Baguio City's Hauntingly Historical Diplomat Hotel

It was some time ago when I was randomly browsing a travel blog and learned about this eerie abandoned building in Baguio. The blogger managed to sneak inside the dilapidated building and took some photos of him with the Dominican crucifix mounted upon the rooftop of Diplomat Hotel adorning its facade, backdropped by the stunning vista of the city on a seemingly bright afternoon. It piqued my interest of seeing and if possible, creeping into the old edifice myself.

I’d been to Baguio City twice but I’d never passed by the deserted hotel as it was newly opened and not yet detected by tourist radars back then. I got a chance to roam around Baguio once again and what made the trip special apart from being with the family this time, was when I found myself gazing up at the decrepit walls of the once flourishing hotel, turned haunted and now a protected historical property.

Facade of the Diplomat Hotel

A trip to Baguio won’t be complete without taking a sacrificial climb upon the 252-step staircase or driving up through a winding and steep asphalt-paved road to Lourdes Grotto. After taking a short moment of stillness at the shrine of Our Lady, we drove along an unfamiliar road past the Grotto, unaware that we were bound for the old Diplomat Hotel. Kuya Jim, the man behind the wheel during my previous trip in Baguio, mentioned “Dominican Hill” repeatedly when referring to an attraction we had not checked before, as well as when I asked him where we would be going next.

Dilapidated walls of Diplomat Hotel

But what and where the hell is Dominican Hill? I did not even know then that Lourdes Grotto itself was enshrined at the foot of this hill. We reached an estate at the end of Dominican Hill Road, on top of the hill, where a sight of some familiar structure seeps through its gate. It was exactly how it looks like in photos, but with colorful flowers instead of tall weeds.

I walked slightly uphill into the porch. Instead of a concierge, a historical marker apparently mounted and unveiled in 2014, carrying the inscription “Dominican Hill and Retreat House” welcomes hotel guests. Kuya Jim probably got the name “Dominican Hill” from that informative black tablet where I also found out that the old building had housed not only the Diplomat Hotel before it laid in ruins.

Old Diplomat Hotel building

Two years after its completion, the building was inaugurated as a vacation house for Dominican priests in 1915. A school, Colegio del Santissimo Rosario, opened in the same year, was closed down in 1918 and reverted to its original use as a rest house. During the Japanese invasion, it served as refuge of Filipino families and Dominican priests. Japanese army invaded the property and used it as a fortress but it didn’t take long when it was bombed by the Americans in 1945. After the war, it was rebuilt. Diplomat Hotel, as the decaying building was widely known today, was established in 1973, ceased operation in 1987 and left unoccupied since then.

I was able to get inside, not by sneaking past the security as I had wished before. I walked through the hall to look for staircases that would lead me to the second floor, then to the rooftop. But prior to getting there, the fountain made famous by inexplicable encounters on it flashed before my eyes. Legend has it that babies were mercilessly killed near the fountain and that there was a bunker beneath where the ashes of the Dominican priests were laid to rest. I just took photos of my sister and cousin with the fountain hoping for a headless apparition to join them.

Diplomat Hotel's famous fountain

As I moved along, my heart missed a beat when I found what I’d been looking for. Not yet the way up but the headless entity. Well, it’s actually not headless but just faceless. A souvenir photo booth where guests would put their faces in place of the actual person wearing a priest’s clothing and a nun’s habit was cleverly placed on a corner hidden from visitors entering the main door to supposedly put a bit of adrenaline when they reach the end of the hallway. None of us tried to take a souvenir photo though as it was more scary behind the booth. Who knows? "They" might have had joined us if we did.

Eerie souvenir photo booth

I finally reached the stairs leading to the upper level only to find out it was off-limits. A makeshift wooden door with its doorknob locked blocked the way. A part of the upper floor’s broken windows seeping through the jamb made me even more frustrated. Another way was to take the grand staircase but it was barricaded with concrete blocks. I looked for other paths that might bring me to the top but to no avail.

Diplomat Hotel's grand staircase

I exited through the door just below the stairs and found myself at the back of the old hotel where a view of the city is a sight to behold. It might not be as scenic as the vista from the rooftop because of trees blocking some view but it isn’t bad at all.

Enlarge photo of stamp commemorating Diplomat Hotel's 100th year

Before we left, I went back inside to check the foyer that accommodates the gallery featuring the then and now of the property. I delighted myself in its rich history. Old photographs were just amazing though some of them were disturbing.

Yet another history: Ten Commandments Tablet

Another edifice, not an old one this time, that stands on the same property is also one for the books, literally. Simulating the biblical Ten Commandments, this building scored a page on the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s largest Ten Commandments Tablet Building.

World's largest Ten Commandments Tablet Building

Kingdom of Jerusalem Halleluyah Foundation International built the building made of giant granite slabs and unveiled it in 2011. The record holder is Grace Galindez-Gupana who, interestingly, holds other world records of largest things. It was said during its inauguration that the edifice was built “to drive away the evils of spirits that time and again emerge”. And with “evils of spirits”, they must mean the ghostly encounters of the adjacent Diplomat Hotel.


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