Historical Events in Baguio You Probably Didn’t Know

There are many factors that make a city special. Its cleanliness, climate, ambiance, simplicity, the way people seem so relaxed, and great food. Baguio has all of these things and a lot more. It also has a rich culture brought about by great historical events. Continue reading this article to know why Baguio City is more than just the summer capital of the country.

Discovery of Arabica coffee

Baguio City is just among the tiny settlements established by Spanish colonizers in 1846. They used to call these pine-covered highlands of the Benguet province “rancherias.” A village housing the Kankana-ey and Ibaloi tribe, Baguio was just a village called Kafagway in the Cordilleras. If you have ever wondered how high the city is, it rises at around 1,524 meters above sea level or 5,000 feet. Later on, the Spanish colonizers settling in the area discovered that Benguet is a great place to grow Arabica coffee.

Construction of Kennon Road

Later on, Spain lost in the war against the United States of America and the former sold the Philippines for $20 million. Can you imagine that? It didn’t take long for the Americans to fall in love with Baguio City for its cool climate. When the latter was finally settled in the summer capital of the country, they constructed the Kennon Road, which now connects the city to other lowland provinces such as La Union and Pangasinan.

You know how the Kennon Road looks so zigzag, right? As a bonus trivia for you, did you know that it was actually a result of an engineering error? Originally, the engineers wanted to build it in parallel to the Bued River. However, it took them 5 years of construction to realize it would be impossible for the ends to meet because of the uneven elevation. So they produced the steep zigzag while striving to make the result of their miscalculations work.

Still, Kennon road is considered the most scenic and best route from the lowlands. You just have to always drive slowly as you pass by this zigzag to be safe from road cuts and rockslides. What a wild and beautiful road, indeed.

‘Bag-iw’ before becoming Baguio

Going back to history, Benguet had undergone mining in 1903 when the Americans built Camp John Hay as a camp for the U.S. Armed Forces. These guys lined up several mining camps in various locations like the Kennon road. At first, it was called ‘Bag-iw,’ which means moss in Ibaloi, as an architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham was designing the then declared chartered city and Summer Capital of the Philippines in 1909. This explains why Baguio City has a westernized feel and the people have a flair for cowboy hats and boots. Same with the American towns you see in movies.

Here comes the Japanese

The claiming of Baguio City didn’t stop with the Americans. Cutting the long story short, the Japanese won the was against the American Soldiers after bombing the city in 1941. The latter invaded Camp John Hay and made it their command post. Shortly, the Americans got on their feet, had the upper hand, and the Japanese men had retreated to Baguio. In 1945, the emperor of Japan ordered General Yamashita’s surrendering to the Americans, thus, the birth of the legend about buried gold bars and buddhas.

Scenic vibe and cultural appeal

However, what attracted tourists in the city was not the possibility of digging up gold, but the aftermath of everything that happened. Baguio City was reconstructed and it became the cultural and learning center of the North. The roads were improved and everything damaged by the wars was repaired—giving the city a scenic vibe and cultural appeal. Apayao, Kalinga, Abra, and Mountain Province migrants were also drawn by the city’s quick urbanization.

Interesting how a place becomes extra special after learning about its history, right? Now, the city of Baguio will not be same the next time you visit. You may find yourself imagining some Spanish colonizers planting Arabica coffee, American soldiers discussing at the Kennon Road, or Japanese men walking around the area. However, this city now completely belongs to the Filipinos. Continue to patronize and care for it, and show its previous colonizers it is worth a lot more than $20 million.