Baguio City, Hollywood Greats, A Would-Be Saint, and Competitiveness

I bet only a few know that Loakan in Baguio City was host to quite a few Hollywood greats: John Derek, Ursula Andress, Mickey Rooney.  (On the side, the City was visited by Jane Fonda, Anatoly Karpov, Pope John Paul II, John Denver (who came in from the cold, to use a metaphor, into the inn near Loakan Airport, ordered a drink, and sang for those present there), the 1974 Ms. Universe winners, to name the others). 

John Derek and Ursula Andress came over in the 60s with the rest of the crew to film, The 26th Cavalry (Once Before I Die, internationally).  My father was quite the fan on location and has all the juicy details. Listening to his recount, I can’t help get head over the fact that the old man had seen these acting greats in person – Ursula Andress! – whereas I haven’t.  I mean, am I not from the relatively more connected generation?


Filming happened in what is presently EPZA site.  The very grounds were where the scene featured in the movie’s preview clip below happened.  Much later, City Hall had the hill bulldozed in order to accommodate the construction of EPZA buildings.)

I also learned that the other actor in the film, Rod Lauren, later met the Filipino actor, Nida Blanca, and were married.  Wow.  (Now that I mentioned her, what happened to her case?  Was the mystery surrounding her murder solved?  Sad that the beautiful couple had tragic deaths.)

Mickey Rooney also came over, in the 70s.  He came in on a PAL propeller plane.  And, according to my father, the actor appeared at the plane’s doorway and greeted the waiting crowd:  hey, Joe, do you know me?  I’m Mickey Rooney!  The crowd erupted into a thunderous cheer.  Of course it did.  I mean, my god, Loakan, in the whole landscape of the world, is an unknown.  And Mickey Rooney was quite like the god coming down.

Jane Fonda visited St. Louis University as part of her Asian tour during the Vietnam war▪ 7other, then a student there, who saw her.  Ms. Fonda was in her most glorious (it was before or afterward when she starred as Barbarella) and articulate.  I got the impression that the University population was mesmerized by her, not quite caring if they got her message correctly into their heads.

Pope John Paul II, I can only vaguely recall seeing him.  I was a preschooler.  I remember we were among the crowd that day at the Melvin Jones soccer field, to welcome him and receive his blessing.  (And soon, he’ll be canonized.  A Saint.  Wow.  I’m having a moment here — I actually saw a would-be Saint in my lifetime!!!)

The point of these story bits is Baguio City should, must bring order to its tourism strategy and plan.  The Baguio Convention Center, for one.  Although it’s a national government property (is it still?) City Hall should make win-win arrangements with the property owner toward upgrading the place.  The Center’s in shambles.  Opportunities are being lost every second that it’s left like that.  World class concerts and international conventions could be hosted there, if it were upgraded. 

Another is Loakan Airport.  CAAP has turned down City Hall’s proposal to upgrade the airport, but it must know that the airport is a vital organ of the City.  From the perspective of regional development, an important gateway, in the economic sense, to the other places of the Cordilleras. Without it, this mountain (relatively isolated) City can’t ever attain it’s full potential in tourism and economic development.  I don’t even have to mention that it is also a vital facility when it comes to disaster risk reduction.  The airport was the reason people then survived the aftermath of the 1991 earthquake.  All the roads leading out of the City were impassable and relief goods were flown in through the airport.  The national government including DOT must know these, especially in light of the circumstances in the aftermath of Yolanda/Haiyan, and should help City Hall lobby CAAP.  For CAAP to insist on its decision puts City residents, present and future, at great risk.


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