December 1, 2023

(Editors’ note on the author: “This piece, reprinted on Sept. 1, 1968 issue of the Midland Courier, was authored by the late U.S. Justice George Malcolm, author of the Baguio charter and organizer of the original City Administration.)

A Filipino statesman in speeches on Philippine independence, was wont to utilize the phrase “Ayer, Hoy, y Mañana (Yesterday, Tomorrow.)

He was child at Gridiron Club gatherings on his obsession but only smiled enigmatically and went right on expounding his formula. So may I be permitted to simulate an article on Baguio into Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. In this connection, I have sadly to admit that I can speak with more authority on Baguio’s past than on the city as it is at present and should be in the future.

The Baguio of 1900-1910 had the makings of a future city. Nature’s contribution of towering peaks encrusted with pine trees and harboring mineral treasure was there.

The cool bracing climate made of Baguio an oasis in a sweltering tropical country. The old Baguio was beginning to display the outlines of the modern Baguio.

Landscape architect Daniel H. Burnham had laid out a careful plan for the future. The Kennon Road providing access had been completed despite Filipino criticism of the cost, which was many time the original estimate of $75,000.

MODERN-DAY BAGUIO — The Summer Capital celebrated its 114th charter day anniversary on Sept. 1, as this city designed for 25,000 population is facing an uphill bid to preserve and conserve the remaining forest covers amid the rapid urbanization for decades now. — Harley Palangchao

Session Road had become the Escolta of Baguio. The exotic market, the commodious Pines Hotel, the hospitable Baguio Country Club, magnificent Topside, and garden-like Camp John Hay were some of the landmarks which in fewer guise still exist.

To Baguio, the native Igorots had seen arrive a succession of Filipinos, Spaniards, and Americans. Among the latter were Governors William H. Taft and W. Cameron Forbes and Secretary of the Interior Dean C. Worsecter.

But along with the government elite also came men and women of lesser prominence who nonetheless were important figures. There were the teachers – Mrs. Kelly, for instance, with the children greeting everyone, “Good Morning, Mrs. Kelly.”

There were the rough prospectors like “Tex” Reavis, and the pioneer merchants such as H.P. Whitmarsh, and many others. Baguio’s population was uniquely cosmopolitan.

Baguio, governmentally, had advanced from a hill station in a small Igorot rancheria to a township. It the process it had become the Summer Capital of the Philippines.

It was up to me to take the available materials, and like an alchemist find a solvent which would transmute the elements constituting the place into a city – a city called Baguio, not for  a day, not for a year, but for all the tomorrows.

I cannot truthfully affirm that, on arriving in Baguio late on a rainy, cold night in July 1909 to make a preliminary survey, I was imbued with prophetic optimism. I had been 14 hours on the way via the “Sigue Dagupan” train, mule back, and a Stanley Streamer Stage.

Weary and dirty, I was taken to Engineer’s Hill and put up in a house occupied by District Engineer William H. Haube, who became my invaluable adviser and cicerone.

In the days following as I got around to confer with local citizens my enthusiasm returned. I could readily see, however, that there were problems not directly associated with the drafting of a charter.

For example, the obvious need for good roads induced me to spend my evenings devouring a book on highway construction and maintenance. When later I sponsored special assessments for the construction of streets and public works, a howl went up from property owners. We had also to keep out the land speculators by compelling improvements, and to ensure Baguio’s beauty by the regulation of billboards.

When the draft of the Baguio charter had been completed in Manila, Assistant Executive Secretary Thomas Cary Welch escorted me before the Philippine Commission.

The Governor-General tactfully suggested that probably Welch had work awaiting him in his office, and so I was left alone to sponsor my bill. Questions were readily answered by me but, when individual Commissioners proposed changes, I was estopped from debating the matter with them. The result was that conflicting provisions appeared in the bill.

Summoning my courage, the following day, I prepared a memo for the Governor General that pointed out the defected language.

Just as Governor Forbes had done when he simply instructed me “to make of Baguio a city”, he now told me to put the text of the charter in the form I desired and he would see to it that it was thus approved. This was done.

The Baguio charter was enacted as No. 1963 and took effect on Sept. 1, 1909. It was subsequently incorporated in the Administrative Code.

Appearing as a witness on behalf of my brainchild, I can do no better than emphasize the fundamental principles which governed the preparation of a workable charter for the City of Baguio.

It was stated that the Baguio charter was brief. It contained 32 sections in contrast to Manila’s 88, the Philippine Municipal Code’s 103, and New York’s 1,620.

It was stated next that the Baguio government was simple and inexpensive. The system was implemented by an appointive mayor, a full time job intended to be filled by a non-political engineer, and a small council made up of leading citizens.

OLD CITY HALL — John Tewell/Posted on Flickr on 09/13/2011

It was further stated that the Baguio charter made responsibility definite and certain. Local officials be readily picked out either for commendation or condemnation.

It was further stated that the Baguio charter was general and inclusive. While it was recognized that no basic law could be so framed as to avoid the necessity for amendments, nevertheless these could be held to a minimum.

For 50 years Baguio was governed by my charter without substantial changes.

The first mayor of Baguio designated by Governor General Forbes was E.W. Reynolds. He possessed no particular qualifications for the office for he was an assistant attorney in the Bureau of Justice who devoted himself to conveyancing, but was personally known to the Chief Executive. Reynolds remained in Baguio but a few months.

When the idea that the person filling the post of city mayor should be a qualified and non-political engineer finally penetrated the inner circle of the Philippine government, Engr. E. A. Eckman was named mayor of Baguio on Feb. 5, 1910. Successors were A. D. Williams, Charles S. Dandois, E.J. Halsema, and Sergio Bayan.

These mayors provided Baguio with a modified city manager form of government. They combined the technical training of the engineer with the skill of the efficiency expert. Halsema who held office longest – 17 years – became a part of Baguio. Bayan, the first Filipino to become mayor continued the efficiency of his predecessors.

The appointive councilors of Baguio included citizens ready to give their time to public service. Among them were a number of well known Constabulary officers.

Filipino members Pascual Pacis and Francisco R. Yandoc were elected in 1916. Still recalled by Baguio citizens are the names of Major E. Speth, U.S.O. retired, vice mayor before the war and of Captain J. J., the longtime chief of police.

The Baguio administration had the unwavering support of all the American Governor Generals and, after the inauguration of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, of Filipino President Manuel L. Quezon. This was essential. Otherwise, the intrusion of politics and of the personal whims of men high in authority would have served to embarrass and disrupt any city administration.

My personal interest in Baguio’s affairs continued. Exactly 25 years after I organized the City of Baguio, I helped celebrate the silver anniversary of its founding by preparing for enactment and editing the revised ordinances of the City of Baguio.

The art of codification was one familiar to me for on three separate occasions I had performed a similar service for the City of Manila. It only meant foregoing relaxation after presiding over special sessions of the Supreme Court to devote time without pay to Baguio.

Up to 1941, Baguio was the best governed municipality in the Philippines. It had won well-merited repute because of an efficient administration financially stable and divorced from politics. This was the pre-war Baguio.

Following the destruction of war and the moral trauma entailed, Baguio rose from its ashes to retrieve its splendor. This was a tribute to private initiative.

Of these recent triumphs and defeats others can speak with more authority than the writer. However, I do wish to point out that pre-war coordination between the central government was now lacking. Mayors came and went. Baguio became a political dumping ground. This is not to say that good men were not installed in the mayor’s office. They were, but were not left long enough in office, and were not afforded sufficient backing to enable them to give the city fruitful administrations.

President Manuel Roxas inaugurated one innovation. He appointed Dr. Jose Cariño of Igorot ancestry and a true native of Baguio, mayor of his natal city. Mayor Cariño served capably for four years until illness compelled him to retire.

In another respect, most evident in the post-war period but present throughout Baguio’s life as a city, was there was a breakdown in national policy. The original charter contained the following provision: “In consideration of the exemption from taxation of the extensive real-estate holdings of the Insular Government within the limits of the city, of the expense of improvements which the government of said city is required to make by reason of the location therein of offices of the Insular Government, and of free services in connection with said offices, there is created a permanent continuing appropriation from any funds in the Insular Treasury not otherwise appropriated, equal to fifty per cent of the expenses of the government of the city exclusive of  those amounts which appear as expenses by reason of inter-departmental changes and charges against the Insular Government for services and supplies.”

In practice, the “permanent continuing appropriation” was converted into annual amounts, as P100,000, or was entirely neglected. The Philippine government failed to keep faith in its contractual obligations to the City of Baguio.

Baguio can stand still or it can go forward. Baguio can simply muddle on if there is no unity of purpose between its citizens and the local administration and between its local administration and the national administration. Or Baguio can increase in population and wealth, can attract an ever increasing number of tourists, can focus attention on its many attraction, and can become a true second capital of the Philippines.

How can the citizenry help?

By personally keeping their homes and business establishments attractive, by influencing their clubs to engage in community service, and by voting into office the men and women best qualified and then focusing the spotlight of public opinion on their actuations.

How can the Baguio Chamber of Commerce help? By financing its own tourist bureau, by policing prices during “the season”, and by seeing to it that lowland visitors are hospitably welcomed.

How can the President and the Congress help? By making good on the appropriation committee, by naming and confirming non-political mayors if the present system be continued, and then giving the appointees unflinching support, and by not otherwise intruding on municipal autonomy, but on the contrary leaving the city free to manage its own affairs.

On the controversial question of whether the present modified city manager form of government should continue in Baguio or whether it should give way, as in Manila, to an elective mayor system, every person can have an opinion. Each party to the debate can make out a credible case. One side can stress efficiency and point to Baguio as a pre-war model city. The other side can stress more democracy and point to Manila’s experience.

My view?

I only desire to stress that either system can be made to function for the well-being of Baguio. As the poet long ago wrote “What’er is best administered is best.”

Baguio has been variously called the Switzerland of the Philippines, and somewhat similar physical geography makes apt the figure of speech; the Simla of the Philippines, the reference being to India’s famous mountain resort; the City of the Sky on account of location at over 5,000 feet above sea level; the Pines City because of the presence of pine trees; fancifully the Garden of the Gods, and the Summer Capital of the Republic, an appellation literally true. Each designation makes a point.

But to me, Baguio is a city of homes inhabited by contented and patriotic citizens, a health mecca for the people of the Philippine Islands, a true second capital of the Republic.

As the citizens of the City of Baguio join in celebration the 55th Golden jubilee of the founding of the city, an adopted son in far off Hollywood, stands at salute with hand over heart.