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Which Baguio Centennial?
by Pablito Sanidad

On September 1st, we celebrate Baguio’s Centennial. To be more accurate, we mark the centennial of its charter. Sept. 1, 1909 is when Baguio was given a Charter by the Americans. That is the charter written by American jurist George Malcolm.

There is a big difference, however, between the centennial of the Charter and the centennial of Baguio itself. In fact, authors also make a distinction between Malcolm as the “Father of the Baguio Charter” and William Cameron Forbes as the “Father of Baguio.”

Baguio existed long before Sept. 1, 1909. That is why when we tell the Baguio story to my children, we do not start with 1909. We begin much earlier than that.

Once upon a time in 1846, the Spaniards established a Commandancia at La Trinidad in Benguet. The first Spanish Comandante was Guillermo de Galvey. His wife was Trinidad and that is how La Trinidad supposedly got its name.

With the Commandancia of 1846, Galvey organized Benguet into 31 rancherias. On Nov. 25, 1846, Pulito, who was from a place called Kafagway, became the first Kapitan of Benguet. Kafagway was the name of a large low-lying grassy area that had a shallow lake. That lake was the beginning of what you find in present-day Burnham Park.

As of 1846, Baguio, then still called Kafagway, marked its official beginning as a Spanish rancheria.

Years later and towards the end of the Spanish regime, there were but a few houses in Kafagway. Most of the land was owned by the family of the Ibaloi chieftain Mateo Cariño.

The presidencia (tribunal) was originally at Bagyiw (Bagyiu), in the house of Campulet at the top of what is now Tabacalera Road at the lower end of Guisad Valley. Mateo Cariño later transferred the presidencia from Bagyiw to Kafagway (also referred to as Califuguay) to his large house situated where the City Hall is now located.

The term Bagyiw gave Baguio its name. Bagyiw is the local word for the “moss” then abundant at the Guisad area. The Spaniards converted Bagyiw to “Baguio” and used it as the name of the rancheria. Just when exactly they did that, no one knows. It may simply have evolved by usage over time. If we only knew when exactly it was called Baguio that would be a good date to mark its baptism/centennial.

In 1896, the Philippine Revolution against Spain erupted. In July of 1899, Filipino rebel forces under Pedro Paterno arrived in La Trinidad. They drove away Antonio Bejar, the Spanish Commandante, and took over.

The Filipino revolutionary forces proclaimed Benguet as a province of the new Republic of the Philippines. Juan Cariño Oraa, the elder brother of Mateo, was made governor.

Mateo Cariño himself was designated presidente (mayor) of Baguio.

And so in July of 1899, Baguio became a legitimate and indigenous local government unit under an independent Philippine republic. Nationalists could argue that that should be when we reckon the real centennial of Baguio.

By comparison, we used to celebrate Independence Day on July 4. That is the day determined for us by the Americans. But we now celebrate it on June 12, because that is the day the Filipinos declared their Independence under Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898. That is the same independent government that established Baguio as an independent Filipino town in July 1899.

The Philippine Revolution was short-lived. Spain sold the Philippines to the Americans, and the Filipinos found they had a new master. In November of 1899, American troops arrived at La Trinidad looking for Pedro Paterno, Juan Cariño Oraa, Mateo Cariño, and their rebel followers.

The American troops assigned to come up to Benguet consisted of one cavalry unit and two infantry companies. The infantry companies commanded by Capt. Robert R. Rudd were composed of blacks (Afro-Americans).

Failing to find Paterno and the Cariños at La Trinidad, Capt. Rudd proceeded to Baguio to look for them. That was the first time that any American had set foot in Baguio. And so it is said that in 1899, the first American visitors of Baguio were not whites, but blacks.

The other recorded foreigner who preceded the Americans was Otto Scheerer, he was Caucasian and a German. Scheerer had been in Baguio since 1896 and had built a house in Kafagway. He welcomed the American arrival.

When the black soldiers first came to Baguio in 1899, accounts state that they found “one white man” (Scheerer), “30 Ibalois and 20 Ilocanos.” Which makes us wonder how some other people in Baguio today, who came from other areas, have the temerity to claim that their ancestors had been here “since time immemorial.”

The Americans under Capt. Rudd fell in love with Baguio. They decided to settle in the area and did not care that it belonged to Mateo Cariño. They would set up camp in what is now known as Camp John Hay. The US Supreme Court in a decision penned by Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes, would later rule that the land grabbed by the Americans, and where they built the city and Camp John Hay, belonged to Mateo Cariño. This shows that the first squatters and land-grabbers in Baguio were Americans. But that is another tragic story.

On November 22, 1900 the Americans passed Act No. 48 and established a civil government in Benguet. This was the first provincial civil government established under the American rule anywhere in the Philippines. The rancherias, Baguio among them, became townships.

And so in 1900, Baguio, the former Spanish rancheria, and former Filipino revolutionary town, became an Americanized township.

Act No. 48 made Baguio the capital of Benguet. Sioco Cariño, the son of Mateo Cariño, was appointed its president.

Civil government officially began to function on July 4, 1901. Baguio was the capital of Benguet from 1901 until August 21, 1916 when the capital was transferred to La Trinidad.

If we were to mark the real centennial of Baguio, which would it be?

Is it the 1846 Spanish rancheria of Kafagway?

Is it the 1899 Baguio town of the Filipino revolutionaryos under Emilio Aguinaldo and headed by Mateo Cariño?

Is it Nov. 22 1900 when Act No. 48 was passed officially making Baguio the Capital of Benguet?

Is it July 4, 1901 when the Baguio civil government officially began to function as an American township under Sioco Cariño?

But there is more to tell.

On June 1, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed a resolution officially making Baguio “The Summer Capital of the Archipelago.”

For it’s second session the following year, the Commission met in a building where the Baden Powell Hall is now located near the top of Session Road. A marker still marks the place. And because they held sessions there, the road leading to the place was called Session Road (previously called Campeo).

Personally, I tell my children that I prefer June 1, 1903 as the reckoning point of Baguio’s centennial. Not 1846, not 1899, not 1900 , not 1901, or even 1909.

1903 was when Baguio was recognized for what it really is (or used to be) – The Summer Capital of the Philippine Archipelago. Without belittling the work of Malcolm, to be officially recognized as the Summer Capital of the entire country is far more significant than being given a Charter as a city. Today, becoming a city is no big deal. Congress has created so many of them that they are a dime a dozen.

But there is only one Summer Capital of the Philippine Archipelago. And that was Baguio on June 1, 1903! That sets it apart from any and all other cities.

And it was also immediately after 1903 that things really started happening in Baguio to make it deserve the recognition as the Summer Capital of the Archipelago.

That Baguio would later be given a charter in September 1909 is anti-climactic. It was a belated paper formality that recognized an existing reality. Even before September 1909:

- The Camp (Ypit and Lubas to Mateo Cariño and his ancestors) established by black US soldiers, was named Camp John Hay and reserved for the U.S. Army (1903). The barracks and officers’ quarters would be completed in 1908.

- The plans for the center of Baguio had already been made by Daniel Burnham (1904). Burnham Park, a place previously called Minac, bears his name.

- The Kennon Road was already completed. On Jan. 29, 1905 Col. Kennon drove into Baguio in the first vehicle to arrive there over the Benguet Road that now bears his name.

- The Baguio Country Club was already organized (1905). The first clubhouse was built in 1906 at the place previously called Pidaoan.

- The first residential and business properties in the center of town had already been sold in public auction (May 28, 1906). 91 residential lots and 15 business lots were immediately purchased and occupied.

- Easter School had already opened its doors to its first Igorot students (1906).

- The Mansion House, the Teacher’s Camp (Orengao), and a hospital had already been built (1908). In fact, a sanitarium had previously been constructed as early as 1902 but became the Pines Hotel and is now SM.

- Camp Henry T. Allen (Cavaljureza) was already established by the Philippine Constabulary (1908) as the precursor to the present-day Philippine Military Academy.

- In March 1909, Brent School (Imadavong) was established by Bishop Charles Brent.

When I ask my children which date they prefer as the centennial reckoning of Baguio, there is no unanimity.

My sons, Sonnyboy and Boyblue prefer 1899. That is when it was proclaimed an independent Filipino town under an independent Philippine Republic. “If we celebrate Philippine Independence based on the June 12, 1898 proclamation of Emilio Aguinaldo, why would we not by the same token reckon Baguio’s centennial by using 1898 as its rightful beginning?” they argue. Indeed, 1899 has a romantic, revolutionary, and nationalist appeal.

My daughter Noelle prefers 1901, when Baguio began as an American township under Sioco Cariño. She says that present day Baguio is after all an American creation.

Significantly, none of my kids choose Sept. 1, 1909. Apparently, the charter anniversary does not impress them. My other daughter Sandra teases her siblings and says “none of the above.” My wife agrees with me (or is it the other way around) and prefers June 1, 1903.

Which do you prefer as Baguio’s true centennial?

Baguio is truly a “City With Many Centennials.” Sept. 1, 2009 is just the last of them. We allowed the other centennial dates to pass without much fanfare. We are now left only with Sept. 1, 2009. I guess we have no choice.

Cheers and Happy Charter Centennial!

Supplement Articles
:: 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
:: 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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