|That famous lion head
|Author: Desiree Caluza
A TRIP to Baguio City would
not be complete without
taking home a souvenir
photograph with the ubiquitous lion head as the
backdrop on the 95-year-old Kennon Road.
While located away from the city, 15 kilometers
from Camp 6 in Tuba, Benguet, the 40-foot high
lion head has nevertheless become the undisputed
landmark that is synonymous to the country's
The lion head, carved by local artisans from a
limestone boulder, has been a familiar face to
travelers along scenic Kennon since the socio-civic
group Lions Club International unveiled it in 1972.
Jaime Mendoza, a member of
the Baguio City (Host) Lions
Club, describes the lion head
as ''monumental as a
''How the creation of such site
came about is still anybody's
guess to this very day.
Nevertheless, one school of
thought that stands out as
readily acceptable is that
which provides for the
handiwork of Mother Nature,''
Mendoza said in his address to
Lions Club members here last year.
He said the particular boulder from where the lion
head was created resembled the shape and face of
a menacing lion.
He said the creative minds of pioneer Lions Club
members in the city thought of creating a symbol
that would proclaim the presence of the group in
this mountain resort city.
Mendoza said it was during the term of Baguio
Mayor Luis Lardizabal, who was also Lions Club
governor in 1969 to 1970, when the club
conceptualized the creation of that symbol.
Lardizabal tasked Lion members Basilio Gochu,
Francisco Panajon and Ruperto Villalon as project
The club tapped donations from Lion members and
businessmen in the city and pooled proceeds from
a state convention to fund the construction of the
lion head. The actual work started in 1971 and
took a year before the lion head was unveiled to
It was completed under Lions Governor John
Webber and by local chapter Governor Pedro
Claravall. Club vice presidents Moises Cating, David
Borja and Arturo Santiago supervised the unveiling
of the city's newest landmark then.
No documents from the Lions Club files could
pinpoint who actually did the sculpture. Even the
20 Lions Club members contacted by the INQUIRER
could not tell who the sculptor was.
But they agreed, however, that a Cordillera artist
did the sculpture.
The devastating effect of the July 16, 1990
earthquake did not spare the lion head. Its face
sustained cracks and vandals took advantage of
After helping the city rise from the ruins of the
killer quake, Lions Club members once again
buckled to work to bring their beloved lion back to
Alfredo de los Santos and Gloria Vergara
designated Peter Go, third vice president of the
Lions Club 1991-93, as project coordinator for the
The restoration of one of the city's cultural
landmarks was assigned to Baguio contractor
Since its restoration, the lion head has received its
usual share of attention.
Noli Ulas, a 34-year-old businessman who tends a
woodcarving and handicraft store near the lion
head in Camp 6, can only offer gratitude for the
creation of the lion head.
Ulas said his business, as well as those of other
stall owners in the area, enjoyed high sales after
the lion head was put up.
''Dati panay soft drinks lang ang tinitinda namin
dito para sa mga turista, pero noong tumagal na,
naging woodcarvings na dahil sa lion head (Before,
we were only selling soft drinks to tourists. But
because of the lion head, we were able to expand
our businesses to woodcarvings and handicraft),''
He said local and foreign tourists make it a point to
stop in Camp 6 and have their photographs taken
at the base of the lion head.
On rainy days, 200 tourists on the average stop
there, Ulas said. ''Pero kapag peak season katulad
ng summer at saka Christmas, hindi ko na mabilang
sa dami (But during peak seasons like summer and
Christmas, I cannot count them anymore),'' he
Ulas said he has become familiar with the regular
''patrons'' of the lion head, the same people he
would see during stopovers.
He observed that these people pose for a shot
when the lion head is newly painted.
Cecilio Castillo, 48, and resident of Mandaluyong
City, said his frequent visits to Baguio would
always make him stop near the lion head especially
when it is newly painted.
''Actually, it was my daughter who is so interested
about the lion head, probably it was because of
her classmates' persuasion,'' he said.
Gina, 30, a first-time Baguio visitor from
Binangonan, Rizal, said she used to see the lion
head only in postcards, pictures and magazines.
She said she was thrilled after she had her picture
taken with the lion head for the first time.
Who says an ordinary mortal cannot tame a lion?