LOAKAN ROAD AND FORT DEL PILAR

With Baguio City Hall as reference point, Loakan Road connects to upper Session Road and stretches east of the city. It winds down to where the old Philippine National Railways Station was located. This area is now owned by GSIS. Opposite this lot is Quezon Elementary School. As you pass the school, a hub separates Military Cut-Off Road and South Drive. The main gate of Camp John Hay is situated just right after the hub.

Nevada's place is right in front of Camp John Hay. They had planned to put up a small shopping complex in place of the hotel that collapsed during the 1990 earthquake. I never learned about who owned the residential houses after Nevada's place. But these are very old structures that were probably constructed even before the war. We heard a lot of ghost stories about the houses, though.

At the very corner where there is a sharp curve to the left is a residential place that had been converted into a café. Follow the winding road and you will notice that the John Hay property at the right side of the road has now been eaten up by residential development. This is Greenwater Village. Further down the road is Scout Barrio, where employees of John Hay had taken residence.

As you follow the road that winds through lush growth of pine trees, you would pass through 2 cemeteries which had been sources of scary stories about ghosts roaming the area of Loakan including the Camp. Only a courageous taxi driver will get a fare for Loakan, Fort Del Pilar or Balatoc Mines late at night because of stories heard about these places. One night my father and I went to town in his service jeep. As we passed through Cemetery No. 1 he was telling me a story about how a white lady they call the Lady of Loakan would appear sitting on a rock beside the cemetery and drivers who see her will smash right on the tree behind that rock. Suddenly his engine stopped and we had to go down and push the jeep. When we got passed the cemetery and he tried cranking the engine, it sputtered to life. To this day, I don't know whether that actually happened to us or he was just giving us kids a scare.

When I grew older and went to a lot of places in the city, I would sometimes miss the bus and that meant walking from town to Fort Del Pilar. My hair would stand up when I pass the place. As you pass through Cemetery No. 1, straight down would be the house of Col. Ongchangco, dwarfed by the industrial buildings that were built when that piece of John Hay was segregated to form Baguio's Export Processing Zone.

The whole strip alongside the Loakan Airport was developed as an industrial estate which now houses foreign owned companies the largest of which is Texas Instruments, Inc., which occupies the left side of the road. Go further down and you will reach a fairly new settlement that has also eaten up part of John Hay through ancestral land claims. This is now Apugan barangay.

And then after a kilometer stretch, the gates of Fort Del Pilar on your right and everlasting memorial park down on your left. The fort invokes a lot of fun filled memories of my childhood. This place was where I grew up. Each corner of this military installation was my haunt. I can still remember when St. Ignatius chapel was still a hill. As it was being bulldozed to make way for the Catholic Chapel. We would run and play broad jump to land on the soil being pushed on its side. When the chapel was built I served as an acolyte to two chaplains. I would run down to the chapel early in the morning of Sunday to ring the church bells.

Signal Hill was the area where we play sleds. The back of the RFC housing area going towards Loakan densely wooded with pine trees was where we picked guavas. The back of the swimming pool or the bazooka range is where we went down to get mangoes on a lone mango tree. Kissing Rock was where we sometimes accidentally find couples as they mooch.

The firing range is where we usually picked discarded shells and dug out bullets from the buffer. We would go down to Kennon Road from the Camp and go up again to the vicinity of Loakan Airport. The loop at the RFC housing area was where we all gather for bonfires, play hide-and-seek or whatever can be cooked up in an instant. And then we had a blueberry hill (so named as Elvis's song was a hit at that time) where we play cowboys and Indians near guard post #3. Those were good old days.

P.Q.B. January 12, 1999
matapat@yahoo.com


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