Let's Go to Baguio (Part 10): The Mansion House - City of Pines' Most Historical House

The Mansion House of Baguio City

Dan Brown, in one of his books, described Manila as the gates of hell. The early Americans of early 1900s would agree with this description not because of the city's now abject poverty and high crime rate but because of the unbearable humid heat.

The intense heat in Manila motivated the American invaders to look for a place that can be their new colony’s capital during the summer months. The Americans selected Baguio due to its relatively cool temperature and the presence of an already organized town.

The gate of the Mansion House of Baguio City
The gate of the Mansion House.

William Howard Taft, the first American civil governor of the Philippines, capital of the Philippines, commissioned Daniel Burnham to prepare the plans for Baguio. Part of the plan is the construction of the house for the American governor general. That house is the Mansion House.

The Mansion House of Baguio City

The Mansion House is our next destination after having a relaxing stroll among the pines of Wright Park.

The house is just across the road from the reflecting pool of Wright Park. But before we cross the street, I got curious with the strawberry-flavored taho being sold outside Wright Park.

Strawberry taho of Baguio City
The sweet but not strawberry-licious "strawberry taho" of Baguio.

We were disappointed with the taho. There was not even a hint of strawberry. Maybe I should've opted for the regular taho. Actually, the strawberry ice cream that we bought in Burnham Park is a better strawberry treat than this taho.

Intricate gate of the Mansion House in Baguio

The gate of the Mansion House is big and majestic. Of course, there were so many tourists that it was difficult to have a decent selfie at the gate.

Historical marker of the Mansion House in Baguio

The Mansion House was designed by Architect William E. Parsons in accordance to the City Beautiful Movement, which is the architectural philosophy pioneered by Daniel Burnham. Parson used indigenous materials and local architectural style, thus, the Mansion House originally appeared as a "bahay na bato", which was a usual house of affluent families during the Spanish Period.

The original look of Baguio's Mansion House as bahay na bato
The original Mansion House of Baguio. Notice the wooden second floor, which made the house look like a "bahay na bato". (Source: Presidential Museum and Library

The first floor is made of stone while the second floor is made of wood. Governor General Francis Burton Harrison noted that the rooms were partitioned by sawali walls.

Parson's original design did not last because subsequent governor generals renovated and enlarged the Mansion House. The house was later on damaged during the Second World War.

Photo of Mansion House taken at the reflecting pool of Wright Park
Old photo of the Mansion House taken from the reflecting pool of Wright Park. (Source: Presidential Museum and Library)

From being the official residence the American governor generals, the Mansion House became the official residence of Philippine presidents. Although, presidents do not stay long in this house. Most only visited the house when they attend the graduation ceremony of the cadets in the Philippine Military Academy.

The president who stayed the longest in the Mansion House is President Jose P. Laurel. Who described his three-month stay as somber and miserable.

Laurel and his ministers were moved to Baguio by the Japanese army when Manila fell to the Americans. They felt that they are in a concentration camp. They were heavily guarded by Japanese soldiers and almost have no food nor clean water to drink. They also had to contend with constant bombing.

The Mansion House of Baguio City

There is no entrance fee to the grounds of the Mansion House. Tourists, however, were only allowed in the vicinity of the entrance gate. I believe that tourists will not be allowed to go beyond the gate when the president is in the house. We were lucky then because President Duterte was not in Baguio during our visit.

Tourists at The Mansion House of Baguio City

No one can go up to the Mansion House because the soldiers guarding the house will prevent anyone from doing so. We discovered this when our son Samuel ran toward the restricted area. A soldier accosted us immediately.