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HOMETOWN SNAPSHOT

Baguio execs seek to expel ghosts of past in hotel site

/ 10:23 PM May 23, 2012

BAGUIO CITY—An abandoned hotel complex that used to draw thrill-seeking tourists to the summer capital will undergo a major facelift to attract a different set of visitors.

The city government is spending P35 million to convert the old Diplomat Hotel and its surroundings into a wedding and conference venue on Dominican Hill, Councilor Philian Weygan-Allan said here on Wednesday.

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Allan joined church leaders who opened two renovated halls of the hotel. The abandoned complex is a favorite destination of people seeking spirits and ghosts and has been used as location of TV shows for their Halloween episodes.

Allan said the 32,402-square meter property that was turned over by the national government to the Baguio government in 2005 also has a new name: The Baguio Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park.

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A 12.19-meter-high building, simulating two granite slabs that feature the biblical Ten Commandments, stands on the same property.

Allan said the city council is drafting guidelines for its use, adding that the facility would never be used to stage political campaigns or programs.

“This place is open for weddings and concerts. The halls can be rented for P200 an hour [or P2,000 a day]. The activities should be legal and moral [and never] political. This is [one of the guidelines] which were agreed upon by the Heritage Hill committee in the city council. The property should be developed,” she said.

Allan said the deed of conveyance issued by the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) when the property was turned over to the Baguio government obliges the city to rehabilitate the Diplomat Hotel building.

To fulfill this mandate, a city council resolution declared that the old Diplomat Hotel property must be converted into a nature park designed to accommodate tourists, spiritual groups, environmental organizations and conservationists.

Allan said the property used to belong to the Dominicans in the early part of the 20th century and had served as a summer retreat house and later became a school.

The property also served as a sanctuary until it was heavily damaged during World War II when the Japanese Imperial Army bombed Baguio City, she said.

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The Dominicans restored the building in 1947. It was soon bought by the owners of Diplomat Hotel.

Allan said the hotel stopped operating in 1987 and the property was abandoned. It was then acquired by the former Ministry of Human Settlements and became an asset under PMS custody.

On April 5, 2005, Malacañang relinquished the property to the city government, but it became the subject of a tug-of-war involving a civic group intent on building a historical and mining museum there and an evangelical group which wanted it turned into a “prayer mountain.”

The dispute was resolved after PMS threatened to repossess the property in 2010.

The city needs to raise

P80 million to fulfill a master development plan for the property, Allan said.

“It took so long to develop the property. We reviewed the original plan and revised it. The former city architect, Joseph Alabanza, [designed a plan that would] make the place more rustic, so we have brick walls, wooden panels and floors,” she said.

The hotel complex has been attracting tourists, drawing 600 visitors during the Holy Week, Allan said. Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Baguio, Diplomat Hotel, Regions, Tourism
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