The Urbanization of Baguio: The Gold City of the Orient, 1929–1941
JOSE MATHEW LUGA
Baguio City’s urban growth has always been studied from its American colonial beginnings (1900-1913) yet as late as 1918 Baguio ranked third to the last among seven Philippine cities in terms of density rate per sq. km. Then described by the Halsema family as a “small, quiet … backwater post,” Baguio, by 1939, would report a quadruple growth in its population density from 95 (1918) to 419 (1939) people per sq. km., outpacing all seven cities except Davao. How did Baguio transform from a small colonial outpost in the 1900s into a burgeoning urban center in Northern Luzon, Philippines by the 1930s? This work posits that Baguio’s rapid urbanization is traceable to the global events of the 1930s gold boom, which made Baguio the “Gold City of the Orient.” This study takes after the pattern proposed by Alfred McCoy and Edilberto De Jesus in studying local societies in the Philippines, which is to examine how global trade provoked local transformations (McCoy & De Jesus  1998), a pattern yet to be charted for Baguio City during the gold boom of the 1930s. It also contributes to the existing literature on the hill stations of Southeast Asia by exploring its locale of study beyond its colonial inception. To do this, it accounts for the factors leading to the gold boom in the Cordilleras (transportation, gold, capital). It narrates how the growth of the mining industry in the region has shaped the urban character of Baguio, strengthening its service-oriented industries, transforming its once transient population into a more permanent one, and laying the foundation for Baguio’s subsequent development as a services hub for Northern Luzon.
Keywords: urbanization, urban history, mining, colonial city, Commonwealth government, global trade
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