John Hay Air Base

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John Hay Air Base, more commonly known as Camp John Hay to many Filipinos, was a major hill station used for rest and recreation for personnel and dependents of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines as well as Department of Defense employees and their dependents. Last used by the United States Air Force, the "camp" is now a popular tourist destination in the northern part of the country.


When the Philippine-American War broke out in 1900, the US 48th infantry unit led by Capt. Robert Rudd, established a hill station in what is presently the site of Camp John Hay. The site was part of a vast pastureland referred to by its local inhabitants, the Ibalois, as "Kafaguay", which meant a 'wide open place.' It was owned by a native by the name of Mateo Cariño.

Fortifying its base on the north, U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt on October 25, 1903 signed an executive order setting aside land in Benguet for a military reservation under the U.S. Army, thus the birth of John Hay. The reservation was named after Roosevelt's Secretary of State, John Milton Hay. For a time, elements of the 1st Battalion of the Philippine Division's 43d Infantry Regiment (PS) was stationed here. Prior to World War II, a number of buildings had been constructed on base, including a U.S. Army Hospital and the summer residence of the Governor-General of the Philippines, later to be known as The American Residence, which is now used as the summer house of the United States Ambassador to the Philippines.

World War II

When World War II erupted, the camp was used by the Americans as a concentration camp for Japanese civilians who were rounded up in Baguio and nearby provinces on the suspicion that they were spies of the Imperial Japanese Army.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, eighteen Japanese planes, 17 of them in formation, came over Camp John Hay on the 8 December 1941. This force dropped 128 bombs, many of which did not explode. The first Japanese bomb to be dropped on the the Philippines hit the Main Gate and the succeeding bombs hit the Half Way House, the Mile High Club, the left wing of the Main Club and portions of the Scout Hill area, which housed the stockade and barracks of the Philippine Scouts.

The Japanese set up their first internment camp in the Philippines at Camp John Hay. A group of more than 500 men, women and children was crowded into one building. The group consisted of missionaries, miners and two Army nurses. The missionaries had been evacuated from China the preceding year and had established a language school in the Philippines while awaiting the opportunity to return to China. The miners, some of whom were actually lumbermen, had been living and working near Baguio. The Army nurses were those first captured after their unsuccessful attempt to escape to Manila via the logging trail out of Baguio.

Many of the original buildings, which were used as prisons still stand, such as the building now occupied by the Lonestar Steakhouse, the Base Chapel and the adjoining rows of cottages.

File:JapSurrender Baguio.jpg
Surrender of Japanese Forces in the Philippines, 3 September 1945. General Tomoyuki Yamashita, is seated in the middle on the near side of the table. Seated on the opposite side, second from left, is Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright

During the Japanese occupation, General Tomoyuki Yamashita used the American Residence as his headquarters and official residence.

On April 26, 1945, Baguio City and Camp John Hay fell into American hands. American forces pursued the retreating Japanese into the forests of the Benguet Mountains. Finally, on September 3, 1945 Yamashita surrendered to General Jonathan Wainwright at the American Residence. British General Arthur Percival stood as witness. These two Generals, who were both defeated by Yamashita, especially flew up to Baguio to accept the surrender of Yamashita.

Open to Public

No Filipino used to be allowed inside except as a guest of a U.S. citizen, until Camp John Hay opened its doors to the public in the early 1980s. This was so because the U.S. subsidized the goods and services inside with their taxpayers' money. Bowling was at a dime a game, candy bars cost a quarter. Food, liquor and cigarettes, imported from America, were cheap and tax free.

While officially designated a communications station, the facility was mainly used for rest and recreation. The facility housed buildings for relaxation as well as broadcasting facilities of the Voice of America news service.


Just before the facility was turned over to the Philippines, it had 290 fully-furnished rooms in the different cottages, duplexes, apartments, and lodges, which are scattered about the complex. Some of these billeting units were equipped with color television sets, refrigerators, and cooking facilities.

The base's popular spots are the 19th Tee, Halfway House, Scout Hill baseball field, Main Club (also known as Officer's Building), and the well-known Mile-Hi Recreation Center. It was off-limits to the general public, except for some who had access due to connections or official business.

American Withdrawal

Camp John Hay was formally turned over to the Philippine government on July 1, 1991 and was initially administered by the Philippine Tourism Authority and then turned over to the Bases Conversion Development Authority.

The American Residence

The American Residence

The American Residence was constructed in 1940 and was envisioned to be the summer residence of the Governor-General of the Philippines. With the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the American Residence became the summer residence of the United States High Commissioner to the Philippines and with the granting of Philippine independence on July 4, 1946, became the summer residence of the United States Ambassador to the Philippines.

When the Americans turned over John Hay to the Philippines, the Philippine Government reportedly requested the U.S. Government to include The American Residence in the transfer; this request was denied by the Americans. During Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone's term, the U.S. State Department wanted to give up the residence because it was costing too much to maintain. The Ambassador was able to convince the State Department to keep it because of its historical value.

During the term of Ricciardone, the Philippines' National Historical Institute installed a marker on the residence, which reads:

John Hay Air Base At Present

At present, the former American R&R facility serves as a tourist attraction. Among its current major attractions are the Par-69 golf course, several restaurants, and The Camp John Hay Manor Hotel.


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