There were very few distinct memories of my first climb to Baguio. I was still in early high school then and the Hale Bopp comet can be clearly seen, steadily streaking above the lighted hills of the city. I recall entering Baguio Cathedral on our first night and I remember thinking how different the church looked from the ones I’m familiar with in Manila.
The cathedral is painted in a light pink hue and sports a neo-gothic façade. The day was waning as we entered the church then; the blue hour ruled the sky and the temperature was dropping fast. A multitude of faithful was crammed inside its barrel-domed halls and I was somewhat relieved of the warmth exuded by the crowd.
The thing that impressed my young mind then were the wooden columns that supported the cathedral’s great ceiling. I’ve never seen such a thing in Manila where concrete was king. Chandeliers graciously hang above the nave and the windows were filled with colorful panes.
Fast forward a decade later and I’m back in Baguio City. It’s the first since my very first. And like a faithful pilgrim, one of the first places I visited was the city’s cathedral by the hill. Not much has changed since my high school days; it still looked as graceful as ever with it twin spires and perfect rose window. And yes, it is still as unabashedly pink as ever.
Fast forward half a decade more. It’s now 2012 and this was where my feet took me on my very first day in the city. I was looking for cheap breakfast fare but was hard-pressed finding one along Baguio’s main thoroughfares. I took the side streets and ended up right by the church plaza.
Baguio Cathedral does not looked as old is it really is though. Built in the 1920’s after the Catholic mission established by Belgian Missionaries, it stands on a hill formerly called kampo by the local Ibaloi’s. That hill has since been renamed Mount Mary and is now replete with café’s and boutiques. The area has one of the most beautiful panoramic view of the city.
A miracle has saved this church from the devastating bombing that carpeted Baguio City during the Second World War, in turn making it a sanctuary for the wounded. I was unaware that the area surrounding the church was also made as internment ground for the fatalities of the war; to think that I used to wander around the place alone on late afternoons.
The church can be accessed either through the thirst-inducing hundred-step stairwell from the lower Session Road or through a sloping hill at the upper portion of the same road. But if you want to cheat, you can also enter the mall right below the church and take the elevator to its top level, but where’s the fun in that?
The cathedral is officially named as the Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral. But for most people, it is simply Baguio Cathedral. The Baguio Cathedral, if I may say so. It is one of the city’s most recognizable icon and rightly so.
Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral
Address: Fr. Carlu Loop, Cathedral Hill, Baguio City
Telephone: (074) 424-7871 | (074) 442-4256
GPS Coordinates: 16.412766,120.598469
Click to view location on Google Maps