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Baguio’ cool climate keeps tourism, economy vibrant
by Harley Palangchao

Long before the mercury level in this mountain resort city dipped to its lowest in more than five decades at 6.3 degrees Celsius on Jan. 18, 1961, the city’s temperate climate has been luring thousands of tourists from the post-war era up to dawn of the 21st century as chronicled by the Baguio Midland Courier. 

Baguio’s temperate climate did not only propel the city’s tourism industry but it also accelerated the local industry as well. It placed Baguio just on the map of national and international events and conventions, even if the city was then just on its way to recovery after the post-war era.

This paper, which was founded in 1947, chronicled the exodus of local and foreign tourists, from all walks of life, who visited Baguio during the Holy Week. The summer capital’s temperature—at any given time—is eight degrees Celsius cooler than any other place in the entire country. 

In April 1953, Baguio took center stage during the Holy Week observance when the first-ever Miss Universe (1952) Armi Kuusela of Finland, and sister Irma, spent two days in Baguio and visited various tourist sites in the city incognito. This paper reported that Kuusela was so enthralled with the city’s climate and the beauty of Baguio that she had to decline social function invitations and instead joined thousands of vacationists who were spending a lazy weekend in this mountain resort. 

The paper’s report ended on Kuusela’s visit to Baguio, but less than a year after being crowned, she chose to give up her Miss Universe crown to marry Filipino business tycoon, Virgilio Hilario. They were married in Tokyo, but then lived in the Philippines where they had a brood of five children.

Three years after that memorable visit, this paper reported that the city’s temperate climate had attracted more or less 35,000 local and foreign visitors to vacation in Baguio during the Holy Week in April 1956. It was at that time when city authorities had to shut off water supply in various sections of Baguio to allow distribution of water to other parts of the city where the thousands of tourists were concentrated. Again, authorities attributed the marked influx of tourists to the city’s cold climate and to its natural grandeur. 

The following year, 1957, this paper reported on its front page story in its March 31 issue that it was inevitable that Baguio would be host to thousands of tourists, which meant the city will be crowded, colorful, disorganized but a profitable season. 

It was from April 1 to 20, 1957, that Baguio recorded an estimated crowd of 102,266 people who stole the show from the religious activities which were then the traditional highlight of the summer week. It was also that year that this paper noted a construction boom in Baguio, as there seemed to be more apartments offered while a considerable number of vacationists slept in cars, camping tents, buses, and public buildings as hotels, private homes, transient houses, and dormitories were filled to capacity. 

In the summer of 1960, then-city mayor Luis L. Lardizabal was reported as having echoed the sentiment of confirmed Baguioites that it was the “summer best ever,” as / considerable tourists trekked to Baguio despite the rising cost of living and threats of lack of water and sufficient power facilities at that time. 

Six years later, Baguio anticipated another exodus of tourists during the summer as the city recorded an all-time low temperature in post-war era, when the mercury level dropped to 6.3 degrees Celsius on Jan. 18, 1961. It was that year that Baguio residents and tourists enjoyed cool weather for a duration of 10 days, from Jan. 11 to 20. Previous all-time low temperature recorded in Baguio was 7.3 degrees Celsius in Feb. 1, 1930. 

Two years later, or in April 1963, this paper reported there were 150,000 visitors who flocked to Baguio to enjoy the cool weather and tourism sites and it was another summer boom for businessmen in the city. The marked increase in number of visitors was also attributed to the decrease in temperature at 7.4 degrees Celsius in March of the same year.

Also that year, visiting US editor John P. Harris wrote an article about his visit to Southeast Asian countries, and he claimed that “Baguio is unequalled in the Orient.” His article was published on the front page of the April 14, 1963 issue of BMC. Harris went on to say that the mountain air is truly bracing and the nights have the proper snap in the temperature. 

“After I had been driven around the city for an hour, the sense of familiarity became even more acute as I felt that I was back in Colorado Springs, 6,000 miles or more away. It is the summer resort of the American Middle West, just as Baguio is of the island of Luzon. By coincidence, each has located in it the academy where military officers are trained,” read a portion of the article. 

One year later, BMC reported in its March 24, 1964 issue, that Baguio registered a record Holy Week crowd of 43,430 people who trekked to this city during a 24-hour period, adding that there was a vehicle population explosion that summer, even as this paper reported there was no major peace and order problem recorded, except a case of a car accident involving a 15-year-old visitor from Vigan, Ilocos Sur, who was sideswiped.

Cool climate beats Martial Law heat
Baguio’s temperate climate is tempting that less than a year after the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in Sept. 1, 1972, the president and members of his family were when in Baguio in summer of 1973. It was that time Marcos released P2 million for the improvement of the city’s water system as water shortage has been a perennial problem during tourist peak season in the city. 

Fear and anxiety that enve-loped the nation during the Martial Law regime was no match to the city’s temperate climate as Baguio has been chosen as the “home” of the Advertising Congress (AdCon) since the biggest and grandest conference of people in the marketing and advertising industry was first hosted in the city in October 1977. Baguio hosted the same event in 1979, 1983, 1989, 1995, 2003, and from Nov. 18 to 20 this year. 

Two years after the first hosting of the AdCon, this paper covered Baguio’s taking center stage in international sports events when the Baguio Convention Center was chosen as venue of the July World Chess Championship series between two Russian grandmasters: Anatoly Karpov and Victor Korchnoi.

Following the fall of the Marcos regime in February 1986, countless people from all walks of life extended their victory party in Baguio especially after news spread like wildfire that the mercury level here dropped to 9.1 degrees Celsius in March 1986.

Post 1990 killer quake era 
While there was no direct attribution that the city’s temperate climate played a critical role in reviving the city’s tourism and economy after the 1990 killer quake, the influx of students from many parts of the country purposely to study here helped revive the city’s devastated economy. The devastation caused by the killer quake to the major routes coming in and out of the city did not prevent thousands of students from finding their way to the city, which is also known as the education center north of Metro Manila. 

In an article written by a teacher in Baguio, she claimed weather was her number one reason why getting a Baguio education is all worth it. “No doubt, Baguio is the favorite summer getaway of people who are trying to skip the searing hot sun of the low-lying provinces. This blessing of the city has more value to students. Here are the following advantages: they can concentrate more on their studies since they feel fresh all day; they save money for air-con; and they can walk to school without soaking wet with perspiration,” reads the article which was published in the Baguio Day special issue of this paper in 2007. 

More than a decade after the killer quake, a health crisis hit the city in 2005, resulting in a tremendous slump in tourist arrivals that year until the early weeks of 2006. But the city’s economy and tourism sector immediately recovered, even after an advertising firm tried to depict Baguio as not safe from meningococcemia.

Since the slump of tourism in 2005, the City Tourism Office, however, reported that Baguio remains to be one of the preferred cities visited by local and foreign tourists posting an average of 1.7 million visitors coming to this mountain resort every year. 

But by some indications, Baguio is apparently losing its luster as prime summer tourist destination, apparently due to lack of new interesting events and places, as the city continues to sell itself the same way as it beckoned tourists for the past decades. A survey conducted by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio showed a steady decline in the last five years from a 90-percent occupancy of accommodation facilities to 79 percent during the Holy Week periods.

The reported “unfavorable” image of Baguio due to congestion, garbage problems, lack of environment care, and absence of new attractions greatly contributed to the decline in tourist arrivals in this mountain resort over the past five years. But noticeable in the survey of HRAB is that it did not indicate that tourists preferred other tourist destinations because the temperature is cooler than Baguio. This gives a good signal that Baguio remains to be a special place to visit
among tourists due to its temperate climate, which cannot be matched by any other tourist destinations at any given time of the year. 

Reports that Baguio is facing urban decay and environmental degradation ahead of its centennial celebration on Tuesday should not be taken lightly by concerned officials and residents because the city’s known appeal will become just a thing of the past if nothing is done to protect and preserve its natural grandeur. As advocates put it: Baguio must remain to be a place that takes tourists closer to its natural wonders, rather than destroy its nature to promote tourism and enhance the local economy.

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
:: Early recollections
:: 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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