October 7, 2022

The Shakespearean adage, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” can be likened to how Baguio City, through the years, has acquired several monikers to describe what it is to many people.  

Baguio has been known for many names like the “Summer Capital”, “City of Pines”, educational center, arts hub of the north, Character City, honeymoon capital, wedding destination in the north, sports hub of the north, Unesco creative city for folk arts and crafts, and Smart City, among other identities.

BREATHE BAGUIO — With Baguio City’s cool weather, tourists donned their bonnets and jackets around Burnham Park. Through the years, the city has created tourism programs for sustainable and responsible tourism, including the ‘walk happy Baguio’ initiative that encourages tourists to walk around the city. — Ofelia Empian

This 113th charter anniversary of Baguio, it is fitting to look back at these monikers to see how far the city has become.

FLORAL FEASTS — Prior to the pandemic, Panagbenga is Baguio City’s biggest annual crowd drawing activity, which helped generate income for the city. Here during 2018 festival, the float of the recently-ended TV series, “Ang Probinsiyano” generated the most frenzied reaction from the crowd owing to lead actor Coco Martin. — Ofelia Empian

Summer Capital

On June 1, 1903, the Ame-rican-led Philippine Commission voted unanimously to declare Baguio as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines”.

The resolution of the U.S. Philippine Commission declared the policy: “to make the town of Baguio, in the province of Benguet, the summer capital of the archipelago, and to construct suitable buildings, to secure suitable transportation, to secure proper water supply and to make residence in Baguio possible.”

A hundred years later in 2003, this name was officially celebrated by the city, calling the commemoration as the “centennial year of the declaration of Baguio City as the Summer Capital of the Philippines”, according to Resolution 301, s. 2002.

The resolution stated there is a need for the commemoration as a “means of paying homage to the multi-racial contributors to Baguio’s genesis as a bustling tourism locale.”

However, the commemoration was not sustained in the coming years.

Along with the name Summer Capital is another moniker, City of Pines, owing to the rows of pine trees, the smell wafting in the air, as one walks by even at the city center. But the scent of pine has dissipated in recent years due to the population boom that has turned the grassy marshland into residential and commercial areas.

UNIVERSITY BELT — As a highly-urbanized city, Baguio City has been recognized as the center of education in North Luzon owing to the presence of several universities that have produced the best students nationwide as well as professionals in their chosen fields. The city’s economy also benefited from the students who made the city their second home. — Ofelia Empian

Educational center of the north

Baguio City, based on Philippine history, had catered to the first public elementary school in the country, which is the Baguio Central School (BCS) established in 1899.

Educator Arlito Pecay writes that BCS opened as a one-room school in a house owned by the great Ibaloy chieftain Mateo Cariño, who later donated his two-hectare land to the city government. 

The school had reeds (rono) and tall grass (cogon) roof, rough-hewn wood for walls and floor and was built low on the ground. About 25 boys, mostly Igorots, made up the first class with a certain “Mr. Patrick” from the American Armed Forces as the teacher, according to an article written by Pecay in 2015 that was published in the defunct Sun.Star Baguio.

There is also the establishment of Teachers’ Camp in 1908, a vacation camp area for American teachers and school staff from all over the country.

What followed is the establishment of Saint Louis University through the missionary work of the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM, or the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) in 1911.

After World War II, Baguio has seen the birth of other higher learning institutions that started as vocational schools. The first born of which is the Centro Academy in 1945, now called the Baguio Central University; Baguio Colleges Foundation now the University of the Cordilleras in 1946; and the Baguio Technology now University of Baguio in 1948.

Other schools followed, such as University of the Philippines Baguio in 1961 and Pines City Doctors Hospital in 1969, the latter was the first private nursing school in Baguio.

All these pioneering higher learning institutions paved the way for the establishment of other schools, making Baguio City earn its moniker as the “educational center of the north”, even at par with the best schools in the National Capital Region.

Over the past decades, these institutions produced graduates who topped in national board and Bar examinations.

Former Education secretary Leonor Briones once said that Baguio has been regarded historically for producing academicians, intellectuals, and professionals in various fields.

This has prompted education officials to convince the national government to establish the National Educators Academy of the Philippines (NEAP)-Baguio Training Center at Teachers’ Camp in 1985 and has currently undergone structural facelift.

Students from all over the country and overseas make the city’s economy vibrant, as they spent for accommodation, food, transport, and other services this city has to offer while completing their studies here. Through the years, Trancoville, Brookside, Aurora Hill, and the whole stretch of Bonifacio St. is lined with various shops and accommodation facilities for students.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has caused others to go back home, leaving their boarding houses which have become their temporary homes, thousands are now trooping back to the city for in-person classes.

Allen Sarmiento, a beautician, said business is good prior to the pandemic, as many students have become their suki.

“They make us fix their hair or nails before the opening of classes. After they have enrolled, whatever money was left were spent in our parlor,” Sarmiento said.   

Many shops along the university belt have slowly closed during the pandemic, though some are now opening up with the full implementation of in-person classes.

Arts hub

There never was a shortage of creative people in Baguio. One need not look far as the Sunday closure of Session Road highlights the various talents and skills the people of the city have – from street musicians, mimes, visual artists using the street as canvas, artisans plying their wares, and so much more.

Back in 1987, a year after the ouster of former President Ferdinand Marcos, those that escaped the tyrannical rule came back to Baguio, among them were the founding members of Baguio Arts Guild (BAG). 

These included notable names of contemporary artists such as National Artist for Visual Art Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera, who returned from London; mixed media artist and Baguio-boy Santiago Bose, who stayed in New York for seven years; and National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik, who had roamed Europe for years.    

With the country fresh from the freedom it regained, these frontrunners have found themselves creating a new form of expression, combining it with the rich ethnic culture and traditions of the Cordillera with Baguio’s cosmopolitan landscape as their backdrop.   

BAG, considered the oldest artists’ group in the country, has quickly established itself and attracted young and established artists who wanted to explore their potentials but were not able to have formal art education.

From BAG came other artists groups, such as Tam-awan Artists Group, which was responsible for developing the Tam-awan Village and bringing tourists in the outskirts of Baguio.

The latest artists group to be established is the Pasakalye Group of Artists that included a mixture of young and old artists from the Cordillera.

The inscription in 2017 of Baguio by Unesco as one of the Creative Cities Network for Crafts and Folk Arts category also put the city in the world’s map of artistic places to be.   

Prime wedding destination

Baguio is also being promoted as a “honeymooners’ haven” and “wedding destination” in the country.

The temperate climate and foggy ambience in the morning and afternoon became a backdrop for many couples during their intimate weddings.

Celebrities who held celebrated their union in this mountain resort include Charlene Gonzales and Aga Muhlach, singer Sitti Navarro and Joey Ramirez, and the latest was Tokyo Olympics weightlifting gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz and Julius Naranjo. 

To highlight the city as a wedding destination, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio during its Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Week in 2007 mounted the largest wedding cake that fed countless residents and tourists alike.

The event was repeated in 2012 with a 20-foot, three-ton chocolate cake with 16,000 slices and in 2018 with a four-tiered and 24-foot cake. These events were coupled with mass weddings for the full effect in drumming up the city’s reputation as a wedding and honeymoon capital.

There was also a proposal in 2019 to establish Baguio as a “honeymooner’s haven” and declare it a wedding destination of the north through an ordinance. Under the proposal, all hotels were advised to prepare a “honeymooner’s wedding package” with an incentive given to hotel operators who are supportive of the program. 

The proposed ordinance only hurdled first reading.

WORLD-CLASS ATHLETES — Since the ‘70s, Baguio City has been a part of the training ground of national pool of athletes prior to their international stints due to the city’s high elevation that helps in their strengthening and conditioning. While on training here, the athletes were also given scholarship, particularly by the University of Baguio, such as the four boxing Olympians, silver medalists Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, bronze medalist Eumir Marcial, and finalist Irish Magno, who were also recognized by the City Government of Baguio for their feat. — Ofelia Empian

Sports hub of the north

Even before Filipino boxing legend and former senator Manny Pacquiao set foot in this city for his high-altitude training where cameras closely followed him wherever he jogged in the city, notable national athletes had already conducted training here since the ‘70s.

The Gintong Alay Project of the national government has brought multi-medalists in athletics like Erlinda Lavandia (who eventually made Baguio her home), long-jumper Elma Muros, and many others to train in the city. 

“In a sense, Baguio became a national training facility at the Teachers’ Camp. When we were in high school in the ‘70s, we used to see (Asia’s long distance queen) Lydia de Vega running at the Tartan track at the Baguio Teachers’ Camp,” said sports journalist Pigeon Lobien.

The national athletes under athletics still train in Baguio while kickboxing and Muay Thai split their training areas in Baguio and in La Trinidad, Benguet.

Of course, Southeast Asia’s premiere mixed martial arts group Team Lakay also had its humble beginnings with its fighters training at Mt. Sto. Tomas in Tuba, Benguet; Burnham Park; Camp John Hay, Teacher’s Camp, Lourdes Grotto, and elsewhere in the city and nearby La Trinidad, Benguet using available materials.

Despite the lack of training facilities for the Team Lakay fighters, these highland warriors became champions in several international mixed martial arts promotions, a proof that this is home to world champions even the fanciest training facility and equipment.

“There must be something in Baguio’s air,” was the common phrase mentioned by sports commentators and journalists, as to why Team Lakay is now known worldwide.

It must also be the same air breathed by the country’s Olympian boxers – silver medalists Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, bronze medalist Eumir Marcial, and finalist Irish Magno, who earlier received recognition from the city government and their school, University of Baguio, for their historic achievement in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Smart City

Not only is Baguio a keeper of Cordillera culture, but it also wants to become a vanguard of a forward-looking city.

In Sept. 10, 2021, the city government inaugurated the P200-million Smart City command center funded by the Office of the President.

The command center uses state-of-the-art Cisco technology that will revolutionize how the city manages its critical assets, increase capacity to prevent and respond to emergencies and disasters, preserve the environment, speed up government services, improve social and health systems and protect lives and properties.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the city government will be able to govern efficiently by gathering data to identify problems, analyze problems and solve problems in real-time.

Magalong boasted of the use of data science and artificial intelligence in monitoring and building predictive models for various environmental factors in Baguio, helping it to become a smart city.

Character City

In 2003, the city council approved a resolution designating the city of Baguio as a “Character City.” The resolution also launched a citywide initiative to encourage character building in schools, businesses, churches, city government, media, community groups and families as well as “urging the leaders of each of these jurisdictions to support and contribute to this noble endeavor.”

The resolution states Baguio recognizes the importance of honorable character qualities based upon moral standards.

“We desire to build upon our heritage by making our city a place where families are strong, homes and streets are safe, education is effective, business is productive, neighbors care for one another, and citizens are free to make wise choices for their lives and families,” it stated.

Prior to the resolution, a prime example of Baguio being a character city are its honest taxi drivers, who will promptly return to the rightful owners items left by passengers in their units. It is only hoped the tradition of honesty continues on, as Baguio moves forward with the changing times.

HIGH ELEVATION TRAINING — Baguio City and Benguet have been known to produce quality football athletes that went on to join the national pool of athletes owing to their high elevation training in the highlands. Here, the healthy rivalry between the Baguio and Benguet football teams were witnessed during the Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic Association games at the Melvin Jones Park, where the two teams eventually merged to represent the region at the Palarong Pambansa. — Ofelia Empian

Challenges ahead

Along with these beautiful sounding names given to Baguio is the responsibility that comes with it.

When Baguio finally opened its doors to tourism after a series of lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was like opening the floodgates of a dam. Many tourists fulfilled the stringent requirements and were willing to line up for hours, undergo swab tests – just to feel the cool breeze in the city. They wouldn’t mind going shoulder to shoulder with other tourists while taking a stroll at Burnham Park.  

It was witnessing what the forefathers that built this mountain resort meant it to be – a place of relief from the sweltering heat of the lowlands, a place of relaxation, and recreation and a place where anyone can just be. 

For many tourists, Baguio is a memorable place to be. But for the more than 360,000 residents and neighboring residents, it is a place they call home, where at the end of the long day, they hope to rest and have their recreation too.

Challenges ahead

Along with these beautiful sounding names given to Baguio is the responsibility that comes with it.

When Baguio finally opened its doors to tourism after a series of lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was like opening the floodgates of a dam. Many tourists fulfilled the stringent requirements and were willing to line up for hours, undergo swab tests – just to feel the cool breeze in the city. They wouldn’t mind going shoulder to shoulder with other tourists while taking a stroll at Burnham Park.  

It was witnessing what the forefathers that built this mountain resort meant it to be – a place of relief from the sweltering heat of the lowlands, a place of relaxation, and recreation and a place where anyone can just be. 

For many tourists, Baguio is a memorable place to be. But for the more than 360,000 residents and neighboring residents, it is a place they call home, where at the end of the long day, they hope to rest and have their recreation too.