Taking a sentimental journey into the past by tracing spots where images were captured by departed loved ones can be exciting and revealing. One can find answers to question and get to learn unheralded bits and pieces of history.
Laine Strutton, a former US Peace Corps volunteer with a-PhD degree in Law & Society from NYU on research international politics flew in from Seoul, Korea on a personal journey to stand next to the spot where his grandfather stood in 1945. Morris Welch, a WW2 soldier with a mission took shots of Baguio in rubles after the carpet bombing of the upland city where a US military facility was stationed. A prominent shot of her granddad is that of cathedral next to a ruined postal office. Accordingly, she read my petition and articles on saving the Baguio Post Office and she wrote me about her planned pilgrimage and travel to Baguio. Helping her fulfill a personal journey was indeed an honor and privilege for me as this also help strengthen my cause in protecting Baguio’s historical sites.
Together with Monch David who has been chronicling the city’s transformation from a hill station to a mega city, we walked to places of interest to Laine like the Post Office, the Cathedral, the old stone market and Notre Dame de Chartres Hospital. We also brought her the Camp Henry T. Allen where a panoramic view of the city can still be framed amidst the structures that are racing for space. We drove to the Diplomat Hotel and climbed the old structure up to its roof deck.
Before thick fog finally settled in the area, we motored to the old Casa Vallejo for coffee under heavy rains. Next day after having met a lady professor from UP-College Baguio, we went to the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary for a gallery viewing of photos collected and mounted by local historian Erlyn Ruth Alcantara. We then found our way into a mini forest of pine trees, Japanese and Chinese bamboos that also featured replicas of ancient caves, clay and stoneworks that were partly built by a deaf mute friend. Along the trail, we saw artist Clemente Delim doing his usual maintenance rounds and I introduced him to Laine who did some friendly sign language.
After our morning walk at the nun’s place, we drove to the former John (Milton) Hay Air base where the Tiger of Malaya-Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita surrendered to the US government towards the end of World War-II. The facility was relinquished by the US government in 1992 but retains the US ambassador’s residence where officials formally accepted Yamashita’s surrender. I took a quick snap of Laine outside the closed gate for posterity and drove past the refurbished log cabins towards the Philippine Information Agency compound where she spent the rest of the day.
I left her on her own for hours as I went to meet my wife at the junction of Pugo, La Union so that Helen’s office mates from the Ilocos region need not have to bring her up to Baguio. I learned later that Laine trekked nearby areas such as the Botanical Garden, the Presidential Mansion and Wright Park. She eventually met my wife and daughters in succession when I toured her inside my media newseum, passed by Tam at the mall where she works and at the Baguio Country Club where Inah Felice serves as front desk attendant. We had dinner at the club together with my wife’s guest from Mindanao and at the veranda, we chanced upon Kidlat Tahimik, RP’s acclaimed father of Filipino Independent Filmmakers. Kidlat on his usual artsy talk showed Laine the “Igorotized” image of Steven Spielberg’s ET which was done by Clemente whom we met earlier at the eco-park.
I can say that she has more or less got what she wanted in her brief stay in Baguio. She saw my exhibit materials of WW2 that includes the Leyte Landing of General Douglas McArthur, the surrender of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita and the early Americans who were playing golf and having R&R at the old Country Club. I am sure that her brief experience in RP will be chronicled not only for her family members but for the rest of us in the global community as well. Her expressive gestures of appreciation and notes of gratitude may be too personal but I will always treasure the moment with her and my family.