Thursday, August 05, 2021

Tibaldo: Reminiscing Kennon Road's past

Consumers atpb.

COMING home to Baguio on a Dangwa Tranco during my travels as a Manila student back in the late '70s and early '80s, I knew that we were already along the stretch of Kennon Road when I feel the and swaying motions due to the road curves that often awake if I fell asleep.

The Kennon Road with its scenic zigzag uphill and downhills never fails to thrill me even at present without the aroma of pines that we used to enjoy back in the days. Back then, the Bridal Veil and the Klondyke springs within the Camp 1 area were truly a sight to behold with clear water flowing endlessly even during the summer months.

While driving at Kennon in the late '80s to the mid-'90s, I often stop at the huge roadside boulder along with Twin Peaks right below the falling water to wash off the dirt of our ride and secondly to amuse my wife who spent her younger years in a place we call lowlands.

Long before I became part of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club, earlier officers and members Club counted and summer visitors at the Kennon viewpoint and selected the 100 thousandth passenger for as long as they are first-timers to the city. By 1987, we selected the 300,000th visitors at the Kennon Road checkpoint and I was the designated lead car driver with the PIA's Nissan Patrol as the official ride.

Below the view deck at Kennon Road was where I also shot my first 8mm indie film "Camote Miners" about a group of pocket miners who tunneled and sieved particles of gold along the banks of the Bued River. The miners at that time used water-propelled ball mill from the water currents flowing from the river and they also used carbide lamps inside the tunnels. Carbide lamps are museum pieces nowadays but they provide light inside the tunnels when chunks of calcium carbide are mixed with water inside it and lit up. That was my first film project as a student of UP Film Center and my documentary landed as the second-place winner in a Metro Manila Independent Film Festival.

Recently, we motored down Kennon Road to the Camp 3 area for a tree planting activity by the Water Quality Management Area-Bued River (WQMA) within a privately owned property close to the river banks being developed into an eco-park and recreation are by the community. The Environment Management Bureau of DENR brought seedlings that included Bigney or Bugnay, coffee, and bamboo propagules.

It was also a chance for me to mark the place on Google Maps as a local guide. I have been reviewing and adding places of interest lately like the Camp 6 Hydro where I've been several times way back when I was a high school student and where I also did a stunt act at the rock wall for my short experimental film.

I remember the past landslides that at one time caused a lagoon to form between Camp 4 and Camp 1 and the closure of the Benguet Exploration facility near the toll gate in Camp 6. Today, there is still small-scale mining activity within the place that uses motorized milling of ores and we re-visited the operation of the former Be-Ex area with an expert named Peter Appel who introduced the use of Borax instead of the environmentally harmful mercury in extracting gold from crushed ores.

In Google Maps, I have also tagged the home place of former Benguet Governor Ben Palispis where I witnessed Ibaloi's customary practice of keeping the dead close to ancestral homes. The body of the late governor was entombed at the hill above this house that also overlooks Kennon Road and Bued River. The former Marcos High-way was also named Palispis-Aspiras Highway after the late governor and tourism minister Aspiras.

When the tragic killer earthquake happened in 1990, Architect Joseph Alabanza who was then the Neda-CAR Director called me to join him to monitor and document the state of damages caused by the strong tremor and saw the sad state of Kennon Road on board a PAF Huey helicopter. The Kennon Road is a historic artery not only to Baguio and the adjoining provinces of Benguet and I always look forward to passing by its zigzags and curves even without the Twin Peaks waterfalls that I amusingly drop-by to wash my windshield. Anyway, I can always drop-by the Tinoyan's store for a quick wash.


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