June 21, 2024

Walking has become an imposition of these Covid-19 times, but if you take time to enjoy the view, you might appreciate what the different groups and artists in Baguio have thought of to entertain you with their writings on the walls.
Here are some enjoyable stops to punctuate your climb up the stairs on both sides of the Porta Vaga mall.
At Porta Vaga, the stairs have become more useful because the elevators have suddenly become aversive enclosures. This piece begins with at the mezzanine stop of the elevator from the supermarket. It was a pleasant surprise seeing the five old photographs of city landmarks that gave me a breather.
The exhibit titled, “Our History, Our Treasure,” is sponsored by the Baguio Heritage Foundation, Inc. with different agencies and educational institutions.
Sometimes it is good to see what this city looked like long before we were born, particularly the Baguio Cathedral which literally sits atop Session Road. This iconic structure represents the Belgian missionaries, Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM), who were among the first to Christianize these parts of the Cordillera mountains and named the church after Our Lady of Atonement. The structure has remained since its construction that started in the 1920s and World War II when the Americans and the Japanese bombed the city.
Session Road which is named after the first session of the national government held at the Baden Powel Hall along Gov. Pack Road when the American officials relocated here to avoid the heat of Manila. In the photograph only the U NEED grocery remains to date. The city market is now an assembly of buildings and Malcolm Square no longer a bus depot.
The Baguio City Post Office has been choked by the adjuncts of commercial stalls and parked vehicles. This landmark also survived the bombs of World War II. The former busy center for mail and parcels is now a commercial center apart from housing some offices of the Department of Transportation if I am not mistaken.
The Baguio General Hospital was just one building that was reconstructed after WW II and renamed as BGH and Medical Center after it became a tertiary hospital. The Americans recovering from malaria in the lowlands was the reason why Dr. Eugene Stafford built the sanatorium which was located along Gov. Pack Rd. before its transfer to the present site.
Burnham Park is not recognizable if not for the lake. This lake was an overground water table for the livestock of the former pioneer Ibaloy residents. This continues to serve as a respite from the hustle and bustle of the central business district after American Arch. Daniel Burnham of Chicago designed the city sometime in 1904. This is the central axis that radiates from this focal point which has the City Hall in the north and the Baguio Convention Center at south side to outer points extending to The Mansion and Ambuklao Road. This is perhaps the reason why all roads lead to Burnham Park.
On the other end of Porta Vaga is another set of stairs where the works of Tor Sagun, a young cartoonist has been placed on the landings with chairs for those who need to sit between climbing up to the upper floors. Cartoon characters garbed in native Cordillera costumes and described in short literature on the sides make the short stop pleasant. For years, this exhibit has made the stops interesting.
On the fourth-floor stop, the Bontocs are described as the ethnolinguistic group who live beside the upper Chico River in central Mountain Province. They used to practice headhunting and are known to have impressive body tattoos, according to the literature.
On the third-floor landing, the Kalingas are described as the ethnolinguistic group occupying the middle and lower Chico River areas. The bodong system or peace pact is unique to this group that used to settle disputes among villages through the clans or kinships forging settlements through fines and penalties determined by the elders. They are known as “peacocks” for their ornate native wear.
On the second floor, the Ibaloy who live in the southern part of Benguet are agrarian. They are perceived as reticent, hence, the phrase, ‘shy mango.’ They celebrate the Bendiyan festival where the dance involves the whole community and at times the affluent families perform the ‘peshit’, a thanksgiving feast.
The mezzanine has the Gaddangs who live at the boundaries of Cagayan Valley. They are groups found in the southeastern areas of Mountain Province and Kalinga who enjoy farming, hunting, and fishing. According to the literature, they used to live in treehouses and dance the ‘turayen’ which imitates birds attracted to tobacco shrubs.
The first floor has the Kankana-ey who live in the western parts of Mountain Province and northern Benguet and southern Ilocos. The ‘tayaw’ is the major dance for celebration, ‘pattong’ to drive away the evil spirits, and the ‘takik’ for weddings.
The kadangyans or nobles are located on the landing who are of higher status in the villages. They have bigger land and livestock possessions. They are said to be generous in the community. They are also said to be adorned in beads, headdress, necklaces, orchids, and earrings.
These cartoons by Sagud are from his book, Igorotak, which is a glimpse of the Cordillera heritage.
These are the many images that help make the climb up the stairs a little easier and more pleasant. Porta Vaga accommodates photography of local hobbyists at times who use the open spaces for their best pieces.
Enjoy the steps and take time to enjoy the writings on the walls at Porta Vaga.