Thursday, December 27, 2007

Baguio

Every time I go to Baguio, I never fail to take a picture of the lion's head. It's such an icon of Baguio. Back in the early 80's, I recall that it was painted yellow. Then in the 90's, it was painted all black. It's still black but the hair is now gold/yellow. If you take Kennon road to Baguio, the lion's head greets you and informs you that you are almost there.

Though Kennon Road is the shortest and fastest route to Baguio, it can also be the most treacherous - especially during the rainy season. I always took the road for granted until I learned how much history is part of the construction of the road. I couldn't imagine that the road was built with the help of 1500 Japanese migrant workers. Now, I can't even imagine the Japanese coming to the Philippines to find employment! Here's the wikipedia entry that details the history of Kennon road and who it was named after.

"Kennon Road connects Baguio City with the town of Rosario, La Union in the Philippines. Finished in 1903, it was originally called the Benguet Road and was later named in honor of its builder, Col. Lyman Kennon of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with the help of the industrious Cordilleras and foreign workers. Coming from Manila or the provinces in the central plains of Luzon, it is the shortest route up to Baguio. Although Kennon is the shortest of the three major access roads, travel time is just as long as through the other two because of poor road conditions.

It usually takes an experienced commuter from 50 minutes to an hour to negotiate the 41.2-kilometer steep and winding climb by car. The upward climb reveals a picturesque view of the mountains, lush vegetation, and pine trees as you get closer to Baguio. A mountain river flows along a rocky canyon from the lofty heights, and following this course the road was cut above the river bed.

Kennon is a toll road and the tollgate is located about 2.5 kilometers from the junction at Rosario. The original road was a macadam telford-type road which was in the following years constructed into an all-weather asphalt roadway. Lately, some portions of Kennon Road have been replaced with concrete pavements. There are small settlements along the road, known as Camp 1 to 8 which were originally established by the original builders of the road.

Unknown to many is the fact that its initial construction way back in 1903 was cutting across the mountains of Benguet with the combined efforts of Filipinos, Americans and Japanese nationals. Aside from Filipino engineers and U.S. Army Engineers headed by Col. Lyman Kennon, one thousand five hundred Japanese immigrant workers persevered to accomplish the difficult road project. The Japanese workers contributed substantially in the construction effort until its completion in 1905. To carve out the road against river canyon walls, five hundred Japanese workers died while engaged in the project. By ratio, the toll of one Japanese life was sacrificed for every ninety meters of the road length.

Kennon Road is also one of the most hazardous roads in the country especially during the rainy seasons when most of the road accidents occur."

- Wikipedia

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