US Embassy backs plans to preserve Baguio’s American-built heritage

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Baguio
The Mansion, built in 1908, is now the official summer residence of the President of the Philippines.

The US Embassy in Manila to work with Baguio City to preserve American-built heritage sites in the City of Pines.

In belatedly celebrating US Independence Day in Baguio yesterday (Friday, July 20) Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klecheski suggested the government could send their “best architects” for the initiative.

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During the celebration, Klecheski gave a talk entitled “Philippine-American relations and the influence of the Americans in the art and architecture of Baguio City”.

Klecheski remembered the important contributions of the Americans in Philippine arts and culture, particularly in Baguio City, which an American official had tagged the Summer Capital of the Philippines because of its cool climate.

The city is located approximately 1,540 metres above sea level in what the World Wide Fund calls the Luzon tropical pine forests ecoregion, “which also makes it conducive for the growth of mossy plants and orchids”.

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Baguio is nestled within the central Cordillera mountain range in northern Philippines.

The mountain city was established as a hill station by the Americans, starting with the construction of the Kennon Road in the 1900s.

Baguio’s city’s centre was also designed by American architect Daniel Burnham as a rest and recreation facility, the reason many of the roads are named after Americans.

Aside from Burnham Park, the Baguio Country Club, Camp John Hay, Teachers Camp, The Mansion, and other infrastructures were also built by the Americans after they saw the natural beauty of Baguio.

The Session Road got its name for being the venue of the first session of the second Philippine Commission in 1904.

Klecheski also said the US embassy would aid the city’s Mountain Province Museum, which houses artefacts from across the region.

“It brings diverse culture together, the influences of the different tribes, which America considers as very important. The legacy that keeps on living,” he said.

He also noted how American private companies, even the “powerful” ones, choose to invest in the Philippines, particularly in Baguio.

For example, the highland city is host to Texas Instruments, which is one of the country’s top exporters.

City Councilor Mylen Yaranon, who heads the committee on public works, said local government would be glad to partner with the Americans in preserving the structures and sites.

“This is also to make culture and creativity a driving force in the development of the city’s image,” she said.

With its diverse culture, Baguio was hailed as a “creative city” by the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its crafts and folk art.

Baguio Representative Mark Go was instrumental in the passage of a House Bill declaring Kennon Road a heritage site.

The bill, currently pending at the Senate, will allow funds to go into the rehabilitation of the historic road.

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