Ongpin’s ‘Magnum Opus’ in Baguio

4/26/2016 | By: Emil Jurado

I was in Baguio over the weekend and it was a breeze going there. Travel from Metro Manila, via Balintawak, North Luzon Expressway, then through Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway now only takes three hours. I remember it took at least six hours before. Note that I wrote Balintawak since it took another hour and a half to two hours to negotiate Edsa.

Baguio’s cool weather was a relief to me because I occasionally suffer from asthma because of the heat. When in Baguio, I always stay at the Camp John Hay Forest Lodge because it’s affordable. It was time to recharge an old man’s batteries.

But I must confess I’m a workaholic. I did not waste time and immediately visited a “magnum opus” of Bobby Ongpin—the Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges, just eight kilometers away from Baguio City proper. Bobby was my student at Ateneo High School. He told me that going to the place, almost at a hilltop, would be comfortable because the road is now fully cemented. It was not that way 40 years ago when he bought that 76-hectare property for his family.

Bobby said that even then, he could foresee the haphazard development in the city. It used to take him an hour to get to his property, he said. The traffic was nightmarish. In 1977, he completed his home. At the same time, he developed a citrus farm which gave him a modest income over the years. “But the trees have now grown old and are no longer commercially feasible,” he said.

I was actually stunned to see a development like it, knowing Baguio as it is today. To me, the only place now in Baguio where one could still smell the pine trees is Camp John Hay. The Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges is something to see in Baguio City. It boasts of an elevation of 5,200 feet compared to Baguio proper and the Loakan Airport, which is at 4,300 feet, and Tagaytay Highlands, where the highest point is at 2,000 feet and the average elevation is only at 1,500 feet.

Bobby said the fireplace in his Baguio house is always lit and roaring away. He added, “I even have portable heaters for the cold Christmas months when the temperature could dip to 5 degrees Centigrade, sometimes even lower.”

I was taken around by my guide, and was told that Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges would consist of 300 log houses, master planned over the property. It will not be a high-density community so the unit owners could enjoy privacy, walk around or even go horseback-riding. Alphaland in fact planted an additional 200,000 pine trees.

Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges will not be a membership club. Homes will be built in clusters of five or six, i.e. each homeowner will have a proportionate share of the 76-hectare property. In other words, it will be a horizontal condominium. Fences will not be allowed and landscaping will be provided and maintained by Alphaland.

I did not see a gateway entrance, it will be built next month. Alphaland has contracted the designer Rico Sison and architect Nick Pagulayan. Five model log homes, ranging from three-bedroom to five-bedroom units, will soon be up. Each home will be completely furnished. They will be in a ready-to-move-in condition. Ongpin expects to build 50 lodges during the first year, 100 during the second year and 150 on the third year. Each home will be constructed from imported cedar to ensure they are termite-free. Termites are the no. 1 scourge of pinewood. There will be fireplaces in the living room and the master bedroom.

To provide electric power at all times, the project will have solar panels on roofs for adequate hot water and lighting at all times. There will be full electric power backup. A sports center with tennis court, basketball court, badminton courts and a basic gym will be built. And there will be mountain ponies and horse stables at the far end of the property. There will also be a steakhouse on high part of the property with the best views.

To facilitate access to lodges, the Ongpin property will also build a total of three helipads. Ongpin is acquiring one more to accommodate those who want to use the helicopter services, which can take off from Alphaland’s hangar at Naia or its helipad at Alphaland Southgate Tower in Edsa corner Chino Roces Avenue in Makati. The sad part of my tour was that I was told that each lodge will cost between P35 million to P50 million, which I can never afford. Not surprisingly, more than half of the first 50 units have already been reserved.

What a pleasant visit I had. While Ongpin’s Mountain Lodges will only be for those who can afford it, it can be said that the summer capital is progressing. I am sure there will be other property developers that will follow. In fact, I have been told that there are more hotels being built this year to accommodate Baguio’s tourism needs. With TPLEX finally finished within the year, going to Baguio either through Marcos Highway or Kennon Road will be easy and comfortable.

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I asked Baguio City residents and friends who will make it, and almost everybody told me it will be a Binay-Marcos victory. If follows. Vice President Jejomar Binay is from Isabela and also speaks Ilocano, the main dialect in Baguio. And Senator Bongbong Marcos is a Marcos—the Solid North will carry him.

It looks like Baguio is still a “Marcos Pa Rin” territory.

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