The land and the peolple
The CITY OF BAGUIO is a child of America's "Manifest Destiny" -- the same moving spirit that brought colonizers and adventurers from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific coast, expanding the frontier as they penetrated and explored unknown territory, built roads and cities, made improvisations and introduced innovations born out of frontier experience. That same spirit led to the annexation of the Philippines by the United States in 1898 and brought the Americans to the threshold of what is now known as the City of Baguio.
The coming of America, which was one of the ironic twists in the history of the Philippines about which nothing could be helped in the interplay of unequal forces, proved to be a boon for it resulted in tangible social and political developments in the Philippines. The changes were strongly felt in the field of government, education, health, and standard of living.
Among the accomplishments of the Americans in the Philippines that became part of the Filipino heritage is the City of Baguio. Initially created and organized as a township, it gradually developed, frontier style, into an American city in a tropical setting. It was essentially American in conception, planning, construction, organization, and operation. It was a unique city, designed to serve a dual purpose: as a sanitarium for invalided government officials and employees, and as the summer capital for the government.
But Baguio was not an American discovery -- it was Spanish. The Spaniards who went to the heights of the province of Benguet saw Baguio, trod on it and through it, but they did not recognize early enough its urban potentialities. When they finally did, the sun of the Spanish Empire was about to set and it was too late for them to be able to realize their nascent dream of a "paradise city" in the uplands. It remained for the next colonizers, the Americans, to take over the urban planning and development of the area.
The heat and dust in the lowlands, especially during the summer months, were unbearable and the brackish mud during the rainy days were annoying and insufferable. The climate was conducive to sickness and disease to which many a white man succumbed. The needed a place in the tropical region with a temperate climate similar to that of their country of origin, to which they could sojourn for a few weeks and regain their lost health.
Baguio provided the answer. Nestled in the bosom of the province of Benguet, which lies astride the southern portion of the mountain chain called Central Cordillera, Baguio is five thousand feet above sea level surrounded by pine-clad mountains.
It is some 250 kilometers by road north of Manila and is accessible within four hours by car and in less than an hour by plane. The annual average temperature is 64.2 degrees Fahrenheit (17.87 deg Celsius), the lowest monthly average being 61.7 degrees Fahrenheit (16.5 deg celsius) in January and the highest being 66.0 degrees Fahrenheit (18.7 deg celcius) in May and June. Nearby warm San Fernando, capital of the province of La Union in the lowlands, is 16 degrees Fahrenheit (8.89 deg Celcius) higher in temperature.
The mean annual precipitation is 169.2 inches (429.77 cm). February registers the lowest mean precipitation of 0.7 inch (1.78 cm), the heaviest being 42.1 inches (106.93 cm) in August. A typhoon that stagnated over Baguio on July 14 and 15, 1911 deposited 45.99 inches (116.81cm) of rain in a single 24-hour period from noon of the fourteenth. This was regarded as the world's highest 24-hour precipitation on record. Recently, however, Baguio surpassed its own record when a storm deposited a new high level of 47.86 inches (121.56cm) in twenty-four hours from 2:00am October 17 to 2:00am October 18 of 1967.
Because of its temperate climate, Baguio and its environs have coniferous forests in contrast to the tropical forests at lower elevations. The change in vegetation takes place between elevations 4,000 and 5,000 feet (1.219.2 to 1.524.0 meters) The spaniards, who were the first white men to scale the place, called it Los Pinos, literally "The Pines". They saw no jungle but, instead, beheld a refreshing vista of rolling mountains carpeted with grass and shaded by tall pine trees.
The Cordillera Central in northern Luzon is the largest and most important mountain area in the Philippines. It consists of three parallel ranges that are shut off at their southern base by the transversally positioned Caraballo Mountains that in turn run from the Lingayen Gulf on the west to Dingalan Bay on the east. Its overall width varies from 36 to 54 miles (57.96 to 86.94km) and its north-south length stretches unbroken.
The westernmost subrange, the Malayan range, faces the China Sea and has a maximum elevation of 6,000 feet (1,828.8m) sloping precipitously on its western side near the sea. The middle parallel is the Central Range with 8,800-foot elevations and is the headwaters of several important river systems of Northern Luzon - Abra River, Amburayan River, Agno River, and Chico River. The Polis Range, the easternmost parallel, contains the highest peak on Luzon -- Mount Pulag at 9,612 feet (2,929.6 m) -- and gradually slopes towards the Cagayan Valley.
The basement-complex of the Cordillera Central consists of exposed metamorphic rocks of andesites, gabbros, gneisses and other metamorphics. Much of Philippine copper, gold, and silver are mined from these rock exposures.
The name Baguio today is an homonym of baguio, the vernacular for storm or typhoon. The present name of the city was a Spanish rendering of the Inibaloi word baguiw (vars, bagyu, bagyew, bagiw). According to Otto Scheerer, a German scholar residing in what is now Burnham Park at the time of arrival of the first Americans led by Dean C. Worcester, the term bagyu denotes "that submerged slimy water-plant with floating leaves that is known to botany as Potamogeton, and to Tagalog as lumot, which perenially covered the bottom of Guisad Valley.
Among the familiar landmarks of the Ibaloi, Baguiw was the name of a place located near the site of the present Easter School overlooking the Guisad Valley that lies between La Trinidad and the old place named Kafagway, the area now occupied by City Hall. Kafagway means a grassy clearing and it was the center of the prairie basin that was later converted into Burnham Park.
Historians of Baguio claim that the origin of the name Baguio is vague or unaccountable. It is not so. Towards the last decade of the nineteenth century, there were proposals to move out the Comandancia Politico-Militar of La Trinidad from its sequestered valley to the more salubrious environment of Baguiw outside in the vicinity of Kafagway overlooking the baguiw or bagyu-convered Guisad valley. The Dominican missionaries spelled the name as Baguio, with accent on the letter i so as to retain the original sound of -iw. This case is identical to the spelling and pronuciation of Lilio (pronounced Li-liw), a town in Laguna. Baguio was meant to be pronounced as baguiw. But careless writers and those who were ignorant of the etymology of the name removed the accent such that readers began to associate the name with the storm or typhoon, pronouncing it as baguio or bagyo. Thus the original Baguio (pronounced baguiw) became Baguio (pronounced bag-yo) in American documents and in latter-day publications. Baguio is in the heart of the province of Benguet, whose early inhabitants were called Benguetanos by the Spaniards. The Benguetanos were Igorots (from igolot or igudut, meaning "from the mountains") . One account relates that when visiting the lowlands they were asked from whence they came, their stock reply was "Igolot kami", that is "We are from the mountains." But among themselves, when travelling outside their homeground, the would identify themselves according to their ethnic group; thus, "Ibaloi kami" (we are Ibaloi, from i-balyu, meaning "from the hills"). The other groups would say, "Kankanai kami", "Ifugao kami", "Itneg kami", and so forth.
The mountaineers of the Cordillera were among the immigrants that spilled over from Asia and Southeast Asia according to Beyer's migration theory on the peopling of the Philippines. Cole finds evidences of at least two series of waves and periods of migration in northern Luzon. The migrants were similar in physical type and language but came from different localities in southeastern Asia where they developed their own organizations and institutions that they brought to Luzon and modified in their new habitat.
The first series includes the Igorot; the Ibaloi of Benguet, the Kankanai of Lepanto, the Bontoks, and the Ifugaos. They have the following institutions in common: "trial marriage; division of their settlements into social and political units known as ato; separate dormitories for unmarried men and women; government by the federated divisions of a village as represented by old men; and a peculiar and characteristic type of dwelling.
In the second wave series belong to the Ilocanos, the Tinguians (Itnegs or Isnegs), the Apayaos, and the western Kalingas, to whom the institutions of the first wave series are unknown. They have no trial marriage; marriage is endogamous, being restricted to consaguinal relations; government is administered by a headman aided by village elders. Although variations exist in the dwelling houses of these different peoples, they conform to a general pattern radically unlike that of the Igorot group.
The Ibaloi people are reputed to be of docile character. A 1609 report of early expeditions to the province of Tuy, the headwaters area of Cagayan Valley, and to the Igorot country, states with reference to the inhabitants of Benguet:
The Ibaloi have been rated by colonial administrators as "unusually submissive, passive, and shy as compared with the Cordillera peoples generally. In the face of pressures ... many have pushed back into deeper fastnesses." Another documentary account relates that whenever a lowlander would quarrel, injure, cheat or rob an Ibaloi, instead of retaliating with physical violence, this mountaineer would run back to the mountains and there dissipate his grief in solitude.
At a later period, during the construction of the Kennon road in the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century, an American road foreman, after observing his scrupulous honesty, diligence, and prodigious industry, described the Ibaloi laborer as "a superior brute".
It is this pacific nature of the Ibaloi that enabled the Spaniards to set up the first enduring comandancia politico-militar in La Trinidad in 1846. This was followed by the comandancias established in Lepanto in 1852, in Bontoc in 1857, in Saltan (Ifugao) in 1859 and in Kayan in 1872. Probably as an aftermath of the execution of Fathers Burgos, Gomes and Zamora in 1872 that diverted the attention of the authorities, there was a lull in the creation of comandancias. This, however, was revived in 1890 where one after another the Comandancia of Amburayan, Comandancia of Cabagoan with headquarters in Laoag, the Comandancia of Apayao and the Comandancia of Itaves were organized. Why the Comandancias were set up rather late, only after some 300 years of Spanish rule when Spain was losing her colonies rapidly, can only be understood in the context of the strategy and politics of the Spanish conquest.