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Baguio Heritage Foundation
Monin Muriera – Navarro

Interesting stories about Baguio
(Continued from last week)

Before we continue our journey into Baguio’s past, allow me to commend someone in the present.

At this time when people’s faith in the government is at its lowest, I met an employee at Baguio City Hall who offered a ray of light in the otherwise murky world of civil service. His name is Jun Salazar, supervisor of the Property Tax Division under the City Treasurer’s Office.

I was waiting for an employee to get a certificate of non-delinquency when Mr. Salazar approached me and asked what I needed, explaining that the employee in charge of certificates was running late. He then proceeded to help me, even buying the documentary stamps himself (with my money) and within minutes had the certificate ready.

I have experienced the “that’s-not-my-job” attitude and read all the unfavorable news about public servants lately, so finding someone like Mr. Salazar is like a breath of fresh air. His conduct is worthy of emulation by all those who work for the government.

Taken from the book, “The Philippines: Past and Present,” by Dean Worcester, member of the Philippine Commission (1900-1913), Secretary of the Interior (1901-1913):

“Continuing with the construction of Benguet Road (now Kennon Road) – “Its cost when finally ready for traffic was $1,961,847.05. Its length was 45 kilometers and 891 meters, of which 34 kilometers were in non-Christian territory. Some 10 kilometers of the remainder have since been incorporated in the first-class road system of the province of Pangasinan, as this part is chiefly used by the people of that province in shipping their agricultural products to Benguet, and in maintaining communication between their towns.

The additional cost of the road to date since it was first opened is $792,434, making its total cost to date $2,754,281.05. This includes not only the actual cost of maintenance, but very extensive improvements, such as the metalling of the road from the so-called zigzag to Baguio, the construction of five steel bridges, and the replacing of all the original bridges on the road and of all the original culverts except those made of concrete or masonry.

On my arrival in Benguet in 1901, I found that good progress had been made on the upper end of the road, which had penetrated for a short distance into the cañon proper without encountering any considerable obstacles.

On Oct. 15, 1901, the Commission stated in its annual report to the Secretary of War, “He has been much delayed by the difficulty of procuring the labor necessary for its early completion, and several months will yet elapse before it is finished!” They did!

On Aug. 20, 1901, Captain Meade was relieved, and Mr. N. M. Holmes was made engineer of the road.

On Feb. 3, 1902, a little sanitarium was opened in a small native house at Baguio. During the following July, I was sent to it as a patient, and while in Benguet again inspected the road which had been continued high up on the cañon wall to a point where, on a very steep mountain, a peculiar rock formation had been encountered at the very grass roots. This rock disintegrated rapidly under the action of the sun when exposed to it. Comparatively solid in the morning, it would crack to pieces and slide down the mountain side before night. A 60-foot cut had already been made into the precipitous mountain side, and the result was an unstable road-bed, hardly four feet in width, which threatened to go out at any moment.

Five rough cottages had meanwhile been constructed for the use of the commissioners, the lumber for them being sawed by hand on the ground. Boards had been nailed to frames as rapidly as they fell from the logs, and had shrunk to such an extent that a reasonably expert marksman might almost have thrown a cat by the tail through any one of the houses. At night they looked like the old-fashioned perforated tin lanterns, leaking light in a thousand places. These were the luxurious homes provided for the high officials of the government of which so much has been said!

We paid for them an annual rental amounting to 10 per cent of their cost, which had of course been excessively high on account of the necessity of packing everything used in them, except the lumber, up the Naguilian trail.”

“What we see and admire as the zigzag portion of Kennon Road was actually the result of a grave engineering error – a basic blunder where the lower portion of the road did not meet as it should with the upper section. But the Americans did not condemn this mistake – they glorified it. To paraphrase an old Tagalog maxim: “Bato na ginawang ginto.”

Next week: Humor from 1901.

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