turns looking in on us every weekend.  Some weekends they would take us down Naguilian to the beaches of La Union and back to Baguio in the evening.  That said a lot about the sense of safety we enjoyed in Baguio then.  We felt so at home in the small town atmosphere though we were total strangers there.  Our landlady was like a mother hen to us.  People were friendly, even the Igorots who walked around in their G-strings and coats, and everybody spoke only English. 

            "We first learned to bowl, bike and roller-skate in Baguio.  We spent all our allowance in the bowling alleys, in the Indian department stores on Session Road, and on souvenirs in the Baguio market,  plus the usual Baguio tourist stuff of climbing Mirador Hill and trying to sight VIPs at the Mansion House.  But what made it sweet was that we also met some new male friends, and we enjoyed a certain freedom we didn't have in Manila. 

            "All throughout high school and college, I had many trips to Baguio with gangmates, staying in their various vacation homes which I envied. At which time we had more "sophisticated" activities, like eating French fries and hamburgers at Halfway House and playing mini-golf at Camp John Hay, often meeting up with boyfriends from Pampanga or Manila.

"On one of those trips we took the train to Damortis and were met by limousine for the trip up the zigzag.  One memorable time was our first Baguio stay during the months of December and January when it was so cold we had to bundle up to our ears in heavy knits, and the fog was so thick in the evenings we couldn't see beyond our noses. 

"I guess I was in my early 20s and my siblings and many cousins still very young when the clan decided to buy a house instead of renting one every summer.  We were all quite attached to Baguio then, once-a-year sweaters, strawberries, and pine scent entrenched in family nostalgia.  The house was a simple three-bedroom affair on Quezon Hill with a big dining room-kitchen and sayote growing wildly in the backyard.  Each family took their one-week turn in it every summer.  Chito, my husband, was already courting me then, and he happened to be assigned by Shell in Poro Point so we had one memorable overnight stay there with some friends.

            "After a few summers, though, it became clear that the shared house arrangement was not working out so the family decided to sell the house.  That has been to our eternal regret.  At that time the price of real estate in Baguio was nowhere near today's, and we now realize that we should have kept the property, which was in a good location, and built a condo on it with separate units for everybody.  But our parents just didn't have the vision at that time.

             "For a while after I began working, I stopped going to Baguio.  I resumed going every summer only after I was married with small children (mid-1970s up the 1980s).  This time we stayed in the plush Manila Electric Company (Meralco) compound on Ambuklao Road, occupying one or the other of the several houses elegantly furnished by Berenguer-Topacio.  I now took the role my mother used to have, packing up the family for the annual trip, though mine was definitely a smaller family than hers. 

 "I knew Baguio and its quirks quite well by then, at least our regular haunts.  I would shop for fresh provisions in the Baguio market and U-need Grocery and prepare all our meals in the well-equipped kitchen.  I bought silver crosses and chains for each of my four girls at the St. Louis University silver shop, and my year's supplies of placemats and napkins at the Easter Weaving School.  We enjoyed meeting up with friends who were also there with their young children and introducing our kids to the pleasures of Burnham Park.   

            "But Burnham Park—and Baguio itself—was already changing then.  Bicycle rental was too commercialized. There were hordes of people and nondescript food stalls, and the lake was filthy. I wanted to recover the feeling that we had when we were kids, of being absolutely safe, but it was gone forever.  Condos had cropped up everywhere, as had squatters.  Clusters of galvanized iron roofs appeared on seemingly uninhabitable mountain slopes, ruining the natural scenery. The log houses and charming chalets we used to associate with Baguio were gone or covered by taller buildings, as were the pine trees.  Manila-like traffic during Holy Week on Session Road was suddenly a reality. Development had made Baguio an ugly city just like all other Philippine cities to which urban planning is alien. 

            "Still we enjoyed some of the new pleasures of Baguio, like the Hyatt Hotel which had our favorite Japanese restaurant, and the Green Valley Country Club where they had modern bowling alleys. We also appreciated having the alternate route of the Marcos Highway. Our children grew their own Baguio memories—shrimp balls at Rose Bowl, horseback riding in Wright Park, strawberries with their breakfast cereal. With some intrepid cousins, they dared follow the yellow hiking trail in Camp John Hay.

            "When Meralco sold the Ambuklao Road compound and built the new summer houses on P. Paterno St., we started using the cozy townhouses.  By then my girls were in their lazy teens and considered their Baguio vacation a time for curling up in bed and reading or watching TV at any and all hours.  Chito would go with friends to hit a few buckets at the driving range, but it was my chore to get them up and walk to the 19th Tee for pancake breakfast or play tennis in the John Hay Courts.  But they loved going to Baguio just the same and would complain if for some reason we missed going one summer. 

"One of their fondest memories is a beef fondue dinner we had at the Forest House, exquisitely served by the old lady owner herself and her son.  I introduced my children to Narda's stuff and the "antiques" in Marbey (Maharlike Center), and they fell in love with the food at Café by the Ruins without which their stay in Baguio would not be complete. 

            "When Chito became entitled to Baguio Country Club privileges in the late 1990s, we were able to peek into a world I had imagined when I was young as being populated by the very rich, beautiful and famous.  I guess even that had changed by the time we got into the scene because the BCC was no longer as exclusive as it used to be. Still, seeing Manila friends in unaccustomed smart jackets and stylish shawls, having a Filipino breakfast in the old Veranda and the simple facilities at the time, the bowling alley and the pizzas, were delightful for us.  At that time I also discovered the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary and artist Bencab's Tam-awan Village and was glad to add some depth to my children's Baguio experiences.  

            "After the BCC caught fire and was rebuilt, a Meralco subsidiary bought a couple of penthouses which Chito had the privilege of using once a year.  We changed our routine from summers in Baguio to the time between Christmas and New Year, and enjoyed a few New Year's eves dancing away with family and friends to the Spirit of '67 Band and downing champagne while fireworks burst in the cloudy sky.  We took part in some holiday socials which had a special aura just by being out of town.  But we soon tired of that routine, and now we try to be back in our Quezon City home for a more sedate New Year. 

            "In the last few years, going to Baguio has become more of a cocooning time for my family, that is, Chito and one or two of our girls who can take time off from work.  I'm the only one who longs to be out in nature, and I enjoy waking up early and taking a long walk to Camp John Hay by myself.  But it has to be really early. Otherwise, I may get sick from the smoke-belching jeepneys. 

"BCC has become even more of a marketplace where we hardly see people we know anymore.  My girls spent half an hour just to see what SM Baguio is like and quickly went back to marathon DVD showings over chestnuts, wine and a sputtering fire.  When not in the mood for room service meals, they try out the buffet downstairs or venture out for at least one meal at  Café by the Ruins and to check what's new at PNKY's.

"This year I brought them to filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik's Victor Oteyza Community Art Space where we chatted with some young Baguio artists over vegetarian pasta and a wildly creative ambience.  We also discovered a genius of a Chinese doctor, Dr. Charles Cheng, who will become part of our yearly Baguio holiday from now on.  I'm sad that my children will never know the Baguio of my childhood, but that's life."  

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
This study was sparked by the Declare Baguio City as a Special Heritage Zone Petition to the Philippine Government created by Concerned Citizens of Baguio and written by Fernandez (no relation to the author). It cast attention to the growing degradation of an important place like Baguio which has been plagued with malls, overpasses and flyovers, a development that must not go unchecked.

By comparing the Baguio then and the Baguio now, the study hopes to make a case for the declaration of Baguio as a heritage zone and at the same time ensure that the dreams of Baguio's re-greening-minded architects and urban planners will come true. The recommendations for the revitalization of the city are discussed in the analysis portion of this study.


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Architect Joseph Alabanza
Ms. Mariel N. Francisco