During their occupation of the Philippines, the Spanish colonizers conducted a series of expeditions, led by Juan Salcedo in 1572 and Don Q. M. Quirante in 1694 to the cool mountains of Benguet.
A series of failed attempts to conquer the natives were made until foothold was finally gained by Commandante de Galvey in 1846, when he was able to establish a commandancia or military garrison in a beautiful stretch of fertile flat land.
This he named after his wife, and is now known as La Trinidad. Galvey went on to establish the province of Benguet with 31 ‘rancherias’ (camps or rural settlements). The area known as Kafagway was then a small rancheria composed of about 20 houses. La Trinidad remains the capital of Benguet province to this date. The ‘presidentia’ (civil government) was first established in the Guisad Valley area. It was later moved to the present site of the Baguio City Hall.
One of the notable contributions of the Spanish era was the introduction of coffee, of the arabica variety, which is still grown in this area and known as Benguet coffee.
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When the Americans arrived in Baguio, after Spain ceded the entire Philippine islands to the United States of America for $20,000.00, they found the pine-covered hills and the cool heights ideal for retreats from the sweltering heat of the lowlands. In what was termed a “supreme feat of engineering” they carved Kennon Road from the mountains surrounding the Bued River Canyon, connecting Kafagway to the Pangasinan and Ilocos lowlands.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the war in the Pacific broke out and the Philippines, being the only colony of the United States, became a prime target. The Japanese bombed Baguio on December 8, 1941 and occupied it on December 27 of the same year, setting up their headquarters at Camp John Hay. However, the war eventually changed course and on September 3, 1945, General Yamashita formally surrendered to the Americans at the US Ambassador’s residence in Camp John Hay, after which, Baguio immediately set to the task of rehabilitation.
When the Philippines was granted independence in 1946, Baguio City resumed its role as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, with Camp John Hay being retained by the Americans under the RP-US Bases Agreement.
Today, the city is the seat of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), composed of the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Apayao and Mountain Province, and kept the monicker “Summer Capital of the Philippines.”