Session Road in Baguio City and Its Heritage Buildings

Text and Photo: Kaycie Gayle

Many people have walked along the Session Road in Baguio City but may have not seen it as a historical place. However, paying attention to its little details will eventually reveal that it has a significant past.

Nowadays it is seen as a two-way narrow street that is congested with vehicles going up and down the hill road and drop passengers on each block of buildings. It is the major thoroughfare where all the other roads in the city lead. This road is also packed with people and have a variety of shops and offices lining on both sides of the road.

2018-03-10_22.25.06.jpgSession Road sidewalk |Kaycie Gayle

Two Parts of Session Road

Session Road is divided into two parts: the Upper and the Lower road. The latter is the hotspot and normally perceived as the only Session Road, because it is where most commercial establishments are located wherein shopping malls, numerous entertainment, and even thumping nightlife atmosphere run down on its both sides. It also has an open space where lowland merchants are stationed selling fruits, salt, and tobacco.

Slice of History

Session Road was once a promontory filled with pine trees and was cleared to make way for making it as people’s hub. It is intended to be the commercial center of Baguio City by its urban designer Daniel Hudson Burnham. During the city’s infancy, it was developed into a dirt road with wooden structures as commercial stores. It was once dominated by Japanese and Chinese stores where people can shop, avail the services of tailors and barbers, dine in restaurants and unwind in bars marking it as the main street of the entire city.

This busiest road of the city was previously referred to as Shenos by the Ibaloys and was eventually changed to Session Road. Its current name has been derived from being the way that leads up to the old Baden-Powell Hall, where the First Session of the Second Philippine Commission was held from April 22 to June 11, 1904.

Since the development of Baguio, Session Road has been there hence the establishments along it have undergone a lot of changes throughout the years. In the 1930s, Japanese shops dominate this thoroughfare, then the war came and it was carpet bombed. Being able to survive the war, the Chinese, Indian and Filipino traders came in. Its evolution from a row of vintage small-town shops to a strip of restaurants has made some of the old places forever lost. Though business and new establishments are put up just as people in Baguio come and go, Session Road stays.

Currently, Session Road is like the main promenade of the city. It is where you will find department stores, old movie theaters, hotels, cafes, bakeries, grocery stores, and newsstands. Walking along it will give you a common view of local residents striding up and downhill to go to schools or offices that branch out from this road or you may see children snacking on a comfort food bought along storefronts that open up to the sidewalk, or maybe you will see groups stepping into many of the restaurants and cafes lining the street or you may pass along a tourist leisurely strolling for window-shopping.

Session Road Buildings

From dirt road to a concrete paved two-way road and from wooden structures to permanent reinforced concrete buildings on both sides of the thoroughfare, it has metamorphosed. Its slope, some Art Deco buildings and structures with mid-20th-century American-town inspired facades has made it different from other business districts in the country. While the city continues to develop, much of the old buildings still exist albeit serving different functions. Hence remnants of the past are somewhat still seen from the old structures. Others were renovated to be preserved and maintain the appeal of the historic road. Displaying old and beauteous architecture of its buildings, one would be delighted traversing this road.

1. Puso ng Baguio building

Some of the old commercial buildings in Session Road were allegedly originally put up to hold back the eroding hill where the Baguio Cathedral stands.  One of this is the famous Puso ng Baguio building.

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Puso ng Baguio 2018
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Puso ng Baguio and the other strip of buildings in Session Road
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Puso ng Baguio Building up close

2. Porta Vaga

Then there is Porta Vaga, which was built and opened in 2002.

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Porta Vaga Building

3. Patria de Baguio

Patria de Baguio was built in 1956 as a Community Service Center Home of Conventions. Currently, it is being used as a space for business establishments while also hosting a row of homegrown and franchise food stores. Despite being modernized its architectural design is almost the same to same to how it was before.

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Patria de Baguio

4. Antipolo Building

Likewise, there is the Antipolo Building, which used to house Baguio Colleges that opened its doors to 159 students on June 19, 1946.

Baguio Colleges housed in Antipolo Building
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia|wikimedia.org
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Antipolo Building

5. Session Theatre

Another old building is the Session Theatre which was previously said to be a penal colony that can house 500 prisoners. Eventually, it became a theatre hence got its name. At present, it is the location of two pizza parlor in which one is a homegrown and the other is one of the country’s known pizza house.

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Session Building

6. Lopez Building

Also, the old Lopez Building which is spotted in the middle of Session road was a combination of an apartment and commercial story complex by the Lopez family in 1935. This was allegedly a substantial investment of the Lopez family upon being sufficiently aware of the increasing economic importance of Baguio

Mindless of the crowd, the rumbling of vehicles and its fair weather, a stroll through the Session Road is a totally different experience altogether.

Disclaimer: All pictures are taken by Kaycie Gayle unless stated otherwise.

Acknowledgment to GoBaguio, Blissfulhawthorn, Inquirer.net.

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