City receives 15-M grant for conservation of Diplomat Hotel

The City Government of Baguio is a recipient of a P15-M grant from the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for the development of a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) to ensure the conservation of the Dominican Hill Retreat House, formerly known as Diplomat Hotel.

During the regular session last Monday, the Baguio City Council passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Benjamin Magalong to enter into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the NCCA for the implementation of the said project.

The MOA is one of the requirements to be complied with in order for the NCCA to release the said amount.

This said project shall be implemented from April 2022 to April 2023. It is part of the city government’s endorsement of the proposed rehabilitation of the Dominican Hill Retreat House as a cultural hub for the city’s art assets in fostering Baguio’s status as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Apart from the Dominican Hill Retreat House, the conservation plan also covers surrounding grounds with an area of 32,402 sqm.

The preliminaries of the project shall include inception reports, consultative meetings with stakeholders, team training and capacity building, detailing of cultural mapping reports, and architectural and engineering detailing.

In the course of the preparation of the CMP, the following shall be conducted: studies to determine the view protection, preparation of the business model and 3D models, public presentation/consultation, and policy recommendation, among others.

Moreover, the NCCA, along with the city government, shall also train and capacitate local conservation specialists in the city.

The financial assistance to be granted to the local government is a result of continuous coordination work with the NCCA with an end view of preserving cultural heritage sites in the city.

Created by virtue of Republic Act No. 7356, otherwise known as the Law Creating the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the NCCA is mandated to “encourage the continuing and balanced development of a pluralistic culture by the people, conserve and promote the nation’s cultural heritage, ensure the widest dissemination of artistic and cultural products, and preserve and integrate traditional culture and its various creative expression as a dynamic part of the national cultural mainstream.”

𝙏𝙝𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙜𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙮𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙨

The structure was built in 1913-1915 on Baguio City’s Dominican Hill Barangay as a vacation or retreat spot for Dominican priests and sisters. It was renamed “Collegio del Santissimo Rosario” between 1915 and 1918.

However, due to the small number of students that attended between 1918 and 1940, it was returned to being called a Dominican Retreat Center in 1940-1945.

During World War II, the Japanese discovered the location and killed the refugees, making it their headquarters.

The building was attacked by the Americans during the Philippine Liberation War, forcing the Japanese to retreat and evacuate. The American military later stayed there for six months, passing it over to the property renovation plans of the New Province of Our Lady of Rosary. In 1973, the congregation sold the property to Diplomat Hotels Incorporated, which converted the Dominican House into a hotel they later named “The Diplomat Hotel.”

Later on, Antonio Agapito “Tony” Agpaoa, the hotel’s biggest stockholder, who is also a spiritual faith healer, businessman, and psychic surgeon continued to transform it into a business hotel, later using the hotel as a healing center for his patients. Agapito, however, died in 1987. Due to Agapito’s failure to repay his loans, the hotel was turned over to the government as a result of the incident.

In 2004, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines designated the structure as a Cultural Property. The rumored haunted ruin drew a slew of tourists, and the old hotel is now being restored as a Heritage Hill and Nature Park of Baguio City. It is now under the management of the City Environment and Parks Management Office.

The city council passed a resolution in 2013 declaring the Dominican Hill Property as a heritage site and structure. –Don Jerod B. Asuncion