The Beginning Of The Benguet Road Construction – A Walk in Baguio History
Before the discovery of Baguio, the Americans was in search for a place for their soldiers to recuperate. The Philippines, being a tropical country was too hot especially for those staying in the Philippines for a year or so. The constant heat sapped the energy of the American soldier and they suffered the effects of it. This is why the War Department of the Americans ordered that a soldier shall not serve more than two or three years and the soldier must return to America after his tour of duty.
The soldiers who were considered as “convalescing invalids” or a soldier/american recovering from illness or injury, were to travel back to America through Corregidor, China, Japan then to America to recuperate. Unfortunately, many of those who took the trip had their health condition worsen or at extreme cases it led to their death.
The Spanish occupants and the American occupants had the same problem, thus when the former discovered Baguio at the end of their occupation they focused upon the development of the place. Baguio was the perfect place for the Spaniards and Americans to recuperate, cool down and escape the torrid plains of the lowlands. As the foreign occupants described, Baguio is located at about 5000 feet above sea level and part of the mountain system of Northern Luzon. Its hills were studded with pine trees that gave its fragrant breeze as the wind blows from north, south, east and west. The temperature is cold and sometimes it experiences frost.
The first explorers documented that they were only able to reach Baguio through the slippery, rough and dangerous trails that were made by the Igorots. To make it more accessible, the Spaniards, at the turn of the century, built a horsetrail that connects Naguilian to Trinidad and Baguio.
At the onset of the American occupation Baguio can only be reached from Manila through a sea trip of about twenty-four hours to San Fernando La Union and Naguilian, then a two to three days horseback travel through the steep trail that were constructed by the Spaniards.
The situation remained the same for several years until an American volunteer seeking entrepreneurial opportunities found evidence that made Baguio and Benguet more valuable more than the cold weather…
To be continued…
Quotes and Data From: Memoirs of Baguio by Gutierrez, Wilson and Concepcion, 1960