Let's Go to Baguio (Part 4): A Refreshing Stop at Baguio Cathedral

A Refreshing Stop in Our Lady of the Atonement (Baguio Cathedral)

After of our satisfying lunch at the Session Road branch of Jollibee; me, My Beloved Wife Lei, and our toddlers Samuel and Samantha went next to the nearby Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral or more popularly known as the Baguio Cathedral.

Baguio Cathedral

The cathedral is located on the hill and one of the highest points of Baguio City. Its location is the former site of the Ibaloi settlement of Kampo, which means “camp” in English. The Ibalois and the tribes of the Cordilleras had been resisting colonization since the Spanish times so it is not surprising that the Ibalois built a camp atop a hill.



Being on top of the hill means that we have to walk up and fight the pull of gravity. In short, we had to climb this steep stairs from Session Road.

Stairs to Baguio Cathedral

Our ascent was slow because of the toddlers. We had to be careful lest there will be accident.

Good thing that there are interesting posters at the sides like this drawing of Baguio Cathedral…

Sketch of Baguio Cathedral

...and Baguio’s Sunday Market scene in 1915.

Baguio Sunday Market in 1915

Of course, there are religious posters like the ones about the Holy Rosary…

The Joyful Mysteries in Baguio Cathedral

...and my favorite poster that shows St. Michael the Archangel subduing the Dragon.

St. Michael Vanquishing the Devil by Frank Georg

Most of the drawings were made by Frank Georg. I thought that he is a painter who lived during the American Period. Well, I was wrong. He is a German painter and landscaper who moved in to Baguio in 1996. This German fell in love with Baguio City and he volunteered to beautify the city. He was responsible for sprucing up of the gardens of Baguio City Hall, the Post Office park and the center island leading to Burnham Park. He also donated most of his artworks to the City Government. Frank is a foreigner but a Baguio citizen at heart.

Stairs of Baguio Cathedral

It was an exhausting climb! I felt hungry again after all the effort. I counted 104 steps. We discovered later that there is an elevator in the mall fronting the cathedral and we needn’t climb the stairs.

Well, my tiredness were immediately forgotten the moment I saw the majestic Baguio Cathedral up close.

Baguio Cathedral

It was quiet inside the cathedral and there few people at that time. It was the perfect time to pray. My daughter, meanwhile, thought that the cathedral is the perfect place for sleeping so she fell asleep in no time. We let Samantha sleep for a while while me and Lei took turns in touring the cathedral.

Inside Baguio Cathedral

Baguio Cathedral is the see (or headquarters) of Diocese of Baguio and is the grandest of all the churches in the Cordilleras. Its beautiful altar is the proof of this.

Baguio Cathedral Altar

The altar features golden images of two angels holding a golden crown over a small image of the crucified Jesus. I think that the statue says that Jesus Christ is still the King even at the time of His crucifixion.

Tabernacle of Baguio Cathedral

The stained glass windows behind the altar adds to the majesty of this cathedral.

Baguio Cathedral was placed under the patronage of Mama Mary under in her title as Our Lady of Atonement. Her image is featured at the facade of Baguio Cathedral.

Baguio Cathedral

Baguio Cathedral is of neo-Gothic architectural style. Its facade, which is decorated with stained glass windows, and its twin spires made the cathedral one of the most photographed tourist attraction in Baguio.

Baguio Cathedral

The twin spires of Baguio Cathedral reminds me of the twin-spired Immaculate Conception Cathedral located in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Baguio Cathedral History


Baguio Cathedral is relatively new compared to other cathedrals in Northern Luzon. The construction of this cathedral was finished in 1936, which is already during the American Colonial Period. The reason for this is that the Spaniards failed to subdue the Igorots during their 300+ years rule in the Philippines. Their military operations, using the lowlanders as soldiers, were not fruitful.  Even the missionaries failed to convert the majority of Igorots to the Faith. Igorot's resistance to missionary efforts culminated with the beheading of Fr. Agustin Nino, the friar of Baratao which is now Bauang, La Union.

Jesus on the Cross (Baguio Cathedral)

The coming of the Americans opened the of the Philippines for Protestant proselytizers. The Americans subdued the Igorots using education and many of these educators are White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASP).  The Catholic Church was also in dire straits during the early years of the American Period and was still reeling to successive wars that rocked the country: the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War. Many Spanish friars were killed by the mostly anti-Church Katipuneros of Andres Bonifacio. Some Catholic priests joined the schismatic Aglipayan Church. The situation is quite dire that only one priest was left to serve that spiritual needs of some 20,000 faithfuls in the whole of Cordillera.

First CICM Missionaries in Baguio and Cordilleras
The first CICM missionaries in the Philippines (source: CICM Philippines)

The situation in the Philippine Church was so dire that Rome called for missionaries to save its outpost in Southeast Asia. The call was answered by 11 missionaries from the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM) or the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Three of  the 11 missionaries went to Baguio City in November 16, 1907. They are Rev. Fr. Oktaaf Vandelwalle, Fr. Serafin Devesse, and Fr. Henry Verbeck.One. They were welcomed by a retired treasurer named Mr. Petrelli, whose house is located along Session Road. Mr. Petrelli's house was transformed into a chapel and was dedicated to St. Patrick. They also built a convent and a school for boys, which eventually became St. Louis University. Fr. Devesse became the first rector of this missionary outpost in Baguio.

CICM in the Cordilleras
CICM missionaries in the Cordilleras (source: CICM Philippines)

Fr. Florimond Carlu, who was appointed as the rector of the Baguio mission in 1913, enlarged the chapel for four times but the great number of people attending mass prompted him to build a big church on top of the hill called Kampo by the Ibalois. Rev. Fr. Leo Valdemans, an architect and engineer, drafted the plan for Baguio Cathedral while Fr. Adolph Cansse served as civil engineer. Funds for the project was donated by Fr Paul Watson, who wholeheartedly gave $12. Two CICM missionaries and 25 Igorot carpenters provided labor and their skill for the construction of the magnificent cathedral.

The construction of Baguio Cathedral started in 1920 and was finished in 1936. Four church bells was donated from Belgium by two non-Catholic friends of Father Carlu, namely Hausermann and Bean. Only 3 bells were installed in Baguio Cathedral and were given these names: St. John, St. Patrick, and St. Walterius.  The newly built cathedral was placed under the patronage of Our Lady of the Atonement.

Baguio Cathedral History

Baguio Cathedral is now a regular diocese but the clergy of the Cordilleras did not forget the seed planted by the CICM. In fact, they erected a statue of the early CICM missionaries in celebration of the 110 years of CICM presence in the Philippines.

CICM Missionaries commemorative statues

Aside from the beautiful Baguio Cathedral, many go to Mt. Mary because of its good view of Baguio City. Porta Vaga Mall, located in front of the cathedral, has a viewing deck that gave us a bird’s eye view of the city.

SM Baguio as viewed from Baguio Cathedral
A view of SM Baguio from Baguio Cathedral.

The viewing deck has restaurants and other shops. My Beloved Wife brought potted plants here. Unfortunately, none of the plants survived.

Skyzone of Porta Vaga Mall

The mall also has an elevator, which is perfect for PWDs and elderlies who cannot use the stairs. Aside from that, there’s the usual fast food restaurants and other shops.

Angels at Baguio Cathedral

During the Second World War, many Baguio citizens seek refuge in Baguio Cathedral. US Air Force dropped bombs over Baguio City from January to March 1945. Sadly, a bomb fell in front of Baguio Cathedral that killed many civilians. I read from Basho Fat Sumo that the remains of thousands dead due to bombing were buried in the grounds of the cathedral.

Baguio Cathedral During World War 2
Baguio Cathedral during the Second World War (Source: Basho Fat Sumo)

Despite the risk, more than a thousand people hid in the cathedral while the Americans were "liberating" the city by carpet bombing it on March 15-17, 1945. I couldn't imagine the terror that the people felt while listening to explosions all around the cathedral. Many of them were just waiting for a bomb to drop through the roof. Miraculously, the cathedral survived and many refugees were thankful that their life were spared. Many attributed this miracle to the intercession and protection of Our Lady of the Atonement.

Baguio Cathedral Door

We also seek refuge in Baguio Cathedral. This is the place where we had a good rest, with my daughter getting a restful nap. This is also the place where we took the time to pray and thank the Almighty for finally letting us visit the beautiful City of Baguio.

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Baguio Cathedral Mass Schedules


For those who are planning to attend the Holy Mass in Baguio Cathedral, here are the mass schedules:

Baguio Cathedral Mass Schedule

Baguio Cathedral has the following Mass schedule:

Weekdays: 6:00 AM, 6:30 AM, 7:00 AM, 12:15 PM, and 5:15 PM
Saturdays: 6:00 AM, 6:30 AM, 7:00 AM, 12:15 PM, and 5:00 PM (anticipated Mass)
Sundays: Masses every hour starting 5:00 AM until 7:00 PM

Confession: 4:00 PM to 5:15 PM during weekdays.

The Holy Face Chapel of Baguio Cathedral has the following schedule:

1. Baptism at 10:00 AM every Saturday and Sunday.
2. Children's Mass at 9:00 AM every Sunday.
3. Latin Mass at 4:00 PM every Sunday.

Weddings can also be held inside Baguio Cathedral. I suggest that you contact the admin of Baguio Cathedral for schedules and requirements for wedding.

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Read more about our adventures in Baguio City:

Let's Go to Baguio (Part 1): The Family Adventure Begins

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Some information in this blog post came from the following sources:

Baguio City art exhibit honors German painter from Sunstar
The Case of the Cordillera: An Unresolved National Question from Philippine Social Science Council
A Journey of Faith CICM Missionaries in the Philippines from CICM
Baguio City, Philippines from Basho Fat Sumo
Baguio–where WWII began and ended from Inquirer
Our Lady of the Atonement Cathedral blog
.


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