The pine trees that gave the city its moniker have rapidly disappeared from Baguio, and the bracing scents of nature are now overpowered by toxic fumes from jeepneys and buses crowding the traffic-choked streets. The trees on the mountain slopes in the nation’s summer capital have been replaced with houses and flimsy makeshift homes.
So Malacañang probably thinks it won’t make much of a difference if 32 more trees, from two to four meters tall, would be cut down in what used to be known as the Cordillera House, to make way for an extension office of the presidential executive secretary.
The sprawling Mansion House, used by presidents, sits just across the Cordillera House. Earlier this year, the Office of the Executive Secretary decided that the decades-old Cordillera House, now used by the Philippine Information Agency, should be converted into a multi-story structure and turned over to the OES.
Baguio residents prefer to have the old Cordillera House restored and declared by the city government as a historical site that deserves to be preserved as a local heritage. The Cordillera House served as official residence of priest-turned-rebel Conrado Balweg, who led the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army before becoming head of the Cordillera Bodong Administration.
That peace effort was a success, and the structure can be turned into a museum dedicated to the struggle for autonomy of the Cordillera people. So far, however, Malacañang officials appear bent on pushing ahead with the renovation beginning early next year.
The National Historical Commission is urging the city government to declare the Cordillera House a local heritage site that deserves preservation. Baguio City has already lost many of its unique attractions. This is one house that is worth saving.