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That famous lion head
Source: Inquirer
Author: Desiree Caluza
Date: 2000-06-27
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

summer capital.

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

sculptural landmark.''

''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

the public.

City landmark

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

the damage.

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

Manuel Moyamoy.

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.

Brisk business

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.

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?

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