The United States (US) Embassy will soon be opening the Ambassador’s Residence basted at the former American military base in the city, Camp John Hay (CJH) for the learning experience of the Filipino youth for them to be fully aware of the iron-clad friendship and unshakable alliance between the Us and the Philippines for over a century now.
US Ambassador Mary Kay Carlson told reporters at the Ambassador’s Residence here that she already requested a team from the embassy to look into the possibility of opening the Ambassador’s Residence to schools for the learning experience of their students, especially on the country’s rich history and the steadfast relationship between the two countries.
The US enjoy pointed out that it is important for the youth to learn and understand the iron-clad and steadfast relationship between the US and the Philippines for them to be able to share similar stories to the future generations for them to better appreciate the importance of having established such a relationship over a century.
Ambassador Carlson likened Camp John hay to her hometown in Little Rock, Arkansas but the only difference is that CJH has majestic mountains unlike in her place that it has only lofty hills to speak off and that the common between the two sites are the pines.
“We are exploring ways to open this residence to regular visitors. We are all emerging from the pandemic and we are all ready to get started,” Ambassador Carlson told guests during the belated celebration of the 247th US Independence Day that was supposedly to be celebrated on July 45h.
The first civilian governor-General of the Philippines William Howard Taft sought for a summer retreat after he was reportedly oppressed by the heat of Manila. Eventually his staff recommended the cool, pine-covered upper cordillera mountains in Northern Luzon as a retreat for the summer months The temperate climate of the mountains, located at an altitude of more than 5,000 feet above sea level, offered a refreshing change from the heat and humidity of Manila and on June 1, 1902, the legislature passed a resolution adopting Baguio as the Us government’s Summer Capital of the archipelago.
Taft then invited the American Arch. Daniel Burnham to develop a city plan for Baguio where the latter graciously accepted the commission and, drawing heavily from the principles of the ‘City Beautiful Movement,’ provided a plan that incorporated large public parks into its design, allowed for future development and took advantage of the unique features of the site.
Further, the US military contributed heavily to the development of Baguio when it established camp John Hay in 1903 as a rest and relaxation destination for troops in the country. As the town grew, it attracted government, military and civilian officials in the Philippines, who soon used it all year long to escape the heat and humidity of manila.
Along with the growth of Baguio, an official summer residence for the US Governor general was built and called Mansion House. When the Philippine government was established in 1935, the US governor-general vacated both Malacanang Palace in Manila and Mansion House in Baguio for the new commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon.
The American authority during the traditional period of the Commonwealth, which was to last 10 years, was called the High commissioner. To provide offices and living quarters for the US Higher Commissioner, US Congress appropriated $850,000 for the construction of buildings in Manila and Baguio. In Manila, the site selected for the High Commission office-residence was 17.14 acres of reclaimed land located near the center of community activity and overlooking Manila Bay.
For the Baguio residence, the site was a 78-acre parcel of land on the highest point in camp John nay overlooking the cordillera mountains.
US government architects in Washington, D.C. designed both buildings with the Baguio residence smaller in scale and without staff offices.
The construction contract for the US High commission in Manila was awarded to the locally-based Marsman Building Corporation while the Baguio residence contract went to an American firm from Jacksonville, Florida, H.R. Goyke Company.
The 2-storey Baguio residence, completed in 1940, constructed principally from reinforced concrete and is a mixture of traditional southern plantation and streamlined modern styles typically of the late 1930s. Today, its stately façade is softened at intervals by carefully pruned bougainvilleas that climb up to the second story windows and display their bright fuchsia flowers throughout the year. The façade, with its white columns and formal entrance way, face a dense groove of all Baguio pines and is surrounded by carefully manicured flower beds.
The circular drive frames a tall flagpole flying the American flag and the US embassy seal is prominently mounted over the entrance portico.
Inside the residence, there are seven bedrooms upstairs and separate suites for the ambassador and deputy chief of mission. A dining room, library and narra-paneled living room and library with large fireplaces complete the house. The kitchen still retains its original art deco design elements in the cabinet features and black and white checkered tile flooring.
Formal decoration and furnishing in both the living and dining rooms present a dignified venue for various embassy functions held throughout the year. Behind the house, an open terrace surrounded by flower beds and a long covered veranda provide spectacular views of the distant mountains.
On September 3, 1945, gen. Tomoyoki Yamashita formally signed his deed of surrender before ranking American and British generals inside the ambassador’s Residence after he was captured in kaingin, Ifugao on September 2, 1945.