Tibaldo: Old Baguio remembered thru social media

Art Tibaldo

THOSE of us who grew up in Baguio in the early 60s and 70s remember many fun activities like watching carnivals at Burnham Park and riding those mini cars around the lake.

There is a reposted black and white postcard with an unusual title “Discovering the Old Philippines: People, Places, Heroes, Historical Events” showing the old skating rink with people on rollers and it is captioned: "Skating Craze Has Put Little Wheels Under Little People the World Around."

This evening scene in Baguio's Burnham Park symbolizes social change. The girl in front wears American-style slacks. Behind her comes a small boy, just learning. Baguio, high up in Luzon's mountains, is the summer capital of the Philippines." The postcard shared by Evelyn Domingo Barker is stamped 1940s.

Oscar Velasco has been sharing his digitally reconstructed image of old Baguio using architectural perspectives complete with stone walled edifices, Willy’s jeep, and open-sided Dangwa Tranco buses. Velasco often uses my 1980-90 images as basis and comparison and it is amazing how he is able to stitch images together to form a fog kissed colorful overview of Baguio reminiscent of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Velasco recalls the home of Hubert Phelps Whitmarsh who was the 1st Governor of Benguet appointed in 1900. The home was originally built as the Garden Theater, the 1st pre-war cinema. It was later converted as his home, destroyed during the carpet bombing in 1945. The ruins was the foundation of the Cafe by The Ruins.

Among the postcard-like images often shared is the verandah of the Baguio Country club that symbolizes the affluent lives of the once rich and famous residents and visitors of the city. Commenting on a photo shared by SunStar Publisher Peterey Bautista of a late afternoon sun-permeated veranda, Dr. Alexander Fangonil, praised saying “Very nostalgic and Happy 108th! Fangonil recalls viewing the green and starting golfers especially while having your breakfast at the famous BCC Verandah.

On a photo shared by Dr. Mary Margaret Acmor, Doc Fangonil commented: “Deja vu, the road to Santo Tomas how it looked like as we hike towards the rest house during our CYO days mid-50s. Fr. Cirilo will drive a jeep for tents and supplies for overnight stay, bonfire crackling thru the night with hot dogs and marshmallows, singing and story-telling...endless jokes and salidummays. The view at sunset and sunrise was so magnificent and indescribable. We descend midday for bus waiting near now Green Valley in the afternoon headed for downtown to Patria. Those were care-free days of our lives. Richard Tadena Macaraeg shared an image of a sculpture-like form of a fowl captioning it with “..creative legacy for being born and raised in Baguio City.... where I learned the trick of creating birds out of pine cones.”

When Jane Pangilinan shared an early evening scene at Dominical Hill showing the façade of the Diplomat Hotel captioned “Another day has ended..Good evening Kailyans! The Dominican Heritage Park”, more comments and revelations followed as to its history.

A netizen who uses Japanese characters shared a clipping that shows the image of Dominican priest Fr. Roque Ruano, a civil engineer from the University of Santo Tomas who is believed to have planned the earthquake-proof Dominican Vacation House or Dominican Castle and later Diplomat Hotel. The caption also says that the construction of said hotel was made between the years 1913 to 1915.

Natividad Cacdac believed that the monastery was bought by faith healer Tony Agpaoa who converted it into a hotel for his patients many of whom were foreigners but Doc Fangonil corrected her saying Malacañang leased Dominican Convent to Antonio Agpaoa who converted it to Diplomat Hotel in 1973 until he died in 1987.

Disused for more than a decade, the property was transferred to the city in 2005 which it developed and renamed: Baguio Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park at present. As to the whereabouts and last days of the once known faith healer, Doc Mary Acmor said Agpaoa had a hemorrhagic stroke and died at SLU Hospital Sacred Heart and she was the attending medical resident on duty when he breathed his last.

Recently in Baguio, Totem poles bearing the carved facial images of those who significantly helped the Baguio Museum in recent years were unveiled out of two dead pine trees at the museum grounds. The Totem poles bears the images of Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan and former mayors Bernardo Vergara, Peter Rey Bautista and Braulio Yaranon stalwart museum supporters Leonora San Agustin, Virginia de Guia, Cecile Afable, and Geraida Hamada who helped build and sustain the Baguio Museum.

This coming Friday, September 15, 2017, a new café will be soft-launched at No. 2, C. Arellano St., Gibraltar Rd and it will also showcase old photos contributed by Kevin Engel and his family who used to live in the city as missionaries. Rewind Cafe operated by Ma. Silvina Ang will also include some of my old Baguio photographic collections meanwhile that I am also contemplating to put up my own coffee shop.