Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Is there a Bell in Bell House and who is John Hay?




The three stooges
This was the first time I visited Bell House in Camp John Hay. My friend's wife found it strange that I have been to Baguio City almost yearly yet I have not visited this famous old house. I have been to John Hay before but, I guess, being too lazy, I missed this place. But finally got the chance to see it last Saturday when we tag along a friend's family on their Baguio (not their first time) all soul's day R and R. Or maybe I'm just a miserable miser who waited this long to get the opportunity to see the place for free. Hahaha...again teacher's salary, Heavens.

It'a a good thing our host had been here before for they were able to show us around the house. One thing I love about old houses especially ones designed and built by the Americans, which there are many in Baguio being the former American colonists summer get away, is the texture (the best I could come up with) or the feel of the place. The lay out of the house and the surrounding trees and foliage gave the feeling of being in another country in another era. The illusion was fortified by the abundance of pine trees, cypress and other trees imported from the US. It's obvious that the Americans wanted to re-create or at least create the atmosphere of America here in John Hay and in Baguio. 

But as I was going around the house, I could see that the poor maintenance was starting to show. There was also an old wooden building a few meters from Bell House that looked like a school building or an administrative house that have been left abandoned and neglected. I guess it's difficult to understand why they are in that state of disrepair, but I hope the John Hay people would look at it and pay attention to how it could be used productively without destroying it's  historical authenticity like maybe opening it as a restaurant.

Anyway, as we were touring the place we over heard people talking about the house and the most interesting discussion the tourists asked among themselves was how come the house was called Bell house. I, too, didn't know how it was so named. But unlike the pre-Google years, I didn't have to lose sleep over it, I could search for it later. 

Photo belongs to Pinoy Roadtrip.
So, one of the theories overheard was that there was a huge bell buried under the house. I mean, bell is bell what else could be the obvious explanation. So, a discussion ensued among my my two cumpadres and so I found out from one of them that "Bell House was named after Major General J. Franklin Bell "who lived in that house as the commanding General of the American Forces in the Philippines." From 1911-1914, "General Bell transformed camp John Hay from 'essentially a small convalescent facility into a major military resort'."

It's there in one of the tarpaulins posted outside one only has to be attentive to background information provided in the site. I guess I didn't pay attention. But my friend was right.

Who is John Hay and what is his connection to Baguio? here's Wikipedia's answer. No, John Hay did not live in Baguio. There's no mention of him even visiting the Philippines. But do read on.

John Milton Hay (October 8, 1838 – July 1, 1905) was an American statesman and official whose career in government stretched over almost half a century. Beginning as a private secretary and assistant to Abraham Lincoln, Hay's highest office was United States Secretary of State under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Hay was also an author and biographer, and wrote poetry and other literature throughout much of his life. 

Image resultJohn Hay Air Station was established on October 25, 1903 after President Theodore Roosevelt signed an executive order setting aside land in Benguet for a military reservation under the United States Army. The reservation was named after Roosevelt's Secretary of StateJohn Milton Hay. For a time, elements of the 1st Battalion of the Philippine Division's 43d Infantry Regiment (PS) were stationed here. Prior to World War II, a number of buildings had been constructed on base, including a U.S. Army Hospital and the summer residence of the Governor-General of the Philippines, later to be known as The American Residence, which is now used as the summer house of the United States Ambassador to the Philippines.








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