Part One of Two Parts


THE LOURDES GROTTO

The Lourdes Grotto is another Catholic shrine and place of meditation in Baguio. It is located on a high hill in the western part of the city where you will find the image of the Lady of Lourdes. It is a favorite pilgrimage site during Holy Week most especially during Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Access to the top of the grotto could be made by climbing the 252 steps or by driving a light vehicle through a winding, narrow and steep asphalt-paved road. Devotees who go up to the grotto to pray usually light up a candle at an altar below the image. There are also vendors at the shrine who are willing to light up a candle for you and say a prayer for whatever personal intentions you might have.

As it is in many other similar shrines, the grotto was constructed to commemorate the numerous visions of the Virgin Mary by a 14-year old French girl named Bernadette Soubirous. This happened in 1858 from February 11 to July 16 in the town of Lourdes which is in southwestern France. The visions were declared authentic by the Pope in 1862 and this also led to the authorization of the cult of Our Lady of Lourdes.

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By following the road a little further up and behind the Grotto you will see a strip of Naguilian Road and a beautiful panoramic view of a part of the province of La Union. When the sky is clear Lingayen Gulf and portions of the province of Pangasinan are also visible. Since the fog usually comes in by about mid-afternoon, it is best to visit the place early in the morning especially if you want to take photographs.


CAMP JOHN HAY

Camp John Hay used to be the rest and recreational facility for employees of the military and Department of Defense of the United States. This 690-hectare property was turned over to the Philippine government in July 1, 1991 and was initially administered by the Philippine Tourism Authority and then turned over to the Bases Conversion Development.

The facility, which was named after U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt's secretary of war, was used by the Japanese as a concentration camp for American and British soldiers during the war. Its name was changed to Club John Hay after it was turned over to the Philippine government, however, it has since been called Camp John Hay once again. For the first time in its history the facility was open to the public in 1991 and converted into a recreational complex. It used to be off-limits to Filipinos, except for the privileged few who could get entry passes from its former American administrators.

Prior to its turnover to the Philippine government, there were 290 fully-furnished rooms in the different cottages, duplexes, apartments, and lodges which are distributed in different locations around the complex. It even had a "Honeymoon Cottage" which was rented out to newlyweds who come up to Baguio for their honeymoon. Some of these billeting units were equipped with color television sets, refrigerators, and cooking facilities. Each unit has a fireplace to keep you warm during the months of December, January and February when the weather in Baguio is quite chilly and cold.

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For those interested in playing golf, Camp John Hay has a 5,330-yard, 18-hole, par-68 golf course which is one of the best in the country. There is a new golf clubhouse which has a restaurant and function rooms that cater to golfers, visitors, and also the local residents of Baguio. The Manor Hotel, constructed on the old site of the Main Club, is one of the newest additions. Around the complex there are beautiful gardens, picnic areas, parks, an ampitheater, and hiking trails that wind through the rolling hills and pine trees within the former military reservation.


THE MANSION

The Mansion is located on the eastern part of the city along the Leonard Wood Road and right across from Wright Park. It was built in 1908 for U.S. governor-generals and was destroyed in 1945 during the battle for the liberation of the Philippines.

The Philippine government later rebuilt and improved the structure in 1947 and since then it has been used by various Philippine presidents whenever they come up to Baguio for their official visits and engagements. The Mansion served as the seat of the Second Session of Economic Commission of Asia and the Far East in 1947. It has also been the site of first meeting of the South East Asia Union which was popularly known as the Baguio Conference of 1950 which was conceived and convened by President Elpidio Quirino.

The elaborate main gate of the Mansion is said to be a replica of that at Buckingham Palace in London. Vehicles entering the compound pass through a great circular driveway and it is usually open only when the Mansion is used for an official function or activity. With its beautiful gardens and a well-manicured lawn, it is a favorite site for sightseeing and picture taking.

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Inside the Mansion is a mini museum housing memorabilia and works of art collected over its years of occupancy by the former presidents. Within the compound and adjacent to the Mansion is a two-story building which serves as the official residence of the Philippine President in Baguio City and nearby is a small amphitheater. A contingent of Philippine marines maintains the security of this large compound and you will see a some of them manning the guardhouse at the vicinity of the entry gate.


BAGUIO CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL

The rose-colored Baguio Catholic Cathedral, located on top of a hill in the heart of the city, is one of the more familiar and most visited landmarks of Baguio. This beautiful structure has twin spires and is one of the most photographed buildings in the city. From Session Road it is accessible by pedestrians who ascend a long concrete stairway of more than a hundred steps. Visitors and churchgoers who would rather avoid the difficult climb drive vehicles through an access road which passes behind the nearby post office building.

The construction of the cathedral by phases was begun on a hill which was originally referred to as "Kampo" by the native Ibalois. It was later called Mount Mary by a Belgian Catholic Mission headed by Fr. Carlu, CICM, who was then the parish priest. The cathedral was finally consecrated in 1936 and dedicated to Our Lady of Atonement. During World War II it became an evacuation center and withstood the Japanese carpet bombing of the city in 1945, thereby saving thousands of lives.

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The Baguio Cathedral is the biggest catholic church in Baguio and is the center of religious activities such as during the Holy Week when thousands of devotees from Metro Manila and the provinces come up to the city. During Sundays and other special holidays of the catholic church, you will find vendors along the stairway and also at the church's open patio selling flowers, balloons, newspapers, sweepstake tickets, candles, rosary beads, and other religious articles. Visitors desiring to visit Baguio on a tour should avoid coming up to the city during this religious week. Not only is the city crowded with people, it is difficult to find rooms in hotels and inns and the prices of native handicraft, souvenirs, vegetables, flowers, food, and other commodities & services are rather expensive. Its view deck at the cathedral is a favorite among visitors since it provides a panoramic view of the downtown commercial area, Burnham park, city hall, and Camp Allen.


PHILIPPINE MILITARY ACADEMY

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) is the premier military institution of the country and is the training ground for future officers of the Armed Forces of the Phillippines. It's mission is: "To instruct, train, and develop the cadets so that they will possess the character, the broad and basic military skills, and the education essential to the pursuit of a progressive military career."

In 1950, the Academy was transferred from its old site at Teacher's Camp to a sprawling 373-hectare compound in Loakan which is ten kilometers south of downtown Baguio City. Here it found its permanent home in a fort named after the young hero of the battle of Tirad Pass, Gen. Gregorio Del Pilar.

The Academy site was developed into an ideal military training institution with facilities and infrastructure required of a growing military institution. It's rigid and unique 4-year curriculum has been designed to fit the specific needs of the major branches of service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Just like military academies in the United States, female cadets have also been accepted by PMA since 1993.

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Fort Del Pilar is one of the most visited and photographed places in Baguio City. Local and foreign tourists visiting the city always make the Academy an important part of their itinerary. It is one place one must not miss to see when visiting the summer capital. The fort is usually open to visitors during the daylight hours seven days a week. A camera is a must to have when visiting the Academy especially during most Saturday mornings when the Cadet Corps undergo their outdoor inspection in ranks. A parade and review at Borromeo Field follows the inspection. It is here where you will witness the marching precision of the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of The Philippines.


THE BELL CHURCH

The Bell Church is located north of the downtown area of Baguio along the road leading to the town of La Trinidad, Benguet. Within its compound are intricately designed arches and buildings adorned with flags, bells and dragons. It has a pagoda, and beautifully landscapped gardens. There are some artifacts about Buddhism that you will find at the Bell Church as well as some literature about the history of China.

It is during the Spring Festival or what is more commonly known in the West as the Chinese New Year that local and foreign Chinese tourists flock to the Bell Church. Like all Chinese festivals, the date of the new year is determined by the lunar/solar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar. The observance of the holiday falls on a different date each year and it usually varies from late January to the middle of February. This Chinese public holiday is usually observed for 3 days although the festival traditionally starts with the new moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.

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It is on the sixth to the tenth day of the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year that the Chinese visit the temples to pray for good fortune and health. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair and it is a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration is traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors.

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