April 13, 2024

An article published in the Dec. 3, 2023 issue of the Midland Courier based on a lecture series organized by the Baguio Heritage Foundation on Nov. 25 reported that lecturer, Professor Ian Morley wants to make the correction on the development of Baguio to dispel some misconceptions that might exist.
He pointed out that the development of Baguio as a Summer Capital during the American colonial period should not be entirely credited to American Arch. Daniel Burnham.
The design of the Pine City was made by Burnham based on ground surveys in 1905 carried out with his assistant, Pierce Anderson, shortly following his appointment by William H. Taft, the Secretary of War.
Although Taft’s first choice was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., he was a landscape architect and among his notable projects includes the establishment of the Yosemite National Parks and the Everglades.
Olmsted has declined the offer due to work pressures. Burnham was tasked to make urban designs for Manila and Baguio.
According to Robert Reed, in his book, “City of Pines – the origins of Baguio as a Colonial Hill Station and Regional Capital”, Burnham had only nine days for field work in Benguet.
As he was nearing 60 years, such a task would be extremely fatiguing for him. On his return to Chicago, Burnham did present the plan of Baguio to Secretary Taft on Oct. 5, 1905.
Burnham stated that his vision for Baguio as a new hill station and a Summer Capital is summarized by Reed: “The design of the new hill station was conditioned fundamentally by the paucity of level land within the urban reservation and by the rolling terrain which dominated the settlement site. These elements of topography would always contribute signi-ficantly to the scenic beauty of the mountain city. But on the other hand, they greatly restricted the options in planning a major business area and in sitting substantial building complexes for the municipal, provincial and national governments.”
Burnham recognized the role of Baguio as a hill station as well as a Summer Capital. In the former, in his survey, he allocated “one very large section of land for use as a sprawling army post sufficient to accommodate a number of large barracks, a hospital, service shops, an armory, officers’ quarters and a parade ground, tennis court, a golf course and other recreational facilities as well as a naval reservation of indeterminate use, including an executive mansion.”
As it was a colonial project, colonial bias was also built-in (i.e., segregation) such as the creation of separate enclave for high-ranking American civil servants and rich Filipinos (i.e., golf course in Camp Jay Hay and Baguio Country Club) and separate recreational facilities for Americans and Filipinos of moderate means (Burnham Park).
The appointment of William Cameroon Forbes as a member of the U.S. Philippine Commission and subsequently as governor-general from 1909 to 1913 facilitated the rapid development of Baguio as a hill station.
Forbes was an ardent supporter of the development of Baguio as a rest and recreational mountain enclave in the midst of tropical Philippines by facilitating the sale of lands to Americans and rich Filipinos as well as the provision of colonial funds to build the infrastructures of the city.
With the official adoption of Burnham’s plan (although rather incomplete as pointed out by Morley) as the design for Baguio under the U.S. Philippine Commission Act 1495, and to implement the plan, Burnham recommended fellow urban architect, William Parson and in 1905, he was hired by the colonial government to be the implementer.
In effect, he built Baguio as an urban settlement using the plan made by Burnham. Accordingly, most of the general plans of improvements sketches for 1909 and 1913 were carried out by Parsons based on additional survey and interpretation of Burnham’s City design.
Subsequent sketched plans for 1917 and 1928 were made by other architects based on Burnham and Parsons designs (e.g., Geoge Corner Fenhagen).
Parsons resigned in 1914 and left for the U.S.
Professor Morley rightly pointed out that Parsons was the person who raised the city from the ground by building the streets and buildings. Yet history was not generous in recognizing his significant contribution. Perhaps, this has to do with colonial politics; Burnham has powerful supporters like William Taft who was elected as the 27th president of the United States (1909-1913), and Forbes who ultimately was responsible for carrying out the Burnham plan.
The passing of Act 1495 on May 26, 1906 further strengthened the status of Burnham, making his plan a powerful blueprint for the organization of space within Baguio city, as pointed out by Reed.
Prof. Morley having underscored the contribution of William Parsons and other architects on the rise of Baguio as an urban settlement, Baguio historians need to integrate these historical narratives into the city’s history, pending further research.