Into the Historical Core of Camp John Hay
When in Baguio you’ll never run out of places to visit. Even if it was my 5th time already in this city, there are still a lot of places that I’ve never been to. That’s why I always go back to this place. In fact the cold breeze alone is already enticing for me to visit this summer capital.
One of the major spots in Baguio City that I really love going to is Camp John Hay. The terrain, the pine trees, the mountain breeze and the woods-like vibe made me feel at ease and at home. A site where how I imagine vacationing in Baguio City is.
Camp John Hay is a major attraction in Baguio City. According to en.wikipedia.org, the camp was used as a rest and recreation spot for personnel and dependents of the United States Armed Forces and United States Department of Defense employees and their dependents.
It was in 1903 that the Camp John Hay was designed for the exclusive use of the US Military and Department of Defense in the Far East. Based on the short history written in gobaguio.com, the base which was named after U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of State, was also used by the Japanese as a concentration camp for American and British soldiers during WWII. It was also used as their military headquarters when General Yamashita moved up north from Manila towards the end of the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines.
It is said that this once rest and recreation facility of the U.S. Armed Forces is older than the city itself.
Now, the facilities in Camp John Hay serve as tourist attractions. Among its major attractions includes the golf course, several restaurants and shops, and few posh hotels.
The government retained some of the camp’s portion of the property since it has been in the hands of a private developer in 1997 and keep the Historical core featuring a museum, amphitheater, butterfly sanctuary and so much more.
The strong history of this former R&R facility is preserved through historical landmarks situated in the Historical Core. Honestly, I never thought that the history of the camp will interest me until I visited the Historical Core.
Our agenda for that afternoon is to visit the Cemetery of Negativism in Camp John Hay and White House in Leonard Wood road. I actually didn’t know that kind of cemetery exists until I read it from Mica’s blog. The site is just a walk away from our hotel, 10 minutes walk as an estimate.
The Cemetery of Negativism is part of the Historical Core which has an entrance fee to be paid. I’m not really fond of history but since I really like to see the cemetery; and also the entrance fee isn’t that expensive at all, less than a hundred peso I think, we gave in and took a time to learn something new about Baguio City. We paid the fees, then a guide joined us as she discuss and show something about each of the landmarks that we’ll be visiting to.
A site inside Camp John Hay wherein a replica of the Statue of Liberty, the endearing symbol of American Heritage, can be found.
Well one of my travel dreams is to see the very famous Statue of Liberty in person. Well that’s far from becoming a reality for now; so seeing a replica of it would suffice for the meantime.
Cemetery of Negativism
The cemetery is also known as The Lost Cemetery or Pet Cemetery as others would like to call it. The cemetery was designed by then Base Commander Major John High-tower.
This place is said to be the indicative burial place of negativism, said to be man’s greatest self-imposed pain, his most limiting factor, and his heaviest distress.
It is said that as you visit the place, you will be able to leave the negativity in the hill and be more positive for the rest of your life.
Though this place is called a cemetery; there are no actual pets or animals buried here. Each tomb is just a representation of the negativity. And as you walk along the path and see each epitaph, you’ll be amazed how each of it has been named.
Panagbenga Flower and Totem Pole
Two significant structures can also be found inside the historical core which symbolizes the culture and face of leadership in Baguio City. One is the big sun flower which represents the festivity in Baguio City, Panagbenga Festival (pronounce as panag-bunga) which is being held every February. The other one is the totem pole, carved by Ernesto Dul-ang. The pole is a wood sculpture of human heads put on-top-of-the-other. These are the men who shaped the development of Baguio.
The theater was designed by and named in honor of General J. Franklin Bell, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1906 to 1910.
The structure serves an area for good acoustics and venue for concerts and other performances. One surprising fact that our guide told us about the theater is when you get inside the gazebo (or center stage if it’s more appropriate to call it), your voice can be heard as far as from the entrance area of the theater.
Our guide informed us that this theater can be rented and set up as a venue for weddings and other events. Isn’t it romantic to have your wedding on a place surrounded by flowers and pine trees?
After visiting some spots outside we finally went inside the Bell house which I was eyeing of getting into since we got inside the Historical core ground. The house was also named in honor of General J. Franklin Bell. It was originally the vacation quarters of the Commanding General of the Philippines. It is said that it was General Bell who basically converted Camp John Hay into a major military resort.
Now, its purpose is a modern museum of colonial architecture and lifestyle. A portrait of John Milton Hay can be found at the center of the living area, while the walls enhance images of the history of Camp John Hay.
A library can also be found at right side of the house which was closed that time.
The bell house was structure in design of a typical American house. There’s a living room, kitchen and three bedrooms. Each rooms has its chimney. Aside from the chimney, what I love about the house is the veranda that surrounds the house. This is where visitors can hang out if there are big parties and events being held in the house.
Upon seeing the sections of this house, I’d like to have my future house to look like this, designed as a typical American house.
The garden is said to be a hidden place for General Bell wherein he goes to this place to do some things which I already forgot; maybe to feel at peace and make some quiet time (sorry for not taking notes; drop some comments if you know why).
Anyway, the secret garden is approximately 5 minutes walk from the Bell House. Upon reaching the site, you’ll see a gazebo which serves as a view deck to the mountains covered at the end of the ridge.
The trail is a walk of the 100-year history of Camp John Hay. The turning path along the flower beds has history boards that show the accounts of Camp John Hay’s story. For a short break, picnic tables are available in the area.
Would you believe that the image at the upper right corner of the photo above is the actual Kennon Road years ago?
Well, take a walk at the history trail to know more of the history not only about Camp John Hay but on some of the landmarks in Baguio City as well.
Getting into the historical core of Camp John Hay didn’t take us to the history alone but also gave us the strong mind and affection to appreciate and learn the history.
It was already nearing 4:00 PM when we finished the tour, we haven’t had our lunch yet and we still have places to cover before it gets dark. I wanted to go to the White House as it has an open house event that time but since my friends want to go to Good Shepherds to buy some items to take home; we went there first and hoping that White House will still be open afterwards. After buying some delicacies to take home, we went to PNKY Cafe for our super late lunch which is just situated across the White House. It was already 5:00 PM then and unfortunately the White was already closed. So we just had our time at the cafe and tasted the meals on this travel themed restaurant.
Camp John Hay Historical Core
John Hay Management Corporation
John Hay Special Economic Zone
Camp John Hay
Baguio City 2600, Philippines