HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 46 no. 1 - 4 (2000)

Baguio Between Two Wars:The Creation and Destruction of a Summer Capital

Erlyn Ruth E. Alcantara

Discipline: History



Baguio’s creation defies simple classification given the singular nature of its historical generation.1 Its unique political and cultural role has set it apart from other colonial towns in the Philippines.


The year 1901 was a year of destruction and savagery as American troops waged a relentless offensive against Filipino revolutionaries. For the new colonial government, 1901 was also a year of creation and new conquest. As the Philippine-American War raged, the new colonists started to build the mountain road to Baguio. This paper aims to present how the Americans, at the height of a war, exerted its colonial power and secured resources for the creation of a mountain resort intended for insular officials and military troops.


This paper shall also present how the creation of Baguio fit into a much larger colonial scheme. From the vantage of the military, it could have served as an American heartland in case of a lowland rebellion.2 Moreover, its bracing climate and its salubrious environment was ideal for troops renewing their strength3 and thus reduced the expense of transporting them to the U.S. More significantly, however, Baguio’s proximity to  the Benguet gold district proved extremely fortuitous4, further enhancing its merits as a hill station. By building the Benguet (Kennon) road to Baguio, the Americans also brought themselves closer to the famed Igorot gold mines that the Spanish colonists so coveted.


Baguio’s location, however, also attracted its own ruin. In December 1941, the rest and recreation resort of the U.S. military camp at Camp John Hay6 in Baguio became the first target of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines. This bombing raid, only five hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, signaled the beginning of World War II in the Pacific. Four years later, the presence of Japanese Headquarters in Baguio made the city an obvious target for the US Air Corps. Between January and March 1945, successive raids battered the city.