DIPLOMAT HOTEL: Haunting Photos, Creepy Tales & Rich History

Saturday, August 06, 2016

There's so much about Baguio that makes us want to stay there for the rest of our lives. From the relaxing weather down to its beautiful scenery, rich history and friendly people, there's so much to know and go to.

One of the go to places here in Baguio is the Dominican Hill where Diplomat Hotel lies.
When it was still accessible and opened to the public, Dominican Hill was usually the next stop for visitors who go to the Lourdes Grotto since it was just nearby. The hill was well visited not only by local and foreign tourists but also by the residents of Baguio because of the panoramic view it provided of the city. The view from the hill is without doubt breathtaking and about the best there is to see and experience.

From atop the hill you can see the whole of City Camp all the way to Burnham Park and the Baguio Cathedral. Towards the left one could see Quezon Hill, Camp Allen, the Baguio Public Market, Center Mall, the campus of Saint Louis University, and Quirino Hill. The Marcos Highway, Green Valley Country Club, and the Sto. Tomas mountain are also visible from Dominican Hill. At night when there are no clouds in the sky, it is a sight to behold to see the glow of the city lights blending beautifully with the twinkling stars in the heavens. The best time to visit the hill and to take photographs is between mid-afternoon and just about an hour before sunset when the sun is still shinning brightly on the city.

The Dominican Order in the Philippines decided in May 1911 to construct a vacation house on top of what was later called the Dominican Hill. It was a 17-hectare property the Dominicans acquired from the previous American owners. Construction work was believed to have started in 1913 under Fr. Roque Ruano and the building was inaugurated about two years later on May 23, 1915. To take advantage of tax exemptions, a school called Collegio del Santissimo Rosario was opened in June 1915 but due to the very small enrollment, the school closed two years later and the building was reverted back to the original plan of setting up a vacation house.

During the 2nd World War, Dominican Hill was occupied by refugees fleeing from the Japanese Army Liberation Forces. Later the Japanese forces bombed the refugees out which resulted in extensive damages to the main structure and the surrounding area. Reconstruction work started in 1947 and was completed in about a year.
Diplomat Hotels, Inc. acquired ownership of the property in 1973 and remodeled thoroughly the interior into a 33-bedroom hotel but still retaining the unique and distinct personality which was earlier established by the Dominican friars. Even the large white cross on top of the building was retained. The hotel was managed by Tony Agpaoa, a Baguio-based entrepreneur and faith healer whose guests were mostly his patients from Europe. Diplomat Hotel ceased operations with the death of Agpaoa of a heart attack in 1987 and has since been closed to the public.

Dominican Hill has since been declared off limits to visitors. Local residents say that Dominican Hill is now a haunted place. The building is falling apart and is in a very dilapidated state. The railings and the guard house are about to collapse. The grounds have not been maintained that tall grass and weeds are all over the place. Some people who live nearby claim that at times they could hear the banging of doors, windows, clattering of dishes, and voices of people screaming in the middle of the night. 

There are also instances when the place is so quiet that not a single sound is heard the whole night. Perhaps this eerie phenomena could be attributed to the ghosts of its former owner and the different terminal patients who came to the place for hopes of being healed and have since already died. Some also say that Dominican Hill is haunted by the ghost of the people who were killed there during the war.

When the hotel was still open for business in Agpaoa's time, guests and hotel employees would claim to hear strange noises and see headless apparitions. Then, for decades since the hotel closed down, it developed a reputation as one of Baguio's most haunted places. Residents nearby claimed that it was haunted. Its physical state added to the eerie atmosphere. The building, the railings and the guard house were all rundown. 

Weeds were sprouting all over the place. Banging doors were heard even if the building no longer had doors. Screams, rattling and clanging sounds alternated with total silence. Speculations as to the identity of the specters abounded. Some said those were Agpaoa and his patients. Still others said these were restless spirits of those killed in the war such as beheaded priests and nuns.

Some years back there was a plan to install a cable car system linking Dominican Hill and Burnham Park - one which would be similar to those found in ski resorts in the United States and Europe. It was perhaps due to the lack of investor funds necessary to put up the project that this plan did not materialize. Recently, it has been rumored that there are plans to develop this historical religious landmark into a tourist resort. However, all these are just rumors and nothing definite has as yet been mentioned.

From July to August 2013, the film The Diplomat Hotel by Director Christopher Ad. Castillo was among the independent films screened at Cinemalaya Film Festival 2013. The setting of the film was the old hotel.

In May 2012, Baguio City inaugurated two new function halls in the hotel as part of the development of Baguio Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park as a preserved heritage site and to promote tourism, thereby expelling its ghostly past. These halls could be rented for P200 an hour or P2,000 a day for weddings, trainings and workshops among others.

The entire property was declared as a historical site through City Resolution No. 168, series of 2013. The city would next seek its declaration by the National Historical Commission as a National Historical Site.

How to get to DIPLOMAT HOTEL:
To go to the terminal from Burnham Park, just walk a bit until you see the intersection (Harrison-Abanao-Magsaysay intersection) where the LED screen of Abanao Square is visible. Walk to the Abanao Street to the side where Abanao Square is located (opposite the Hotel Veniz).

Walk until you are at the intersection of Abanao Street and Zandueta (just in front of that big LED screen). Walk straight to Zandueta Street, and then turn left. You must see a lineup of several jeepneys plying at the different routes.

Look for the jeepney where it passes through “Dominican Hill Road” or the Dominican Hill, where Diplomat Hotel is located. Ask if it will pass either Lourdes Grotto or Diplomat Hotel.
Go ahead and ride it, just tell the driver to drop you off at the foot of the stairs to Lourdes Grotto. In case you want to go directly to Diplomat Hotel, tell the driver to drop you off at the intersection where the path leads to Diplomat Hotel.

NOTE:  Jeepneys don’t pass directly to Diplomat Hotel. You must stop at the foot of the hill where the path goes to Diplomat Hotel and then just walk a few more steps. You can also walk from Lourdes Grotto to Diplomat Hotel, but in case you are already tired, ride the same jeepney and drop off at the foot of the hill to Diplomat Hotel.

If you've been to Diplomat Hotel and you experienced something unusual, share it with us and comment it below :)

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