“Undawak shi Bagiw” is an Ibaloy phrase which simply means “I’m going to Baguio.” It is the classic answer to a little kid in the 60s whenever Papa walks to the central market from their house located in the Baguio suburbs.
Why is that so when the residential houses were inside Baguio boundaries surveyed by the American colonial government for the city charter of 1909? It is because the suburbs around the present central business district were not part of the Baguio townsite reservation that was established on April 12, 1912 and opened to public sale to Manileños or lowlander-businessmen.
Papa says “I’m going to Baguio” even while he resided in Busol, Parapad, Ambiong, Camdas or anywhere within the Lucban Valley that was inside Baguio but outside the townsite reservation. Same is true with Ibaloy old-timers in Pinsao, Long-long, Tam-awan, Tacay, Bokawkan that were within the Guisad Valley; those residing in Pacdal, Mines View, Camp 7, Loakan, Kias, Happy Hallow, Bakakeng, Asin Road, Santo Tomas Rd, or anywhere outside the central business district.
In an interview with the late former Baguio councilor, Eugene Pucay Sr., of Guisad that was reprinted as an article in “Stories and Voices of Bibak NC” in the Bibak Northern California magazine, the true-blue Baguio boy told stories about Baguio’s past and the experiences of the early Ibaloys who were pushed around to give way to the development of a forthcoming city.
The late Eugene Pucay, Sr. (1901-1992) was an Ibaloy elder appointed to the Baguio City Council in the mid-50s by President Ramon Magsaysay. He was a baseball player, active in the local Boy Scout Council, the brotherhood of the Masons, helped build the YMCA in Baguio, the Eastern Philippines Colleges (now the Baguio Central University) along Magsaysay Avenue and Bonifacio St.
From that interview, IP Councilor Pucay narrated why they moved out from the spot where he was born, where Sunshine Grocery now stands, to Guisad Valley that became their permanent residence. He said the Americans told them to move out from the center of the townsite reservation because “you have many animals and you are making the road dirty”. Apparently, the Americans were referring to the dirty and muddy Abanao road that was not even asphalted.
The Americans told the Ibaloys, “Alright, you get out of here and we will give you a place further away. That’s where you will live.” With the condescending and arrogant way the Americans said “get out of here!,” it appeared as if the colonizers had more entitlement or ownership over the lands in Baguio than the original Ibaloy settlers.
After the 10-year old Eugene Pucay, along with his parents and relatives moved out from Abanao in 1911, the Americans surveyed the lands in the outskirts and relocated the displaced Ibaloys. Sadly, after the Pucay family left Abanao, an American took over and put up a commercial establishment called the Benguet Store. It was plain and simple land grabbing by the Americans.
The article further noted that the Ibaloys “paid for the lands” that the colonial government surveyed as relocation sites. A simple case of double jeopardy or rubbing salt to injury as the Ibaloys were ordered to get out from their land in the center of the proposed city, then they were asked to buy the land where they would be relocated. The lots that they left behind were later improved and sold to lowlanders.
That is why the central business district, Gen. Luna, Mabini, Bonifacio, Magsaysay, Leonard Wood, South Drive, North Drive, Brent Road, Legarda, Kisad, Harrison, Kayang, Abanao, Session Road and Gov. Pack, to name some are now occupied by business establishments or vacation houses bought by early migrants from the Visayas, Manila, and even foreign businessmen such as Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese and Bombay.
Other historical accounts based on old documents showed that Ibaloy siblings Pinaoan and Piraso had a farmhouse between Abanao and Kayang, but the Americans drove them back to Lucban Valley. Likewise, the Carantes family moved from Session Road to Lucban.
There were other Igorots who maintained ownership of lands very near the center, one of whom was the Sepic family who owned grazing lands in the Campo Filipino area. They were also unceremoniously evicted by the Americans from their property and pushed further away from where city hall was built because prospective land buyers cannot stand the smell of animal manure.
Sepic was an Ibaloy farmer who tilled vegetable gardens from where the Maharlika building now stands to the Campo Filipino area and the Bureau of Plant Industry at Guisad. Mr. Pucay said in the article, when he was a councilor, he asked to name the road, “Sepic Road” but when he left, the city council renamed the road to “Roman Ayson,” after the name of a former city councilor. Dirty politics reared its head in exchange for historical fact.
Councilor Pucay described the right side of Session Road as planted with “coffee trees beginning from the market all the way to the top” where the Pines Hotel was later built on the left side. That was why the foot trail that was widened into a road parallel to Harrison and Session roads was named “Carantes Street.”
In an initial sale in 1901 before the Philippine Bill of 1902 (Act No. 926) was enacted by the US Congress, eight years prior to the Baguio Charter of 1909 before the establishment of the Baguio Townsite Reservation on April 12, 1912, Governor H.P. Whitmarsh of the Province of Benguet recognized the lands of Piraso and Salming on top of Session Road as “private property” and bought a portion for the construction of the Baguio-Pozorrubio road, now called Gov. Pack Rd.
The Sunshine Park and DOT offices fronting the Baguio City High School was where the first government building was built for the residence of the governor of Benguet. The UP Baguio area was a pastureland of Mateo Cariño’s family, going towards Camp John Hay.
The Burnham Park area was previously marshland where animals wallowed. The Americans later excavated it and developed it into a big concrete pond. In his account, the place where their relatives stayed near the swamp was called “Apdi”.
Councilor Pucay said, the spot at Abanao Road where the cement horses were built by sculpture-artist Ador Carantes as commissioned by then Mayor Jun Labo, was exactly the place where horses drank.
Mr. Pucay said, the present location of the city government’s offices was only a caballoreza where animals went for shelter during storms. But anyone who had animals drove them into the corrals. “The Cariños, since they had plenty of animals, built the corrals.”
History has to answer the question of who were settled in Baguio before the Muslim, Chinese, Spaniards and the Americans arrived, and get rid of false information that might be believed if repeatedly circulated, and not corrected.
This is important in order to put back on track the true history of Bagiw and its surrounding communities, especially its original occupants before the American colonizers set up a government. Certainly, other Northern Cordillera tribes were roaming around Baguio even before the city charter of 1909. By the way, traders from the lowlands and dog sellers from as far as Bontoc came earlier than the Kalanguyas as shown in some old pictures of the Baguio market taken prior to the city charter.
To justify their desire to build a city, the American colonizers drafted the charter which provided an impression of legitimacy. The charter document benefited the Americans and gave them a basis to “grab and sell” the lands to finance a fledgling local bureaucracy which we now call Baguio City.
Councilor Pucay narrated, “The Americans did not buy the territory, (referring to the Baguio area) but the Philippine government occupied (Bagiw) the City of Baguio and made it into a reservation. Until now the City Hall is a squatter. The City of Baguio has no land of its own. It is a reservation of 49 sq. kilometers.”
And even while the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA) was enacted to reconcile past differences and straighten past injustices, we still see LGU officials and government lawyers who are so full of themselves and who continue to prolong if not immortalize the agony inflicted on IPs.