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Baguio Cathedral » One Tourist Attraction Not To Miss Around Baguio City

Photo of facade of Baguio Cathedral showing its twin spires
Not only is Baguio City one of the most charming cities in the Philippines, but many visitors express that side trips within the city are of even more interest than the city itself. The name Baguio of course conjures, for both the international and domestic traveler, a highland retreat in the Grand Cordillera in Northern Luzon, with pine trees, crisp cold breezes and low verdant knolls and hillocks. Among the many places of interest in Baguio, perhaps you would want to include a visit or make a quick stop at the Baguio Cathedral. If you like ecclesiastical architecture you will most assuredly find it worth your while to stop at this cathedral also known as Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral. 

Baguio City is now expanding with light industrial development but with the presence of the towering cathedral, the city manages to preserve its old charm. The richness and uniqueness of the cathedral’s façade and being built at the highest elevation of Session Road, makes it a noticeable centerpiece of the city’s main thoroughfare.

A little history

Painting of the Baguio Cathedral by German Frank Georg
Sketch of the Baguio Cathedral posted at the stairway by Frank Georg, a German landscaper volunteer who fell in love with the beauty of Baguio
The Baguio Cathedral is the biggest catholic church in Baguio and is the center of religious activities such as during the Holy Week. It is the only building left standing after American planes bombed the city to retake it from the Japanese Imperial Army, which made Baguio its military headquarters during World War II. 

Copy of the historical posted at the Baguio Cathedral to educate visitors
Baguio Cathedral historical marker
During that war, the cathedral also served as an evacuation center. It withstood the carpet-bombing of Baguio City in 1945. Many people died and the remains of thousands of bombing victims are interred within the grounds of the cathedral.

Locals believe it was a miracle that the cathedral survived after the city’s carpet bombing in 1945, saving thousands of lives.

The first chapel, which was dedicated to St. Patrick, was built in the heart of downtown Session Road before 1920 by missionaries of the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM or the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary). 

Tomb marker for the victims of World War II buried in Baguio Cathedral
TOMB MARKER AT THE BAGUIO CATHEDRAL GROUNDS Reads: "REQUIESCANT IN PACT: On these grounds were laid to rest the remains of victims of the carpet bombing of Baguio on March 15, 1945. Eternal rest grant to them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace."

The CICM relocated the chapel to the hill where the cathedral now stands. The hill was called “Kampo” by the Ibaloi people, but it was renamed “Mount Mary” by the Catholic mission led by the late Fr. Florimond Carlu, a Belgian missionary. 

Holy water font or stoup at the entrance of Baguio Cathedral
Little Angel: Holy water font or stoup at the entrance of Baguio Cathedral
Baguio Cathedral (Our Lady of the Atonement Cathedral) celebrated its 75th anniversary last June 2011, which is a milestone for one of the first structures to rise in the city after the American colonial government built Baguio more than 100 years ago. 

Distinct Features 

Full view of the Baguio Cathedral front towers against blue sky
Twin Towers of Repose and Order: The Cathedral with its Gothic architecture influence.
Details of the Baguio Cathedral showing roses and gothic architecture
Details of the church facade.
The Baguio Cathedral’s grand beauty lies on its Gothic architectural influence expressed most powerfully by its characteristics that appeals to the emotions through emphasis on verticality, lightness and flamboyant arches. 

Full archetectural details of the Baguio Cathedral
Horizontal details of the cathedral
Elements and Designs of the sides of Baguio Cathedral
Roses and Arches: Architectural details of the external side portion of the cathedral near the altar
The cathedral also reflects sense of balance, a perfect feature for this earthquake prone province. The church's elements are arranged in precisely the same manner on each side. The designs are duplicated on each towering spires shape by shape, size for size and tone for tone. The left hall of the church is identical with the right half which gives the feeling of repose and order.

Sun shining through the twin towers of Baguio Cathedral
The Towers and the Sun: The sun brightly shining as if giving its blessings to the church
Sadly, retro-fittings were made such as plastic canopies and a commercial parking lot within its grounds.   

Architectural details of the interior of the Baguio Cathedral
Details of the cathedral interior
Details of the altar showing its arched big dome and stained glass
The Cathedral's altar under a big dome and stained glass
Baguio Cathedral confessional
Confessional at the corner of the cathedral
Unlike other centuries old churches in the Philippines - usually characterized by gray bricks and large bell towers, the cathedral has a distinct pink facade with a rose window and twin square bell towers with pyramidal roofs. The twin spires make the Cathedral a conspicuous direction guide when exploring the city. This beautiful structure is also one of the most photographed buildings in the city. 

Two beggars sitting at the stairs going to the church
Sad scene at the steps going up to the cathedral
Within its large courtyard is a view deck that overlooks Session Road and the downtown commercial district of Baguio City. The cathedral is accessible to pedestrians from Session Road through a 100-step stone staircase, or through the adjacent campus of Saint Louis University.

How to get there 

The church is located at Cathedral Loop, adjacent to Session Road in Baguio City. From Session Road it is accessible to pedestrians who ascend long concrete stairways of more than a hundred steps, although cars may enter the Cathedral grounds quite easily via access roads behind the Baguio Post Ofice building.

If you do not feel like climbing more than a hundred steps to the Baguio Cathedral, an easy way to get there on foot from Session Road would be to climb the escalators at the CICM-owned Porta Vaga Shopping Mall, exiting at the top floor that leads to the Baguio Cathedral parking grounds. During Sundays and other special holidays of the catholic church, you will find vendors along the stairway and also at the church's open patio selling flowers, balloons, newspapers, sweepstake tickets, candles, rosary beads, and other religious articles. 

Visitors desiring to visit Baguio on a tour should avoid coming up to the city during this religious week. Not only is the city crowded with people, it is difficult to find rooms in hotels and inns and the prices of native handicraft, souvenirs, vegetables, flowers, food, and other commodities & services are rather expensive. 

Final Note

Ten commandments posted at the cathedral entrance
Yodi contemplating the Ten Commandments
Baguio Cathedral is downright astonishing - a must-see exhibit for anyone interested in churches and architecture and a bit of history. This structure is truly a beautiful example of Philippines' religious heritage that is steeped in the saga of our country's illustrious past. 

Be it war, famine, upheavals or natural disasters, Baguio Cathedral survived it all. So when visiting this wonderful landmark, bear in mind the incredible history of this church throughout time and the effect it had on so many lives ever since.

Parish information 

Classification 1—Cathedral (F-1907) 
Adress: Cathedral Hill, 2600 Baguio City, P.O. Box 55 
Tel No. 442-4256 
Population: 62,468; 
Catholics: 46,851 
Titular: Immaculate Heart of Mary Sunday after the Feast of the Sacred Heart Parish Priest: Most Rev. Sebastian Dalis, DD 
Parochial Vicars: Rev. Fr. Leon Dapiaoen 
                        Rev. Fr. David Ganggangan
References / Citations: [Retrieved: 30 Nov. 2012]
» Cabreza, Vincent. "Baguiocathedral celebrates 75th year"
» Baguio Cathedral. Wikipedia Article.
» Gothic Architecture. Wikipedia Article.


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