Session Road history festival institutionalized

The Baguio City Council has approved on third and final reading an ordinance institutionalizing the Session Road History and Heritage Festival.

Principally authored by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan and Councilor Elaine Sembarano, the ordinance seeks to encourage Baguio residents and tourists alike to be in tune with the history of Session Road which “has already been forgotten and has even become unknown to most residents.”

The festival shall be held on every Sunday of each week starting on the third Sunday of April until the second Sunday of June of every year. The dates, however, may be subject to adjustment to avoid conflict of schedule with other official activities of the city.

Under the ordinance, the stretch of Session Road from the rotunda near Upper Session Road and Luneta Hill Drive to the intersection of Lower Session Road fronting People’s Park shall be closed on the specified dates to allow residents and tourists to walk freely without vehicular traffic.

Every Sunday during the specified period, restaurants and fast food establishments shall be allowed to bring out tables and chairs for their customers fronting their premises only and shall not occupy the whole portion of the street.

The ordinance stressed that there shall be no trade fairs, tiangges, baratillos, or selling of general merchandise along Session Road during the celebration as such activities are not in line with the theme of the festival. The exemption shall only be granted to those that have already been conducting business activities along Session Road provided they have the necessary business permits.

Furthermore, no subleasing of spaces along Session Road shall be allowed during the conduct of the event.

The business owners along the said stretch of the road shall be requested to beautify their frontage with flowers or ornamental plants. The city government shall install sound systems in the area to liven the event with music.

Landmark areas along Session Road with historical value including the site where the old Baden Powel was situated shall be provided with banners, tarpaulins, or other appropriate materials containing informational texts about these areas’ historical significance. Fixed markers may later be installed by the city government upon the approval of the owners of the building.

A working committee shall be formed for the implementation of this ordinance. The committee’s tasks shall be as follows:

Formulate other activities or events necessary to highlight the celebration; prepare the rules and regulations in relation to the bringing out of stalls by restaurants and fast food establishments along Session Road; coordinate with the concerned departments/offices and the businesses along Session Road; identify strategic areas where the culture and art events can be conducted; ensure the safety of residents and guests during the celebration; ensure the smooth flow of traffic during the closure of Session Road; ensure that accounting and auditing rules are abided especially in the use of funds; after the celebration, and prepare a report for the enrichment of the event for the succeeding celebrations.

Substantial research to document events with a historical significance that transpired along Session Road shall be conducted by the working committee in coordination with the owners or managers of business establishments in the area.

As a byproduct of the event, guidelines shall be set on the mandatory preservation or restoration of historical sites along Session Road.

An organized guided historical walk or tour shall be performed only by the accredited tour guides in the city. People’s Park shall be used as an activity venue for historical and heritage exhibits and shows.

The working committee shall likewise coordinate with local artists for the conduct of other appropriate activities that are in line with the purpose and theme of the event.

Baguio citizens may be invited to showcase their recipes, items, carvings, arts, and emblems that highlight the identity and culture of the city.

Buskers may likewise be invited to participate during the activities, but guidelines shall be set for the conduct of such activities.

The Permits and Licensing Division of the City Mayor’s Office shall ensure the implementation of the ordinance and shall issue the necessary penalties for violations.

The Traffic and Transportation Management Division of the City Engineering Office shall prepare and implement a traffic plan in coordination with the Traffic Management Unit of the Baguio City Police Office purposefully for the closure of the road during the conduct of the event.

An amount of P500,000.00 shall be allocated annually for the purpose in the budget of the Tourism and Special Events Division under the City Administrator’s Office. The division may likewise coordinate with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for possible additional funding.

Session Road was named as such because it leads to the location of the site (Old Baden Powell at Governor Pack Road) where the Philippine Commission held its first session in Baguio, and they conducted sessions thereat from April 22 to June 11, 1904, to which they were able to approve 74 Acts and 272 Resolutions.

The commission was composed of Governor General Luke E. Wright and Commissioners Henry C. Ide, Dean Conant Worcester, Trinidad Pardo Tavera, Benito Legard, Jose de Luzuriaga, James Francis Smith, and shalliam Cameron Forbes.

Among the salient legislation of the Commission was the creation of the Philippine Senate and the Senate’s initiative to dub Baguio as the Philippines’ Summer Capital.

According to a dissertation entitled “A Visual History of Baguio City’s Session Road through Photographs and Primary Documents,” there are different areas along Session Road with historical significance such as the Post Office which then served as a constabulary barracks and later a convent, and the site of Greenwich and Pizza Volante, formerly Session Theater, which was then a penal colony of at least 500 prisoners. –Jordan G. Habbiling