Baguio Latest News

30 years of driving CAR

In Barangay Bugnay in Kalinga province stands a new marker that honors leaders who protested the construction of four hydroelectric dams on Chico River during the martial rule of strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

The project would have generated 1,000 megawatts of electricity but would also displace rice terraces and people from 1,400 square kilometers of land where the dams would rise.


On April 24, 1980, soldiers shot and killed one of Bugnay’s most vocal oppositors, Ama Macli-ing Dulag.

Left-leaning groups like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) still celebrate Dulag’s martyrdom as Cordillera Day. The marker was put up in this year’s 37th commemoration.

No busts or markers have been put up for the other Cordillera Day, which is celebrated every July 15. On that day in 1987, then President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 220 forming the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) by drawing together the Region 1 provinces of Benguet, Mountain Province and Abra, and Baguio City, and the Region 2 provinces of Kalinga, Ifugao and Apayao.

Many used to associate CAR with former rebel priest, Conrado Balweg, who broke away from the New People’s Army, formed his own militia, and negotiated a ceasefire with the Aquino administration after the ouster of Marcos in a people’s revolt in 1986.

EO 220 is the outcome of these first talks. It says CAR shall “administer the affairs of government in the region … accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the units of the region; and prepare for the establishment of the autonomous region in the Cordilleras.”

The order also formed the policymaking body, the Cordillera Regional Assembly (CRA), and the implementing agency, the Cordillera Executive Board (CEB).

Balweg had all been forgotten since his assassination in 1999 until early this year when government agencies like the Cordillera Regional Development Council and the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) cited the slain priest’s role in the campaign for autonomy.

They said Dulag’s martyrdom was as important as the roles of Balweg and Igorot rights groups in establishing CAR because they “all fought to repair what Marcos had tried to destroy.”

A little history

In 1908, the American colonial government formed the Mountain Province. “With the stroke of a pen, the Igorots were all together in one political unit which, to some, may have looked like a rather formidable ethnic and territorial grouping,” wrote retired anthropology professor  Dr. Albert S. Bacdayan in the book, “Towards Understanding Peoples of the Cordillera.”

But in 1966, Congress passed a law dividing Mountain Province into the provinces of Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Kalinga Apayao.

In 1973, Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1 reorganizing the bureaucracy under martial rule, further breaking up the former components of old Mountain Province which were joined to Region 1 (Ilocos Region) and Region 2 (Cagayan Valley).

“The response to this apparently unpopular decision was the repeated call for the creation of a separate region for the mountain provinces,” University of the Philippines professor Athena Lydia Casambre said in her book, “Discourses on Cordillera Autonomy.”

The fight for an Igorot region in the 1980s was spearheaded by the CPA, the Bibak (Benguet-Ifugao-Bontoc-Apayao-Kalinga) professionals, Igorot rights groups and the Church. CPA also advocated the Igorot self-determination and indigenous peoples’ rights.

Igorot Nation

The activism spawned new catchphrases like “Kaigorotan,” the Igorot Nation, and eventually the idea of autonomy for minority groups.

“The lobbying by CPA, taking advantage of the democratic space opened up after the Edsa revolt, was largely responsible for the inclusion of the constitutional provision for autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao in the 1987 Constitution,” Casambre said in her book.

But for the last 30 years, EO 220 has been the only law holding CAR together, and, many say, the primary reason for celebrating.

This was because steering CAR toward autonomy had not been an easy ride, said Philip Tinggonong, a retired planning and development officer of Abra and former CEB director.

Almost immediately after CAR was born, its thrust had been to draw up the law creating the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC), but the region’s voters rejected two organic laws signed by Aquino and former President Fidel Ramos.

The rejection of the first law, Republic Act (RA) No. 6766, almost led to another breakup of the mountain provinces, when only Ifugao voted in favor of autonomy.

Regional officials were told to dismantle CAR and prepare for an ARC until the Supreme Court ruled that Ifugao alone could not serve as a region, and said no ratification took place.

When a referendum was held in 1998 for the second organic law, RA 8438, only Apayao voted in favor of autonomy.

CEB and CRA officials were also forced to address issues generated by CAR’s creation. The first fire that needed dousing was the “reverse discrimination” raised by residents who were not Igorot and who were concerned about their likely treatment under an indigenous Filipino region. This issue lingered for decades.

Land grabbing in the guise of ancestral lands also generated controversy in Baguio in 1989. Infighting almost always disrupted governance.

On Jan. 25, 1989, lawyer Sergio Kawi was appointed “titular head” of CAR and CRA. His title did not sit well with many Cordillera leaders, and Kawi was often mocked.

CEB and CRA had been inactive since the term of President Joseph Estrada when Congress stopped allocating their operating budget due to these squabbles.


But the first years of CAR were also about aggressive, even revolutionary, reforms.

The concept of ancestral domain and the right of Cordillera tribes to decide how to use its resources were discussed by  CEB and CRA, and were incorporated in the first draft autonomy law prepared by a Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission (CRCC).

RA 8371 (the 1997 Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act or Ipra), which allowed the issuance of titles to ancestral lands and ancestral domains, was crafted 10 years after CAR was formed.

Ipra owes much to extensive consultations in the Cordillera, where indigenous peoples’ land rights were championed.

In May 1989, the CRCC objected to the Senate version of what would become the first autonomy law for excluding provisions that allow ownership of ancestral lands, control of natural resources and recognition of indigenous systems of governance, among other things.

In August 1989, members of CEB and the Neda reviewed and challenged the national standards used for allocating government resources.

At that time, the standards for building roads and infrastructure were meant for lowland terrain, Tinggonong said. Road projects in upland communities required more funds that were not given to CAR.

This was crucial for the CAR economy. According to a discussion paper for the CAR regional development framework, the interim region had the lowest gross regional domestic product in the country from 1987 to 1992.

The region at that period was reeling from a 7.7-magnitude earthquake on July 16, 1990, that devastated Baguio City and nearby communities, and from a powerful typhoon that pummeled the region the following year.

The economy had improved since, although the region’s growth performance had been erratic.

On hindsight, Tinggonong said, “We [in CAR] could have focused more on preparing the people for regional autonomy and not [simply] implementing projects. More dialogs and discourses at the community level could have been done. But other CEB members did not have that orientation. They were unprepared.”

Scholars say the very advocates for autonomy like CPA and Balweg ended up obstructing their cause. The charismatic Balweg, for one, was treated with suspicion in most parts of the region.

CPA, Casambre said, campaigned against the autonomy bills in spite of the fact that it “had been principally responsible for getting the project of autonomy on the government’s agenda in 1986… not least because what they had won in the form of a constitutional provision had become perverted as soon as the government entered into `sipat’ (ceasefire) with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army [of Balweg].” By: Vincent Cabreza - Reporter @ Inquirer Baguio


Baguio Tourist Attractions

Marker of the Philippine Commission's First Session in Baguio

This is the site of the building where the members of the Philippine Commission met from April 22 to June 11, 1904 and officially initiated the use of Baguio as the Philippine Summer Capital. The Commission was composed of Governor General Luke Wright, president, and Commissioners Henry Ide, Dean C. Worcester, T Padre Tavera, Benito Legarda, Jose de Luzuriaga, James Smith and Cameron Forbes.

Kennon Road and its Builder

Tourist-Spots-in-BaguioNamed after Col. Lyman W. Kennon, who was the final builder of the famous Benguet road, with the help of the industrious Cordillerans and foreign workers. Kennon road is the shortest and the most scenic highway linking Baguio and the lowlands. The lion's head can be found along the way. Final construction of this road was finished in 1903. Col. L. Kennon first ascended to Baguio in 1905. Of the original workers, the Igorots and Japanese were admired for their trustworthiness and willingness to work. Kennon was closed to traffic after the July 16, 1990 earthquake. It is now open to light vehicles only.

Diplomat Hotel on Dominican Hill

diplomatIn May 1911, the councils of the Province of the Dominican Order voted to construct a vacation house in Baguio on a 17-hectare property they had acquired when the American authorities were encouraging people to come here. Actual work started in 1913 under Fr. Roque Ruano and the building was inaugurated on May 23, 1925. To take advantage of the tax exemptions a school called Collegio del Santissimo Rosario was opened in June 1915 but due to the very small enrollment the school closed in 1917, reverting the building to the original vacation house. During WWII refugees first occupied it. Later the Japanese Army Liberation Forces had to bomb out the refugees from the buildings. The five hits left very extensive damage and for a time it was left unrepaired. Reconstruction was started in 1947 and completed in 1948 with most of its pre-war grandeur and beauty restored. In 1973, Diplomat Hotels, Inc. acquired ownership, remodeled the interior into a 33-bedroom hotel with modern facilities, but retained the unique and distinct personality of the Dominican Hill. In the 80's the hotel ceased operations due to the death of one of its majority stockholders. Plans are underway to develop this historical religious landmark into a tourist resort.

Philippine Military Academy

PMAThe Philippine Commission promulgated Act No. 175, which became the basis for the creation of the Philippine Constabulary in August 8, 1905. The school for the officers of the constabulary was first located in Sta. Lucia Barracks in Manila. Later in 1908, it was relocated in Baguio on the site known as Constabulary Hill later renamed Camp Henry T. Allen, in honor of the first chief of the Philippine Constabulary. With the passage of the Jones Law, the school was later changed to "Academy for Officers of the Philippine Constabulary" with a two-year curriculum. In 1908, the course was raised to collegiate level and later lengthened to three years with class 1938 as having the last graduates of that course. When the commonwealth government was established in 1935, the Philippine Military Academy was created in place of the Philippine Constabulary Academy. Under the National Defense Act, the PMA was authorized to maintain cadet strength of 350. Because of increased population, the academy transferred to Teachers Camp in June 1936 where it remained until WWII broke out. After the war the PMA headquarters was temporarily relocated at Camp Murphy and later at Alabang, while Camp Allen was being rehabilitated. Since May 1950 the Philippine Military Academy has found its permanent home at Fort del Pilar, Loakan, Baguio City.

The Mansion

The-Mansion-Baguio-CityThis imposing and majestic mansion has a long list of Filipino Presidents and American governor-generals. It has elegantly structured building and guesthouse. Its gate is patterned after that of London's Buckingham Palace. The Mansion has also been the site of several international conferences and a working office of the President of the Philippines during his visits to the City.

Camp John Hay

camp-john-hay-amphitheaterThis former American recreational facility is currently undergoing development as a world class resort. As of March 27, 1999, the golf course was completed and is now open, The skating rink, picnic area, and the mini golf course at the Scout Hill area are likewise open.

Asin Hot Spring

Located 16 kilometers northwest of Baguio, the resort's main feature is a swimming pool surrounded by thermal springs, lush vegetation and several hanging bridges. It is an ideal respite. This is now eyed to be redeveloped into a tourism resort along with the adjoining tourist attractions of Tuba and Baguio.

Bell Church

The-Bell-Church-of-Baguio-CityThis cluster of temples is located on the border of Baguio City and Trinidad Valley. Its exotic oriental architecture, pagodas roof, ornate gateway, dragon ornaments and Buddha - guarded windows gaze from atop a hill. The Bell Temple priest practices a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity. One may even try having his fortune told.

Burnham Park

Burnham-Park-BaguioIt is the oldest of all Baguio parks. One can unwind from the tension of the day-to-day bustle by biking, skating or simply reflecting on the day's experiences amid a soothing garden backdrop of colorful flowers. It is thickly wooded and is a great place to have picnics and concerts. There are tennis and basketball courts, a football field, athletic oval and an orchidarium.

Mines View Park

Mines-View-Park-Baguio-CityAppropriately named for its breathtaking view of Benguet's mountain ranges where gold, silver and other ores were once quarried. There are souvenir shops around the park offering such items as woodcarvings, woven cloth, ashtrays, shell products and other curio items.

Wright Park

It is sometimes mistakenly called "Ride Park" by some that identify this pine tree park reserve for kiddy horse rides. A long stairway leads to the "Pool of the Pines", a 100 meter long pool of water lined on both sides by the famous Baguio towering pine.