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Andebok, a foundational site in Baguio’s political history
by Patricia O. Afable

“Andebok” was the name Baguio Ibaloys gave to the hill slope that is today occupied by the Baguio City National High School and the lower UP Baguio grounds. When this place first came to the attention of national officialdom, it was 1899, and the 21-year old Sergio Osmeña, a Cebuano journalist on President Emilio Aguinaldo’s War Staff, visited Andebok.

At that time, the President and his Cabinet were fleeing north from American troops and making their way towards the Cordillera region.  Our generation knows Osmeña better as a World War II president of the Philippines, from 1944 to 1946.

In July 1900, while the Philippine-American War raged on in the lowlands, members of the US Philippine Commission arrived to explore Baguio, to confirm the Spanish news about its climate and gold resources. Otto Scheerer and his children, who were farming at Andebok, hosted not only Osmeña the year before, but also the American Commissioners and their military escort. (See a photograph of the Commission party at Andebok in Information about the extensive water sources of Baguio’s Kafagway valley came from Scheerer; and this was crucial to the American decision to make it the central parkland of the future city.

Scheerer was one of a handful of foreign residents in Baguio during the 1800s, and much has been written about him. A German businessman first based in Manila, he reached Baguio in 1895 and became known as “Siril” to local Ibaloys. While participating actively in the local community, his two oldest children, Graciana (Nena) and Adolfo, and he became fluent Ibaloy speakers. Scheerer’s intimate knowledge of the region gained him Osmeña’s visit during the Philippine-American War. Later, it also moved the Commission to appoint him Secretary of Benguet during the transition from military to civil rule in 1900.

Scheerer’s close friendships with the “natives” brought him under suspicion for being an “insurrecto” and the military never trusted him. These loyalties also provoked a quarrel with the newly installed governor, H. Phelps Whitmarsh, which ended Scheerer’s Benguet political career. (See The New York Times July 23, 1901, online). Scheerer published reports on Benguet agriculture, languages, and history. In 1901, he went to teach German in Tokyo; then he became governor of Batanes, before becoming a UP professor of linguistics.

That July 1900 journey proved to be decisive for the Philippine Commission’s founding of Baguio as an American mountain resort and “summer capital.” By that September, it signed the first appropriation for building the “Benguet Road” (Kennon Road).An appointive body tasked with establishing civil government after the Philippine-American War, the Commission created Benguet province in 1901, with Baguio as its capital. Within that decade and with impressive foresight and energy, the Americans set up the administrative, educational, police, and ecclesiastical foundations of Baguio. Expectedly, the mapping of American mining claims also proceeded without delay.

In the American records, Andebok became known as “Governor’s Hill” following William F. Pack’s occupation of the site. He served as governor of Benguet (1901) before becoming the first governor of the (old)Mountain Province that lasted between 1908 and 1966. Many photographs were taken on this hill, a favorite picnic site of traveling American officials. The refurbished house served as residence and office to a succession of officials of the province and sub-province. A picture of the Benguet leaders who officiated in the US Philippine Census of 1903 shows them posing with Pack by a corner of the Andebok house (note the mature banana tree). At that time, this census was the most extensive publication to affirm the newly entrenched American authority.

From the hillside above Scheerer’s farm, a photographer in the 1900 Commission party, standing on the slope of the present UP Baguio campus, composed the first panoramic image of central Baguio. This began the American documentation of what Ibaloys called “Kafagway,” the western ridge named “Apdi,” and the grassy marsh that they described as “Minak.”  Its streams join the Balili River at Lucban, to make up the Naguilian River headwaters. Today, Burnham Park and its lake dominate this landscape, with the City Hall and Camp Allen taking up the background (in the north). The Kisad-Legarda Road area is in the west (at left), and the Abanao, Harrison, and Session Road areas are in the east (at right). Visible in the foreground is “paway,” the high grass that gave its name to this former swidden and cattle grazing ground. For comparison, a 1930 picture of this area, with the same orientation, showing the roof of the Governor’s house in the foreground, also appears here.

The place name “Andebok” is related to the Ibaloy verb “dabok,” meaning to plant taro (Ibaloy-aba, Tagalog-gabi) on dry ground. According to Otto Scheerer’s “On Baguio’s Past” (1933), the hillside’s first farmer was named Kitung. He had come from Ambusi (his mother’s home village, upstream from Kabayan) to trade in Baguio. According to marriage patterns of that time, his wife, Kintana, was very likely from Kafagway. Kitung was one of several sons of Amkidit, a gold trader originally from Chuyo. His mother, Chamdya, was selling rice and rice wine in Acupan in the early 1800s when she came to the attention of Amkidit, and married him. In the 1890s, Mateo Cariño, also a descendant of Amkidit, sold Andebok to Otto Scheerer.

This article seeks to highlight Andebok’s role in the figuration of Baguio’s political and colonial history. At the end of Spanish rule and the beginning of American occupation, it offered a venue for the compelling discussions and pointed decisions among major players in the conflicts of that dark time. Surely, many substantial speeches (we call them “diskursu”) were heard there that shaped our region and multi-cultural society as we know it. The BCNHS and the UP Baguio stand on a historic site whose stories need not be completely lost. We like to think that their traces are here, waiting to be found by a new generation.

This revised interpretation of the July 1900 panoramic image specifies that it was taken from above Andebok, south of today’s Burnham Park. Previous publications of the photograph (including by myself) mista-kenly imply that it was taken from a western vantage (e.g. in the Legarda Road area). [See Japanese Pioneers of the Northern Philippine Highlands 2004 (page 5); and the Baguio Centennial Yearbook 2008 (page 6). Also, it has been printed in reverse in A Century of Being Baguio 2009 (pp. 26-27)]. The stories of Andebok’s occupancy came from descendants of Otto Scheerer (Richard Scheerer and Nena Scheerer Onrubia) and of former Mountain Province governor Juan Gaerlan (Trinidad Gaerlan and Joan Orendain), for which I am grateful. I thank Michael G. Price and the U.S. National Archives for access to the photographs.

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