To the north of Luzon lies the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio City. It’s a mountainous resort set deep in the pine forests that blends together traditional hill tribe culture with the modernity bought in from settlers moving in from the lowlands. Baguio, established in 1900 by the Americans is popular in the summertime, owing to the cooler climate it offers during peak season (courtesy of being situated 5,050ft above sea level). The City of Baguio is a university town with a population of 345,366; but who among them have found fame, fortune and international recognition?
It was a pair of truly stunning left hooks, launched in the opening round, that dropped Mexico’s “Battling Torres” to the floor at LA’s Dodger Stadium in 1963 (causing the ref to stop the fight at precisely 2 minutes and 7 seconds). From then on, Baguio’s favourite son, Roberto de la Cruz, would be able to call himself the WBA Light Welterweight Champion of the World. Cruz, fighting outside the Philippines for the first time, returned home to a hero’s welcome but sadly lost his first (and, as it would turn out, only) title defence when he was beaten by American Eddie Perkins two years later in Manilla. Born in Baguio in November of 1941, Cruz fought professionally for 13 years from 1955 to 1968 when he fought his last-ever fight in Angeles City, losing to Fel Pedranza in the third round. During his career he also won the Philippines Games & Amusement Board (GAB) Featherweight title.
In film, the man dubbed the Godfather of the Filipino New Wave, Kidlat Tahimik, also hails from Baguio. Tahimik, whose Tagalog name translates as Quiet Lightning, made his movie debut in 1977 with the semi-autobiographical Perfumed Nightmare, which is the tale of a cab driver who grows bored with life and becomes infatuated with the idea of space exploration. Born as Eric de Guia in 1942, Tahimik, who worked briefly with Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Herzog, relocated to Paris, where he worked as an economist before acquiring his first camera in Germany. Essentially casting aside everything he had studied and worked towards, he set about following his real dream, much like the protagonist in his directorial debut. In 1974, he made is acting debut when Herzog cast him in The Enigma of Kasper Hauser, where he featured as the nose-flute-playing village chief.
Another famous name from Baguio is Michael Lingbanan Avelino, commonly known as “Paulo”. Paulo, who also goes by the nickname Prince of Philippine Teleserye”, is a very famous face in the Philippines, starring in 20 films, working on television, pop singing and looking glam as a model. He has also won a string of awards for his work and has dated a host of the Philippines’ most famous ladies, including Ethan Akio, Jennica Garcia, KC Concepcion, Aljur Abrenica, Jewel Mische, and LJ Reyes (with whom he has a son). He is currently dating the Filipino-Australian model Jodie Elizabeth Tarasek. Paulo found his fame when, at the age of 18, he won the reality TV talent search series StarStruck, after which he has barely been off the TV or out of the papers.
One lady Avelino hasn’t dated yet is the Baguio beauty, and former Miss International 2016, Kylie Verzosa. Verzosa represented the Philippines at the event held in Japan that year, becoming the sixth Filipino girl to win it. One year earlier, Verzosa came in twelfth at the national pageant The Binibining Pilipinas, but would go on to win it in 2016 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City before heading off to Japan to win the international event.
But it’s not just these four whom the city can be proud of. Professional poker player Lester Edoc also hails from Baguio and is among the game’s most popular players, not only in the Philippines, but also across Asia. Edoc started young; he played the Filipino game Kara y Krus in his early days before coming of age and heading to Manilla to study the game he would later play for a living. Literally broke and sleeping on the sofas of the Metro Casino, he was spotted by a regular who later staked him in his first big tournament, which he won. From there, he would regularly return to the Metro to learn from the greats of the game until he was ready to turn professional. Now, he has almost half a million dollars in the bank and recently won a ticket to a high-roller game in the Bahamas next winter worth $8 million, which would take his earnings to a whole new level. So, you see, there are plenty of people from Baguio City who have found fame and fortune across the Philippines or further afield, making their nation’s summer capital proud as they do so.