Baguio cathedral celebrates 75th year
BAGUIO CITY—It is the only tourist destination that inspires hypertension. Visitors always remember that they would need to climb 104 steps in the flight of stairs that lead straight up to the Baguio Cathedral from Session Road.
On Saturday, the Baguio Cathedral (Our Lady of the Atonement Cathedral) celebrated its 75th anniversary, 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.
Fr. Andres Cosalan Jr., vicar general of the Diocese of Baguio, led the celebratory Mass. Some parishioners attended Mass dressed in traditional Ibaloi while gongs played in the background.
Cosalan said the Baguio Cathedral could be considered “a historical church,” given its ties to Baguio’s development.
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).
The CICM relocated the chapel to the hill where the cathedral now stands. The hill was called “Kampo” by Baguio Ibaloi, but it was renamed “Mount Mary” by the Catholic mission led by the late Fr. Florimond Carlu, a Belgian missionary.
Carlu was the parish priest when the cathedral was consecrated and dedicated to the Our Lady of the Atonement on July 9, 1936.
Cosalan, however, said the Baguio Cathedral is best described as a “miracle church.”
The Baguio Cathedral was 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.
Cosalan said it was a “miracle that the cathedral survived … after the city’s carpet bombing in 1945, saving thousands of lives.”
Old Baguio residents, among them former Mayor Virginia de Guia, recalled that refugees “packed the church like sardines when the airplanes came.”
De Guia, in an earlier interview, said the refugees were amazed to discover that everything else, but the church, had turned to rubble when they opened the church doors.
Cosalan said the church is a beacon for people who travel to Baguio. “When people look up, they see the cathedral and this is always a sign that God is [with them],” he said.
Progress has caught up to everything in Baguio, even the cathedral. The church’s view is now blocked by a shopping mall, which the Diocese of Baguio built to finance its repairs, following the 1990 Luzon earthquake.
A canopy now runs up the flight of stairs to shield people from the rain. But it was only lately when the cathedral began reclaiming its ties to the Our Lady of the Atonement.
Cosalan said Fr. Paul Watson, the founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, had been fascinated by the words, “at” and “one,” which can be pulled from the word “atonement.”
“‘At one’ means unity [which is what Watson sought] in the history of ecumenism,” Cosalan said. This, he said, defines the role which the Baguio Cathedral plays in the development of Baguio and its residents.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.