“Camp John Jay is the most popular tourist attraction in Baguio City.”
That statement, often delivered by Baguio locals, simply says it all. Since it opened its doors as a recreational complex to the general public in 1991, this 690-hectare property has been the most well-known visitor magnet of the city. It used to be a venue for rest and recreation of U.S. Military personnel and the employees of the Secretary of Defense and their dependents.
The facility was named after the U.S President Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of War. During World War II, the Japanese dropped bombs that hit the main gate and other areas of the camp. It was then used by the Japanese as a concentration camp for American and British soldiers. It was also used as General Yamashita’s military headquarters when they moved up north from Manila towards the end of the Japanese Occupation in the Philippines.
Up until then, the area was off-limits to Filipinos except for a privileged few who could get entry passes from its American administrators. The Philippine Tourism Authority managed the camp as a resort when it was turned over from the Americans in 1991 upon the expiration of the U.S-Philippine Bases Agreement. In 1997, it was then turned over again to a private administrator on a long-term lease. Structures and recreation venues continue to develop inside the camp which includes the Par-69 golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, a world-famous golfer and golf course designer. The golf course is hugely popular worldwide and also happens to be host to the annual Fil-Am Golf Tournament.
The camp also boasts of private vacation houses, lodging facilities and the renowned Camp John Hay Manor. The Manor Hotel is well-accented with a country-style architecture that results to the perfect blend with nature. The hotel exudes an extremely warm and relaxing ambiance that makes it perfect for a fine getaway from the metropolis. Picnic areas, gardens, hiking trails and an amphitheatre surround the huge camp, snaking through the rolling hills and lush pine trees of the forest. The Mile-Hi Center shopping mall, numerous restaurants and stores and a convention center are the newest additions to the growing structures of the well-loved destination.
The Philippine government has retained a portion of the property, which includes the Historical Core where a museum is located at the Commander’s Cottage, a Butterfly Sanctuary, and the Bell Amphitheater. Thanks in large part to the history of the camp, Baguio has been give the title of “Little America”.
Located on the southeast side of the city, the camp is said to be older than the city itself. Its main gate is located on Loakan road which is a 5-minute drive from the Upper Session Road – Kian Road – South Drive rotunda. Another entrance is located on the Baguio Country Club road, which is closer to the other tourist attractions of the city.
Even as the private developer managing the camp continues to add modern structures, Camp John Hay still remains the same charming pine tree-line roads, beautiful landscapes, quaint cottages and wide open spaces. A visit to it should convince any tourist that it is an integral part of what makes Baguio a top tourist destination.