Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Highlands of Baguio

An American town in the Philippines. That's Baguio city in the Cordilleran region. A hill station in the North.

The "Little America," also known as the City of Pines, attracts tourists from all over the country and foreigners who would want to explore the rich culture and heritage of this highly urbanized City in the Cordillera region -- literally means a mountainous area.

But the tag of American town is not its present-day description. That was what it was called back in the 1900s during the American colonization of the Philippines.

Baguio is one of the most incredible hill stations in the Philippines. It is good that the Americans have developed this place as their mountain resort to escape the lowland heat, especially during the summer. 

And why do Filipinos love Baguio City? Undoubtedly, it's a cool climate almost all year round due to its higher elevation. When summertime comes, more people will pack up for an adventure. It's not just during the summer season. Still, it has become a weekend getaway for people from the nearby provinces and Metro Manila -- the National capital region.

In the present day, Filipinos are in complete control of the former US military base; Camp John Hay; not after they gave back our independence in 1946, but it was just a not-so-distant past in 1991 -- almost 3 decades ago.

That's just a little piece of history. Yes, the Igorots of the Cordilleras have a colorful and vibrant culture, which even Americans could not change or take away their identity.

I lived and worked in Baguio City in the summer of 2015 and have witnessed its natural wonders, but this place is slowly losing its balance due to commercialization. It's a number one enemy for people who are into environmental protection and preservation.

Housing projects, malls, and big infrastructure projects are just on the rise, and it costs thousands of century-old pine trees to be cut down to give way to these projects.

Baguio City is now crowded, and you can see the hillside full of houses and even far away mountains almost full of places. That was not what I witnessed in 2004 when I first visited Baguio.

Development on this mountain resort was so fast in just a decade, and developers are eager to exploit more and make the City miserable.

The development would have made Baguio a highly livable Philippine city, but overdevelopment for business profit will slowly kill its natural charm and beauty.

One thing I admire most about Igorots (the local name for the Cordilleran people) is their hospitality and friendliness. They are also kind and honest people. I hope that they will be able to preserve its rich culture and pass it on to the next generations. And yes, I hope they will fight for their land and not be taken away.

The Burnham Park, Wright Park, Bell House, Kennon Road, and Brent School. These places of interest were named after the Americans who have contributed significantly to what Baguio city has become.

And so Americans showed us how to build a highly master-planned city on a mountaintop. Initially, they made it for less than 30,000 people, but after over a century, the population has become 10 times larger at more than 300,000.

The highlands of Baguio is genuinely captivating to any tourist. Its history and culture are the souls of the place and the local people. 

After the Pandemic, more people will again be stuck in a traffic jam on its zig-zag road and all the way up just to feel its mountain breeze again and the warmth of the Igorot people.

In the Highlands of Benguet Province, Philippines, Baguio City are a cultural gem and a hub of great people deserving of recognition and reverence.

Baguio City; is home to charming people.

© 2020 Del Cusay

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