CSEAS Fridays at Noon Lecture Series. Cordillera Capital: Baguio and the Architecture of U.S. Colonialism in the Philippines

Rebecca McKenna, Assistant Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

My presentation centers on the construction and use of Baguio, an American colonial retreat in the U.S. colonial Philippines located in the mountains of northern Luzon. It had been designed for U.S. officials to find relaxation and reprieve from the tropical heat of the lowlands and arguably from their colonial charges. To build this colonial place, Americans appropriated indigenous peoples’ land, transforming what had been fodder for the Ibaloi peoples’ cattle into sites for recreation and landscape views to offset colonialists’ nostalgia and gird them for the colonial occupation. Ibaloi pasture became grassy parks, a polo field, a golf green tended by Ibaloi caddies, and flower and vegetable gardens of the colony’s new headmen. Though the enclave, far from the Manila capital, may seem superfluous to U.S. rule, Americans used the hill station, designed by Progressive-era architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham, in politically significant ways: to reproduce American labor in the colony—in cultural and material terms--, recruit a comprador class, and gain a foothold in a region that became critical to justifying U.S. rule by the 1910s. I will discuss what this small, colonial retreat can tell us about the history of U.S. colonialism in the Philippines.