Foreign and local migrants, the colonizers beginning with the Spaniards then the Americans, Japanese, the land speculators after the Second World War, and the squatters or “informal” settlers to put it more decently, were consistent in their observation – Baguio is a paradise.
It is a common perception among the old rich in Manila, wealthy political families, Davao businessmen, Cebu shipping magnates, the sugar barons in Bacolod, and the likes of them that they are not really that rich and famous if they do not own a house and lot in Baguio. That is why we, ordinary Baguio folks pass by big houses of foreign architecture and tall gates fronting the city’s main roads such as Leonard Wood, Upper Session, Kisad, Legarda, and even the roads below City Hall.
Some acquired these real properties through proper bidding processes while others just came up to Baguio with the readymade land titles that they could have bought from a corrupt land registration officer in Manila. That was sustained even after WWII until Martial Law and still continues as I write this article. With their certificates of title, the migrant land “awardees” arrived in the newly chartered city, pushing their weight around.
For the past 103 years on September 1, 1909, when the charter was first recognized by the American colonizers and migrant residents, the city’s founding anniversary was celebrated with government-sponsored activities, except during the first and second World Wars, and when the weather was uncooperative. But amid the annual charter celebrations, the Ibaloi who intrinsically possessed a withdrawn personality was innocently being eased out from his motherland through legal means. For the Ibalois, the signing of the Baguio City Charter marked the beginning of their land problems.
From that time on, the newly established authority in this upland paradise slowly began shoving the native occupants away from their dwellings built around the original market and barter center. The Ibaloi occupants of the area that is now the central business district left for the forested outskirts voluntarily, but with heavy hearts.
Based on written accounts, some of the occupants of Baguio’s central area were the descendants of Picnay and Dangvis, the daughter and son of one Apulog Mensi. Picnay married Pinaoan and bore children namely Molintas, Kalomis, Gumangan, Motal, Rafael, Sinagued and Simsim while Dangvis had a daughter Bayosa who married the illustrious Mateo Carino. Bayosa and Mateo bore nine children.
At one time, Mateo Carino was appointed by the Americans as the Headman or Presidente of Baguio. He was also the lead petitioner in a land case that was heard in a court of justice in the United States and won. This resulted in the framing of the “Carino Doctrine” that upholds the Native Title that recognizes the continuous and undisturbed occupation of indigenous tribes in a particular land as the basis for the eventual issuance of a land certificate to the actual occupants.
In the northwestern portion of the central market where the Camp Allen military reservation is now located, Piraso, the brother of Pinaoan had a house but was asked by the American planners to leave. According to his direct descendants, he reluctantly transferred to his “uma” garden where the Mabini Elementary School, Vallejo Hotel, DSWD, NBI and BIR buildings are now located. Piraso also served as a Headman of the Baguio area after Carino.
Beside Piraso’s land where the Baguio Fire Department is now located stood an animal storage house. Years before Baguio Judge Andrew Belit passed away, I interviewed the man who belonged to the Yaris family of Tuba. He said his grandparents were in fact the owner-occupants of the animal house that was later rebuilt to become the Baguio City Hall. They too relocated.
Fourth-generation direct descendants of Picnay also have a story to tell. They informed this writer that she was the original Ibaloi occupant of the areas where the Malcolm Square, Plaza, General Luna Road were built. The land was originally a vegetable garden cultivated by husband and wife Pinaoan and Picnay, and their children in the late 1890s before they were asked to leave which they did voluntarily, again with heavy hearts.
They transferred to the Teachers Camp – South Drive area where their children established residencies where barangays Gibraltar, Liteng, Maria Basa, Navy Base, Brookside, Rimando Road, Lucban Valley, Honeymoon-Holy Ghost, Pacdal and Bayan Park were later established. The Busol Mountain where siblings Kalomis, Gumangan, Rafael and Simsim lived was later declared by the American colonizers as a forest reserve in the 1920s that would of course, serve their gold and copper mining interests. Kalomis who married Inahel Lubos became one of the earliest Ibalois whose Busol settlement was recognized and surveyed by the American government.
The Carantes family descendants of siblings Kustacio of Loacan and Cuidno of Lucban, the sons of Apsan Carantes and Elen Lubos, reportedly owned the Session Road land up to the Pines Hotel. They finally established residence in the Lucban Valley. On the western side of Baguio from Guisad Valley, Quezon Hill, Tacay, Ferguson, Bokawkan Road, Pinsao to Irisan and Asin; the families of Camdas, Dalisdis, Osio, Amistad, Sinot and Pucay to name some, put up residence. These families that belonged to a clan were also uprooted and pushed further to the hills when the Bureau of Plant Industry was declared as a government reservation.
The Baguio land area was previously shared by Tuba and La Trinidad during the Spanish period. Proof of this was that landowners in the Northeastern part of Baguio from Mines View down to the Guisad Valley paid taxes to La Trinidad, while real properties from around Teachers Camp to the Loacan-PMA area paid taxes to Tuba. A descendant of the Carantes family in Loacan said that tax receipts written in Spanish show that their place is inside Tuba territory. He claimed that about half of the left side of the airport runway from East to West is within Tuba.
The Americans ruled Baguio by remote control after launching the city charter. It reportedly put up a city, originally as the rest and recreation center for mining and logging company officials and their workers, and for around 25,000 people. Although the American administrators knew that there would be substantial population increase by the original Ibaloi families, they also knew that sooner as the economy would expand, the land area would decrease correspondingly.
Adding insult to injury, famous Architect Daniel Burnham who designed the city, secured the lands in Baguio for the interest of the American and Filipino administrators who held office in Manila, and their rich client businessmen, by way of a master plan. The enactment of the City Charter on September 1, 1909, was the day Baguio began losing its lands to the wealthy migrant, the realtors, and scheming politicians. The “uprootal” of Ibaloi families from their occupied areas continues as illegal occupation by informal settlers is given more importance. Baguio is the lost paradise of the Ibalois, but paradise found for others.