Baguio City’s cool climate and wide vistas make it popular with local and foreign visitors, especially during days when the temperature in low lying areas climb up to over 30 degrees C.
In hot, tropical Philippines, the city’s cooler than average temperature is a novelty and earned it the title of “summer capital” begining in 1903.
Baguio, which lies on a plateau 5,000 feet above sea level , is also blessed with sweeping views of the Cordillera mountain range in northern Luzon.
A mountainous terrain provides Baguio with natural tourist attractions like forests and watersheds as well as scenic mountain ranges.
One thing closely associated with Baguio is the Pinus Insularis (Benguet Pine), and the abundance of these trees in the area earned it the “City of Pines” label. Baguio is part of the Province of Benguet.
From its beginnings as a vast grassland, a grazing area for hundreds of herds of cattle, Baguio has transformed into an urban center with a technology hub, high-end hotels, and retail facilities for top imported and local brands.
In Spanish records, the very first mention of Baguio identify it as one of 31 rancherias, a minor rancheria of 20 houses, established by Spanish Commandante Guillermo D. Galvey in the late 19th century.
Baguio was a minor rancheria of the Commandancia put up by Galvey in a valley in Benguet in 1864. He named it La Trinidad after his wife, Trinidad de Galvey, Baguio City records showed.
The city’s early name was Kafagway and this later became Baguio, from the native word “Bag-iw” meaning moss.
When the Americans took over from the Spaniards, they established the first provincial government in Benguet and appointed a Canadian journalist, Hubert Phelps Whitmarsh, as governor.
In Baguio, among the very first things one notices are the foreign names, American in particular, of parks, streets, and other sites. Other memorabilias of that era include American colonial buildings and 50’s-themed diners within the city center.
This is because the Americans, when they first took possession of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war, put a premium on Baguio’s development because of its refreshing climate.
It was a renowned American architect, Daniel H. Burnham, who prepared the urban design for Baguio in the early 1900s, said its City Tourism Office. Burnham was tasked to create an urban plan for the city by William Cameron Forbes, who was appointed to the Philippine Commission in 1904. This plan was presented to then Secretary of War William Howard Taft who immediately approved it.
Baguio was declared the country’s “Summer Capital” on June 1, 1903 by the Philippine Commission. The declaration allowed the Americans to set aside funds for the construction of basic infrastructure in the city and undertake improvements to the Benguet Road.
The road, renamed Kennon Road after the engineer (Col. Lyman W. Kennon) who was instrumental in its completion, was started in 1901 and completed in 1905.
With the Philippine Commission further adopting Act 1963 in 1909 that transformed it into a chartered city, Baguio by 1913 had the amenities of a typical 20th century American city.
After it was reduced to rubble during World War II, there was tremendous effort to rebuild the city based on the Burnham plan. This was laid to waste during the killer earthquake of 1990.
Baguio’s spirit of community allowed it to reclaim its position as the country’s summer capital and position itself as the tourism mecca of the north.
As an urban center and the only city in the Cordillera, Baguio has also become the gateway to the Cordilleras and other wonders in Northern Luzon.
The city’s population is pegged at 318,676 based on the 2010 census. It has a very high literacy rate of 98 percent, according to the tourism office.
Baguio’s socio-cultural scene is enriched by a variety of ethno-linguistic groups that include the Ibalois, considered the original settlers, together with other Cordilleran groups such as the Bontocs, Kalingas, Ifugaos, and Kankanais and together they comprise about 10 percent of the population.
Tourism continues to flourish in the city, which now hosts state of the art telecommunication facilities, a wide range of accommodation types, and various transport services including air travel, bus lines, and other public utility vehicles.