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Early recollections
by Sid Chammag

The recollection of hodgepodge events about to be discussed in this down memory lane item, include the more than two decade-period from the late 1940s to the 1960s to this millennium.

It was a period of reconstruction and economic recovery from the destruction and trauma of the Second World War that ended in 1945.
Some struggled honestly with difficulty, while others employed one-up-manship over their fellowmen to survive.

Newsboys and bootblacks enjoyed competing against government officials and vendors by betting in illegal gambling which was rampant at that time.
Jueteng was unhampered. Other games of chance like the Chinese “Pacapio” and “kiwit-kiwit” type of gambling were also luxuriant undertakings in some open dens in the city.

Most students coming from nearby communities and other provinces to Baguio to pursue their high school studies during the late 1940s to the decade of the 1950s, were oblivious to the celebration of Baguio’s Charter day Anniversary which is Sept. 1 and the Philippine Independence Day which was July 4.
It was only during the 1960s when then President Diosdado Macapagal changed the American-imposed July 4th Philippine Independence Day to conform with the real declaration of the Independence of the Republic of the Philippines in 1898.

Both occasions, July 4th and September 1st had always been celebrated with parades and a show of float depicting some historic events of the Philippines and its relationship with the United States. Participating in these occasions were mostly students, government officials, groups from business sectors and the American community from Camp John Hay.

There were no college classes yet in Baguio until sometime in 1950 when Baguio Colleges Foundation (BCF) pioneered by opening its doors for higher educational pursuit.

BCF rented the Lopez building which it converted from a hotel into classrooms and the Antipolo building, both located along Session Road, and another three-storey structure along lower Mabini Street to house its high school and college classes.

Baguio Tech (now University of Baguio) and Saint Louis University followed one or two years later with their own respective college classes. Eastern Philippine College (now Baguio Central University) and University of the Philippines College Baguio, followed some years later with the opening of their own college course.

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) stayed some years at Camp Allen before it transferred to its present campus at Fort del Pilar located at the back of Loakan airport.

The period from the late 1940 and the decade of the 1950s was an era of reconstruction and busy economic development as a result of the second world war from 1941-1945.

The war disrupted the so-called “peace era time” when the momentum of the gold mining boom in several Benguet areas like Antamok Gold fields, Acupan, Balatoc, Sangilo, and Lepanto were stopped. This mining boom momentum was then considered the main engine of business activities in Baguio’s developing economy.

When the smoke of battle lifted from the horizon, Baguio City, just like any other place in the country where the war took place, was in massive ruins. Destruction was everywhere and the people who evacuated somewhere else started coming back.

Business started to pick up with the rehabilitation of the mines. The Dangwa Transportation Company and the government-owned Benguet Auto Line (BAL). Dangwa and Tranco, however, became the main support facility of the mining areas and to the whole Mountain Provinces until the early 1970s when other private transport companies intruded into the monopoly of Dangwa Tranco.

People from other provinces came to Baguio in droves to search for jobs and livelihood. Thus, squatting over public lands started as they had nowhere to go but to make temporary abodes which they later claimed as their residences since time immemorial. Squatting became rampant in the city when some powerful politicians initiated the granting of the “tolerance permit.”

The city population, which was estimated in the level of more than 45,000, was still controllable and manageable. The lack of water was unheard of. Electric brownouts were seldom.

Several areas like the entire Bakakeng, the foothills of Mt. Santo Tomas, Balsigan, and Puliwes which are actually the backside reservation of Baguio General Hospital; QM Subdivision near City Camp; Pinget and Quirino Hills; the entire Bayan Park community; the whole mountains above Naguilian Road; the area below Scout Barrio; and some wide areas at the upper stream of Pacdal, were still verdant with tall and stately pine trees.

There were only few AC-type jeeps (converted from war vehicles) plying the streets with some 20 units of “Royal Taxicabs” operated by Dangwa Tranco and maybe another 20 units of the “Yellow Taxi Company” managed by businessman Murphy. Only few ride to their work places, but the masses of the people, including students, have to walk to their destinations.

In the 1950s, some concrete buildings and other commercial structures started to sprout and change the skylines of Baguio.

Business in the hotel and nightclub industry competed to attract customers mostly ex-soldiers and personnel from the mining areas.

Among the early nightclubs were “Homestead” of Kennon Road, “Igloo” along Harrison Road, “Tip Top” at the Pacdal area which later relocated along Naguilian Road. Four more entertainment houses including “Vista Night Club” along the Baguio-Tuba road, now called Marcos Highway.

One of the favorite beerhouses then by students was the “Sky View” (now the site of Sizzling Plate restaurant) where rumbles often happened. Most of the students who took part in the melee, were forced to shell out and contribute to pay for the damaged juke boxes and other amenities.

Another favorite watering hole of the ordinary people, were the several giss-gissan honky tonk bars along lower Mabini Street where even professionals drop by after office hours and take a shot of whisky for “giss” (ten) centavos before going home.

The rate of exchange then was P2 to $1 during the early 1940s until the early 1950s. However, before 1950 ended, two more peso devaluations occurred in swift succession at the rate of P4 to $1 and at P6 to $1 In the 1960s, the peso started to decrease further in value from its pegged rate of P8 to $1.

The quick turn of events and due to some factors in the money market, the local currency continued to lose value with the Philippine peso never recovering its strength against the mighty U.S. dollar.

Despite all the activities to recover “the Baguio that was,” development efforts for the city shifted to solve minor problems like the continuing increase of population and how to sustain the economic pressure brought about by the phase-out of some gold production sites around Baguio.

The economic recovery of Baguio and the whole country in particular could have been pursued easier had the victorious United States complied with its promises to assist the Philippines recovery from the result of World War II destruction and trauma.

Instead, the U.S. government poured all its assistance for the economic recovery of Europe under the so-called “Martial Plan” program.

The same plan was later accorded to Japan for the recovery of its industrial economy to the surprise of the Filipinos, who as allies of the United States, fought side by side with the American soldiers during the second world war.

Even the agreement negotiated by Gen. Douglas MacArthur with the U.S. President “to give equal benefits” to the Filipino soldiers who fought side by side with the Americans against Japan, was violated and not complied with until now.

The Martial Plan of the U.S. brought to the fore that the superior Americans are not “trustworthy” and cannot be trusted as allies to small developing countries like the Philippines.

Their not being trusted as an ally was first shown during the Indian-American wars. The original red American Indians accused their pale-faced American enemies and their great white chiefs who “speak with fork tongues.”

The original red American Indians claim that negotiations and agreements between them and the pale-faced migrants, always ended to their disadvantage.
The original Indian Americans had to go and live in government reservations while the migrant white Americans continued to grab their hunting grounds and ancestral domain.

**First published on August 30, 1998

Supplement Articles
:: Which Baguio Centennial?
:: Baguio Midland Courier Builder
:: The 4 Fs across
the times
:: Kennon’s own report on the famous zig–zag
:: What if Baguio settled for a railroad
:: A look into Baguio’s transport system
:: Baguio: A Citadel of Learning
:: Growing up in early Baguio
:: Baguio’ cool climate keeps tourism, economy vibrant
:: Development of Burnham Park is city’ concern
:: Remembering the lessons of the past for the future: The Baguio City Market
:: Look, young man, on this tree city, now
:: The Anatomy of Squatting in Summer Capital
:: Baguio’s Many People
:: Bring Baguio Home
:: The Cordillera Warriors
:: A native–born scans: The Future of Baguio
:: Cement Pours into Baguio
:: A futuristic master plan for Baguio
:: Should BMC start tweeting?
:: Behind the scenes: searching the Midland Archives
:: 62 years of important events in the city
:: My hometown
Baguio City




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