Baguio's Casa Vallejo is 'safe' for now
MANILA, Philippines - For now, Baguio's oldest hotel will stand as it is, thanks to a status quo order issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on Tuesday, January 14.
NCIP chairperson Leonor Quintayo directed the parties involved in the dispute over a 2,160-square-meter property where Casa Vallejo stands to maintain the status quo "so as not to complicate the issues."
The dispute is the subject of an NCIP case, another pending Supreme Court case, and a congressional inquiry.
The NCIP's commission en banc (CEB) tackled the issue after the property administrator, the Natural Resources Development Corporation (NRDC), informed it about the controversial issuance of the writ of possession to heirs of an Ibaloi elder.
The heirs (represented by Richard Acop), who trace their roots to Cosen Piraso known as Kapitan Piraso, earlier secured two Certificates of Ancestral Land Title (CALT) which cover the property.
NRDC, the corporate arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), earlier protested the writ issued by the NCIP's regional hearing office, saying it was done in an “irregular and unlawful manner.”
On January 2, present tenants of Casa Vallejo, which now houses a hotel, a bookshop, a cinematheque, a restaurant, and a spa, received a notice to vacate the property. This was supposed to be implemented on January 10, but the city sheriff postponed it to Tuesday, January 14.
Save Casa Vallejo
The local government and concerned residents in Baguio fear this may result in the demolition of the historic hotel fronting SM Baguio to pave the way for further development.
The take over "as an ancestral claim and its sale to a corporation" of the disputed lot "may cause physical and cultural destruction of a site considered as a century old historical landmark," Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said in a resolution she filed on Monday, January 14.
The resolution urges President Benigno Aquino III to declare the 105-year-old hotel as "a heritage site."
Baguio residents also initiated a petition on Change.org, calling on National Comission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) chairman Felipe de Leon Jr to declare Casa Vallejo as an "important cultural property" to ensure its protection and preservation.
The hotel survived carpetbombing of Session Road by the Americans during World War II. It was erected in 1909 and was then called “Dormitory 4,” where civil government employees stayed during the summer when Americans started developing Baguio.
"Those in property dispute will please negotiate benefit-sharing terms, but have the city's heritage as priority, that's how history will appreciate your legacy," former Baguio Historical Society executive director and retired UP Baguio professor Rowena Boquiren wrote in support of the petition.
To date, more than 2,500 people have signed the online petition. – Rappler.com