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The Road to Baguio


Benguet Road Baguio location post for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The opening scenes of Channel 4’s Indian Summers shows British families making the journey up the foothills of the Himalayas to Shimla, the Crown’s summer capital. There they will relax in the temperate climate: “dance and forget,” as one Indian observer says. “A hotbed of political, social and romantic intrigue set amid rolling hills,” the Guardian wrote, “no place encapsulates the global ambitions as well as the parochial desires of the Raj better than Shimla.”

Benguet Road Baguio location post for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The Americans may have been late to the Great Game, but they would still have time to fashion their own Shimla in the Philippines. It was not until five years into American rule—on June 1, 1903—that the Philippine Commission officially designed Baguio as the Summer Capital of the Philippines. But the site had been chosen years before as a way to escape the heat of Manila:

There are hotter places than the lowlands of the Philippines—hotter places than Manila—but there is none where there is such a never-ending, boundless continuity of heat, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, throughout the whole cycle of the year—none so insidiously saps the vitality and relaxes the springs of energy native to men from colder climates.

Major L. W. V. Kennon, Tenth Infantry

Nestled in the Cordillera Mountain Range, this outpost offered “rolling, turf-covered hills, studded thick with fragrant pines, and swept by all the breezes.” The Americans now had a chance to create a town from scratch, one that represented everything they thought they were in the Philippines to provide: an orderly, beautiful center of transparent governance and intellectual inquiry. Yes, American colonial officials took their “City on a Hill” idealism seriously. The only problem was they did not have a way to get up the Hill.

The Yanks envisioned a railroad up the mountainside to Baguio, but they had to settle for a wagon road along the Bued River Canyon. This “simple” trail cost enough to build that by 1906 there was no money left to build a railroad—or to fully develop the city of Baguio itself. And though it was just meant to be a temporary passage, Kennon Road (Route 56), named after the American engineer in charge of the project, still exists. It is the shortest route to Baguio, and one of the most dangerous roads in the Philippines.

Benguet Road Baguio location post for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
Rockwork on the first big cliff above Camp 1 in 1901.

The danger is what made construction so expensive in the first place. Initial work began in January 1901 on a cliff above what would become Camp 1. Workers needed to first climb up to dangerous heights, then set dynamite charges, and finally get to safety before the charges blew. Some workers were a little reluctant to scale the cliffs in the first place, and they had to be shamed into it:

On reaching the 50-foot ladder, the men had categorically refused to ascend, proving equally deaf to threats or appeals, and had only done so after the disgusted foreman had ordered his wife to mount: “She did so and the whole party, following her, moved on its way.”

Quoted in Greg Bankoff’s “‘These Brothers of Ours’: Poblete’s Obreros and the Road to Baguio 1903-1905”

Benguet Road Baguio location post for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

And if the working conditions did not kill you, the other workers might: “a timekeeper was attacked with bolos…and several horses were mutilated by the same means.” Having started construction in the midst of a fierce guerrilla war, recruitment was an even bigger challenge than cutting down cliffs.

The original workforce was made of impressed Igorot tribesmen, considered to be “a vastly superior animal” who could be trusted “without the necessity of a white foreman to watch him,” according to one of the American engineers. (Even when trying to pay compliments, the Yanks could not help but be paternalistic and racist.) Because the Americans disparaged the Spanish-style corvée method—after they had already used it to construct over 1,000 miles of roads in the islands—they felt the need to “raise” the Filipino by offering “fair wages, training, and education.” (Despite their grand talk, they did also try convict labor. But shackled prisoners were not great choices for cliff work. Moreover, these men were a flight risk.)

Benguet Road Baguio location post for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The result was initially almost no workers at all. By January 1903, at the time of the official designation of Baguio as the summer capital, there were only two to four men at work on the road each day. Something had to be done. The Americans started hiring whomever they could get: Native Americans, Hawaiians, Mexicans, Peruvians, Chileans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Germans, Irish, English, French, Swedes, Spaniards, and all the peoples of the northern Philippines, from Ilocanos to Visayans. The men were divided into three groups for bunking and eating: Americans (including all Europeans and Africans), Orientals (Chinese, Japanese, and Indians), and Natives (Filipinos). Americans were paid the most and ate the best:

Benguet Road Baguio location post for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.

The Americans did try to help out their Filipino workers keep their “fair wages” by not allowing labor agents and patrons to siphon twenty percent off the top in kickbacks. Any foremen taking money from their crews in such an arrangement would be dismissed. One white foreman was sentenced to six months in Bilibid Prison for this kind of graft. Eventually, workers would be encouraged to bring their families up to the road as a way of keeping the men happy and tranquil. There were bands who played during work hours so the men could let “the dirt fly in time to the music.” And there were dances, saloons, and even a cockpit.

By October 1903, there were twenty thousand men at work on the Benguet Road, just under half of whom were Filipinos. A large number of these were folks from northern Luzon, particularly Ilocanos. Despite the full complement of workers, though, most experts predicted that it would still take at least three years to build the road. They did not count on Kennon’s eagerness to win a bet. Someone wagered him that the road would not be passable by January 1905, so on the 29th of that month, Major Kennon drove his calesa from Camp 4 into Baguio—along the most difficult and dangerous stretch of the route, a portion known as the Zig-Zag. Though the road was not quite finished, it would only take another year and a half Kennon handed it over to the Philippine Commission to administer in November 1906.

Traffic on the road was mostly mule teams and ox carts from 1906 to 1909, when Stanley Steamer cars were introduced. The next year, they brought in De Dion-Bouton petrol buses, with the world’s first 70 horsepower, 8-cylinder engines. A ride on these Benguet Auto Line buses was included in a railroad ticket from Manila, which cost P27 per person (about $365 in 2016 dollars) for a first-class fare, and P23 ($311 now) for second class.

Benguet Road Baguio location post for Sugar Sun steamy historical romance series by author Jennifer Hallock. Serious history. Serious sex. Happily ever after.
The first petrol buses heading up the Benguet Road. Photos courtesy of the American Historical Collection at Ateneo de Manila, reprinted at the Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society.

That’s steep compared to the $15 bus fare today, but even a $300 ticket would not make up for the cost of building the road itself: P3,923,694. That equals $1.9 million in (gold) 1905 dollars, and $53 million in 2016 dollars. The cost breaks down to P147,895 per mile, or $2 million per mile in today’s terms. Before you call the road a boondoggle, though, know that $2 million a mile is about right for a new 2-lane undivided road in rural areas, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. (Admittedly, they are talking about a paved road that is not regularly washed out by flooding, but who’s quibbling?)

Baguio lost its accreditation as summer capital in 1913, but that did not stop Americans from living and playing there. It is still a favorite getaway for Filipinos and foreigners alike. For many in Manila, “all roads lead to Baguio”—once the Americans built them.

[This post was originally written in an expanded form under the title: “Sugar Sun series location #12: Benguet Road” by Jennifer Hallock, author of the Sugar Sun series.]
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Preparing for Travel to 1900s Europe


Cie. Gle. Transatlantique, C.1910, Ernest Louis Lessieux

In going from America to Europe, the first and most costly step is always the ocean journey. A note to the different steamship companies, whose boats sail from all the great Atlantic seaports, will bring by return mail an immense amount of literature, wherein the advantages of each particular route are fully set forth, with accommodations and rates suited to all tastes and purses. The second class in some ships is fully equal to the first of others, and there are a few lines which carry only one or two classes.

For “tramp tourists” of the male sex, steerage may be possible at a pinch, but where ladies are concerned, the first or second class cabins alone can enter into consideration. In choosing a cabin, individual idiosyncrasies and tastes must be studied to insure as much comfort as possible. Midship there is the least pitching motion; aft the tremor from the screws is greatest, but usually the odours from the machinery and kitchen are more remote. Outside cabins are more desirable only if the portholes can be opened, height above the water and weather permitting, otherwise the ventilation is exactly the same as for all other cabins, namely, through the ventilating funnels on deck.

The wash of the sea against the hull, the scrubbing of decks at dawn, and the endless tramping of promenaders immediately overhead, prove disturbing to many. Cabins adjoining corridors where there is much passage to and fro are noisy. Therefore they are undesirable to some, while others object to those that are difficult of access from the deck or saloon.

It is always well, if there is any prospect of your crossing during the “rush season” (i. e. outward bound May 1 to July 15, homeward bound August 15 to October 15), to secure the refusal of your cabin by a deposit which will be returned to you, under certain stipulated conditions, in case you find you cannot sail. These conditions are set forth in the steamship companies’ prospectuses, with brief, useful directions about luggage, etc., which it is always well to follow carefully. However, in case the information you desire is not forthcoming, inquiry at the nearest steamship office or through some tourist agency will be sure to elicit all you wish to know.

It is always prudent to secure a round trip ticket in advance, for then you are certain of your return passage, of a cabin or berth when you want it, and you save a trifle besides.

General Tips

(1) Decide your route in such a way that your visit to any district may not be during the close season, and, at the same time, avoid the high season, unless you like crowds and are prepared to pay high-season prices.

Among districts most frequented between April and October are 7: Switzerland, north-west coast of France, Inland France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark. Between September and June: The French and Italian Rivieras, Algiers, Egypt, Sicily, Spain, North Italy, Greece, Palestine, Canaries and Madeira, and the following parts of Switzerland: Swiss-Italian lakes (spring and autumn), the Lake Léman Riviera (almost all the year), and the high mountain resorts, which have their season in mid-winter and mid-summer.

(2) Carefully select hotels at each place you intend to visit, and communicate with the manager, stating approximately the length of stay and the number of party, and asking for terms.

(3) Arrange your luggage in such a way that on arrival everything is suitable for the climate of the country. At table d’hote in Continental hotels men chiefly wear dinner jackets, and ladies high-necked bodices. For dances dress is the same as at home.

(4) Through tickets (single and return, available for a limited period) can be obtained from London to the principal continental resorts by various routes, and in some countries special facilities are offered in the way of season tickets (as in Switzerland and parts of Italy). Reliable tourist agents, like Messrs Thos. Cook and Son, Ludgate-circus, E.C., and Dr Lunn, Endsleigh-gardens, N.W., also supply tickets to and from almost any station. Sleeping car tickets should be ordered well in advance at the Sleeping Car Company’s offices, or at the offices of a reliable tourist agent.

(5) Luggage is registered from London to the principal Continental towns. It should be locked in such a way that at the request of the Customs officer it can be opened without delay. Only light articles should be carried in the railway carriage, and they should in all cases be limited to a portmanteau and travelling bag. Where possible send heavy luggage out ten days or so in advance by petite vitesse or (if wanted soon) by grande vitesse.

(6) English sovereigns and notes pass everywhere, but as Cook’s have banking departments at all their offices abroad, travellers should arrange matters with them before leaving England.

(7) Always tip before leaving hotels—not lavishly or stingily: the former injures fellow travellers, and the latter yourself.

On how to apply for rooms at Continental Hotels

(1) Always write, if possible, in French or German, or the language of the country, whatever it may be. If unable to do so, write a letter in the clearest possible English, couched in very polite terms. The curt, businesslike letter, suitable to a correspondence with an English hotel-keeper, is likely to be resented by the foreign one.

(2) Do not imagine that when you ask for rooms at a fashionable resort in the height of the season, at the lowest imaginable figure, you are conferring an inestimable favour on the hotel you propose to honour, and demand rooms to be reserved accordingly. (Hotel-keepers have shown me such letters from Englishmen.) It is better to ask the proprietor to be good enough to let you know whether he has room, and can see his way to accept the terms you propose, in consideration of length of stay, number of guests, &c.

(3) It is also as well, if he does accept your terms, to ask him to kindly state the position of the rooms he proposes to give you, the aspect, which floor, and whether they are quiet, &c. You will not then be disappointed by finding that you are given a top-floor room looking on to a stable or a blank wall, when you have arrived in the full confidence of finding your rooms on the first floor, with a. view of the sea, or the Alps, at a cost of l0 fr. a day tout compris (when other people are hopelessly offering 25 fr. a day for permission to sleep in a bathroom).

(4) Keep a small supply of unused foreign stamps, and inclose one for reply to your letters.

(5) It is as well to remember that the foreign hotel-keeper takes a somewhat higher position socially than his counterpart in England, who is usually the servant of a company, and that the lady in the bureau is often his wife or daughter, and expects you to take your hat off to her when you say good morning. It is a mistake to resent as familiarity what is merely meant as friendliness and hospitality.

(6) Don’t tell the proprietor to carry your luggage up to your room. He will probably be quite willing to do it, if the porter is not there, but he has a dislike to being taken for the latter.

(7) Do not, if you have any complaint to make, march into his private office with your hat on. as if it were the smoking-room, and expect him to be delighted to see you, and eager to hear what you have to say, when he is possibly getting the weekly accounts made up. Speak to him quietly. when you see he is at liberty—an hotel-keeper has a good deal to see to—and, whatever is wrong, assume that the matter has only to be mentioned to him for him to do his best to put things right. It probably is not his personal fault if there is no water in your water jug, or if your boots have not been taken away to be cleaned, and he may even know nothing of the occurrence.

(8) If you do not like the performance of melodious musicians, who are permitted to come and play outside the dining-room during dinner, try to refrain from giving orders to the head waiter that he is to drive them away. Other guests may not find them disagreeable.

(9) If the windows require opening or closing during table d’h6te, it is thought more considerate by your “foreign ” neighbours (who are possibly natives) if you consult them first as to what they think of the state of the atmosphere, before commanding alterations. It confuses the waiters if‘ they get contradictory orders in divers tongues, and delays the dinner.

(10) Bow to your foreign neighbours on taking your seat next them, and on leaving the table, however much you dislike the look of them. They are scarcely ever as bad as they look (even Germans), and if they are it is, after all, the usual thing to do.

How to Prepare for Europe by Hélène Adeline Guerber & The “Queen” Newspaper Book of Travel: A Guide to Home and Foreign Resorts

Porto, the Unvanquished City


I bring you some photographs of the city I was born in, Porto (or Oporto), in Portugal, from around the Edwardian Era. This is the second biggest city in Portugal, and one with a very rich history. It is known as the “Cidade Invicta”, or the “Unvanquished City”, for standing undefeated against many invasions.

Santa Catarina Road, circa 1875
Saint Anthony Hospital, circa 1900


In 1911 there were almost 190 000 people living in Porto, a city that gathered a lot of merchants and artists. Only one year before Portugal had had a revolution that put an end to the Monarchy and started the First Portuguese Republic, which would last for almost two decades.

Royal Theater of São João (St John), circa 1900

Since the city rests by the sea, its population was always very trade oriented, and it had a large bourgeois class (as opposite to Lisbon, the capital, where the nobility and the politicians lived). In the 19th century the city had a industrial revolution and turned itself into a very important hub in the Atlantic.

Lello Library, circa 1905 (still exists today)
D. Maria Bridge, circa 1877

This made it so many artists and creators of some sort went to Porto at least once. This bridge, for example, was built by Gustave Eiffel, known for the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. This affluence turned Porto into a modern city, with a lot of caffés, theaters, bookshops, gardens, fairs, and exhibitions.

Clerigos Street, circa 1897


The outskirts of the city, though, were still very dedicated to agriculture (although decreasingly so). It was there that the famous Oporto wine was made, and still is, and the beverage was already one of the main trades of the city, and even the country.

Nossa Senhora da Guia Beach, circa 1900
Grand Hotel, circa 1900


Chinez Coffee Shop, circa 1907

And finally, some illustrations and older photographs of this quaint city by the river. I hope you liked this gallery!

Crystal Palace Museum, 1879
circa 1881
Alidos Avenue, circa 1900
Cordoaria Garden, circa 1900s