Diplomat Hotel Ruins (Baguio City, Benguet)

The author outside the Diplomat Hotel Ruins

The Dominican Hill Retreat House, an abandoned structure atop Dominican Hill commonly known as the Diplomat Hotel, is a favorite spot for photography, airsoft tournaments, film making, wedding receptions and photography, cosplay photoshoots and many more. In spite of it being in ruin, almost every tourist that goes to the City of Pines makes it a point to visit this place because it is one of the most panoramic and picturesque spots in the city. However, due to its brutal and grim World War II history, it is considered by paranormal believers to be haunted.

The century-old Diplomat Hotel Ruins. At far right is the Ten Commandments Building

The building had its beginnings in May 1911 when American friars of the Dominican Order (or Order of Preachers), along with a few Spanish members, made plans for the construction of a vacation house for them and the nuns of their order in Baguio. A 17-hectare hill property was first acquired from Americans who reside in Baguio. The hill where the building was to stand was christened as “Dominican Hill.”

Plaque installed by the National Historical Commission

The building was designed by Fr. Roque Ruaño, O.P., a civil engineer and one of the members of the order.  He was the same architect of the main building of the current campus of the University of Santo Tomas.

The cross at the front of the hotel. Below it is a bas relief of a probable Dominican shield with a crown on top and a dangling rosary

Construction, said to have started in 1913, was supervised by Fr. Ruano himself. On May 23, 1915, it was then inaugurated. At the time of its construction, it was considered the grandest and most expensive stone structure in the city.

Prayer Mountain and Tourism Center

On June 1915, to take advantage of tax exemptions, the order set up a seminary named Colegio del Santissimo Rosario.  However, due to the very small enrollment (only 6 students enrolled in 1917), the school closed two years later and the building was reverted to its original use.

Baroque scroll ornamentation at jambs and the top of the main entrance

During World War II, the people fleeing from the Japanese sought refuge within its walls. Because of its commanding view of the city, the Japanese Imperial Army turned the compound into their headquarters and garrison. Within the courtyard and its grounds, the Kempeitai (Japanese secret police) committed barbaric acts such as torture, rape and decapitation of priests and nuns, as well as refugees.

The rehabilitated west wing of the building

On April 1945, during the liberation of the Philippines, the American forces bombed the place, partially hitting the right wing of the building while Japanese forces committed suicide. Between 1945 and 1947, the building underwent restoration.

The east wing of the building

In 1973, Diplomat Hotels, Inc. acquired ownership of the property and thoroughly remodeled the interior into a 33-bedroom hotel, all the while retaining the unique features and Dominican ambiance (the large white cross and the emblem was retained) which were earlier established by the Dominican friars.

Fireplace at hotel lobby. Tony Agpaoa is said to haunt this area

The hotel was managed by Baguio-based entrepreneur Antonio Agapito “Tony” C. Agpaoa, the sensational and controversial faith healer (later branded as a hoax by many) famous for psychic surgery who claimed to perform surgery with his bare hands without anesthetic.  The hotel became the haven of his patients that came mostly from abroad and they stayed here while being healed.

Multi-tiered fountain at Courtyard No. 1. Babies and little children were said to have been murdered here during the war

In the 1980s, Agpaoa suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with brain hemorrhage. On January 1982, the 42 year old Agpaoa died of his ailments. Since his death, the hotel ceased operations and was abandoned. Following its abandonment, the place was looted and sacked.

Similar fountain at Courtyard No. 2

The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, formerly known as the Ministry of Human Settlements, took over the ownership of the hotel. The Presidential Management Staff (PMS) came next.  During the June 16, 1990 Luzon earthquake, the building also sustained significant damage.

Exhibit at west wing

The property on the hill (currently named as Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park) was conveyed to the City Government of Baguio in April 2004 and, on April 5, 2005, was declared a National Historical Site through TCT No. T-85948.

Grand stairway leading to second floor

The entire property was declared as a historical site through City Resolution No. 168, series of 2013. The Deed of Conveyance and City Resolutions provided for the rehabilitation of the old building and the development of the property into a park by obligating the city.

One of the 33 hotel rooms

It is now under the maintenance of the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO). In May 2012, as part of the development of Baguio Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park as a preserved heritage site and to promote tourism, two new function halls for weddings, training and workshops in the hotel’s west wing were inaugurated. On September 1, 2014, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared it as an Important Cultural Property. 

Still intact bathtub at bathroom of one of the hotel rooms.

This 2-storey building, an example of classic Baroque architectural design with its striking details and admirable design, is a fusion of European church design, blended with local materials and motifs. Its rusticated facade has a porte cochere over a driveway.

The author

The ground floor, with semicircular arched windows, and the second floor, with rectangular windows, are separated by a horizontal cornice. The cornice, at the roof deck level, is located above corbels.

Headless ghosts of nuns and priests are said to haunt these hallways.

Planned out as a castle complete with crenelations, it has a massive fortress-like character. This is also the first hotel in the country, and even in Asia, to have a cross on its gabled main entrance. From this stone crucifix on the roof deck, a panoramic view of the city can be seen. Its roof also has water collecting devices. Inside are two courtyards, both with multi-tiered fountains.

Second floor hallway.  Note the still intact, circa 1970s crazy-cut marble flooring.  Floor beams are supported by decorative coorbels

If ghosts, spirits and the paranormal tickle your fancy, then this so famously haunted, eerie, bleak and abandoned building is definitely for you.  Considered as one of the most haunted places in Baguio City and the Philippines, even since the Diplomat Hotel was open, employees and guests would report hearing strange and eerie noises coming from the building and seeing headless ghosts, with their heads on a platter, constantly roaming the hallways.

Secondary stairway

However, even after the hotel shut down, those sightings would continue.  The people living nearby were often disturbed at night by sounds coming from the Dominican Hill. They would hear banging of doors and windows, clattering of dishes, voices of screaming people who seem to be agonizing, as well as rattling and clanging sounds alternating with total silence.  Adding to the eerie atmosphere is the derelict condition of the hotel.

Fireplace at east wing

As previously mentioned, during the World War II, numerous nuns and priests (forced to serve as helpers for the soldiers) were beheaded here and this is believed to be the reason why headless apparitions are often seen, during the night, inside the hotel. Crying coming from kids and babies, a common noise, are attributed to the massacre of numerous children done at the fountain.

Roof deck

Others say these are the restless spirits of Agpaoa and his patients.  Many years ago, a fire broke out in a portion of the hotel and several guests who were then staying at the hotel were trapped inside and died.  According to one of its caretakers, a woman who used to work there as a nurse committed suicide, for unknown reasons, by jumping from the rooftop where the cross is situated.

Cross seen from the roof deck.  A nurse was said to have jumped to her death at this area

A lot of documentaries have been written about this mysterious hotel.  It was featured on television programs such as Magandang Gabi, Bayan‘s 2004 Halloween Special, AHA! and Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho. Right beside the Diplomat Hotel ruins, is the fairly recent, A-shaped Ten Commandments Building, a “prayer building” which serves as a symbol that drives away evil spirits.

Check out “Ten Commandments Building


View of Baguio City from Diplomat Hotel Ruins

Diplomat Hotel: Dominican Hill, Diplomat Road, Brgy. Dominican Hill-Mirador,  Baguio City, 2600 Benguet. Open 6 AM – 6 PM.

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer (Labrador, Pangasinan)

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer

The town’s first church and convent, built with wood, was started in 1771 by Fr. Domingo de San Joaquin and finished in 1776. By 1865, after renovations, it measured 57.4 m. in length and 16.5 m. in width. In 1952, the church underwent repairs of World War II damage.

The church’s interior


The church’s single level, Baroque facade, topped by a plain triangular pediment, has a semicircular arched main entrance flanked by massive square pilasters topped by urn-like finials, and semicircular arched windows.

Above the entrance is a small niche with the statue of St. Isidore the Farmer flanked by semicircular arched windows.  The square bell tower, on the church’s left, is probably a modern addition.

The main altar and retablo

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer: Lingayen-Labrador Road, Poblacion, Labrador 2402. Tel: (075) 549-5055. Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer: May 15.

How to Get There: Labrador is located 359 kms. from Manila.  Within the province, it is located 12.6 kms. from Lingayen, 10.5 kms. from Bugallon and 7.3 kms. from Sual.

Kampana Museum (Lingayen, Pangasinan)

Kampana Museum, probably the only one of its kind in the country

The Kampana (“Bell”) Museum, probably the only museum of its kind in the country, is housed within the compound of the Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord.  It displays an array of six old bells (some dating back to the 1800s) of different sizes (four of them still with their wooden yokes) of the parish on a raised concrete platform within a fenced in, shed-type enclosure.

Check out “Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord

The array of six bells, a number of which are coated with verdigris

During the term of the first Team Ministry (when the “Three Kings” Parish was renamed “Epiphany of Our Lord Parish” in 1965) of the parish (composed of Fr. John R. Palinar, Fr. Jose S. Estrada, Fr. Manuel S. Bravo and Fr. Victor Z. Embuido), these church bells were replaced by new ones (sourced through donations from civic-spirited citizens here and abroad).


Bell inscribed with “Isaias Edralin,” probably a parish priest

These old church bells were, in turn, housed in a museum built during the term of the second Team Ministry (composed of Fr. Alberto T. Arenos, Fr. Camilo Natividad and Fr. Jovino Batecan).  The museum was inaugurated on March 31, 2002.

Bell inscribed with “Francisco Treserra,” probably a parish priest


Inscriptions on the bells oftentimes indicates the bell’s date of casting, its weight, the name of the saint (San Juan Bautista, Sta. Teresita, Jesus, Maria y Jose, etc.) to which it was dedicated; the name of the town (Lingayen) for which it was commissioned; the name of the parish priest (Francisco Treserra, Isaias Edralin, Felix Sanches, etc.), bishop (Cesar Ma. Guerrero, on February 22, 1929), pope (Pope Pius XI ); when it was cast; and even the name of the bell caster.

A bell inscribed with the names of Lingayen Bishop Cesar Ma. Guerrero and Pope Pius XI

I noticed one bell was cast in 1874, a second in 1883 and another in 1928. One bell is inscribed with “Fundicion de H. Sunico” possibly referring to metalsmith Hilario S. Sunico who cast 176 bells, dated 1872-98. His last known bell was dated 1937.

A bell inscribed with the year “1883”

Many of the bells are wrapped in a blue-green patina due to chemical reaction with air and sea water, over time, that causes copper, brass and bronze to form verdigris.The verdigris layer, which gives the bell its fragile beauty, actually protects the underlying metal from corrosion and degradation, which is why these bells are so durable.

A bell inscribed with “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”

Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord: Poblacion, Lingayen, 2401 Pangasinan.  Tel: (075) 542-6235.

How to Get There: Lingayen is located 227 kms. (a 4.5-hour drive) from Manila and 94.9 kms. (a 3-hour drive) from Baguio City (Benguet).

Church of Our Lady of the Purification (Binmaley, Pangasinan)

Church of Our Lady of Purification

This church, once the largest church in the province during the latter part of the 19th century, was first constructed in the 16th century but burned down in 1745. The succeeding brick church, built towards the west of the former, was begun by Fr. Jose Salvador in 1747 finished by Fr. Francisco Barroso, OP, in 1754.

The right side of the church with some of the original brick facing now exposed

During World War II, the church was heavily damaged (only the walls and the partly damaged bell tower were left after shelling by American warships from January 7-9, 1945) and later rebuilt.

The 5-storey bell tower on the church’s right


This church’s 3-level, relatively simple Baroque brick (now plastered over) façade has  semicircular arched main entrance, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the first level; and a semicircular arched statued niche, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the second level.

On display in front of the church is a huge 1880 bell that bears the logo Fundicion de Metales de Santos Supangco.

The segmental pediment, separated from the second level by 3 rows of cornices, has a recessed octagonal window (above which is a cornice and a centrally located seal in the tympanumflanked by smaller, recessed octagonal windows. The huge scrolls flowing down from the base of the pediment are typical of the Italian Baroque style.

The 1880 church bell on display outside the church

The 5-storey, square bell tower, on the church’s right, has blind semicircular arched recesses (canopied with triangular segments), at the the first 3 storeys, and semicircular arched open windows at the receding upper levels.  It has 3 bells. One bell, weighing 4,130 pounds and cast in 1804, was once of the three biggest bells in the Philippines.

The main altar and retablo

The church measures 94 m. long and 16.8 m. wide. Juan Fuentes y Yepes, the Bishop of Nueva Segovia, is buried here.  The 35 m. long  transept has a high dome with 4 windows and is supported by 8 elegant columns with Composite capitals. The interior also houses 5 exquisite altars.

The church’s dome

Church of Our Lady of the Purification: Urdaneta Junction, Dagupan–Binmaley Road, Poblacion, Binmaley 2417. Tel: (075) 540-0047.  Feast of Our Lady of Purification: February 2.

How to Get There: Binmaley is located 223 kms. from Manila.

Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Pagsanjan, Laguna)

Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

This church was first built in bamboo, wood and nipa by Father Agustin de la Magdalena in 1687 using forced labor. In 1690, it was replaced by a larger and more solid adobe church with a red-tiled roof with the help of Chinese Miguel Guan-Co and Aguacil Mayor Alfonso Garcia.  From 1847 to 1853, it was improved by Father Joaquin de Coria, who engineered the stone belfry and Romanesque dome. and its transept added in 1872 by Fathers Serafin Linares and Cipriano Bac.

PHC Plaque

On March 15, 1945, during World War II, the church was heavily damaged by American bombing.  After the war, it was reconstructed, without the original dome, with the help of Pagsanjenos from Manila under the leadership of Engr. German Yia and Dr. Rosendo Llamas. In 1965, it was again restored under Lipa Archbishop Alejandro Olalia and, on April 6, 1969, Bishop Pedro Bantigue blessed the rebuilt church and consecrated the main altar.

Plaque with Decree of Erection as a Diocesan Shrine

In 2012, the church was declared as the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe by the Diocese of San Pablo. From 2013 to the present, further renovations were carried out, including the church patio and construction of the choir loft and church gate.


The church’s three-level Early Renaissance facade has a semicircular arched main entrance with portico flanked by square pilasters and semicircular arched windows at the first level; a row of three semicircular arched choir loft windows at the second level; and a triangular pediment with semicircular arched statued niche at the tympanum flanked by rounded Tuscan columns and crowned by a triangular canopy (above which is an oculus).  On its left is a three-storey, square bell tower with open semicircular arched openings and topped with a dome.

The church interior

The church houses the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The original image, a gift from Mexico, was stored in the main altar on December 12, 1688 but was destroyed during the American bombing.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1958, Mexican Catholics donated a life-size image of the Virgin made by Ramon Barreto, a noted sculptor from Toluca.  Another image, sculpted by prominent Manila sculptor Maximo Vicente, is housed on the main altar.

Capilla del Tilma de Guadalupe

The Capilla del Tilma de Guadalupe, a side chapel near the altar, houses an image of San Juan Diego, a replica of the tilma of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and a stone relic from Tepeyac HillMexico City, the site of the 1531 apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The chapel also has a mini-museum containing liturgical vestments of Pagsanjeño priests.

Liturgical vestments of Pagsanjeño priests

Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe: National Highway, Pagsanjan, Laguna. Tel: (049) 808-4121.  Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: December 12.

How to Get There: Pagsanjan is located 102 kms. from Manila and six kms. from Santa Cruz.

Church of St. John the Baptist (Calamba City, Laguna)

Church of St. John the Baptist

The Church of St. John the Baptist was originally built in 1859.  Its original altar (as well as original baptismal records and canonical books) was burned on September 28, 1862  but was immediately rebuilt by Fr. Leoncio Lopez.

The author with son Jandy

On February 12, 1945, during World War II, the church was burned by the Japanese. After the war, it was rebuilt by Fr. Eliseo Dimaculangan.

The 3-level Baroque facade


The 3-level Baroque façade has a semicircular arched main entrance flanked by fluted pilasters, semicircular arched stain glass windows (St. Dominic and St. Lorenzo Ruiz) and twin, 4-storey (square in the first two storeys and hexagonal for the upper two) bell towers topped by a dome. The choir loft level has a small circular, stained glass window while the broken pediment’s raking cornice has undulating lines.

The church interior

The retablo and main altar

Jose Rizal was baptized at its baptistery on June 22, 1861 by Fr. Rufino Collantes and his godfather Fr. Pedro Casanas.

The baptismal font

The original baptismal font, recognized as a National Historical Landmark (Level 1), including original church items and reliquaries during Rizal’s time, have been preserved and refurbished.

PHC Plaque

Displayed on the left side of the baptistery entrance is a transcript of Rizal’s existing baptismal record issued by Fr. Leoncio Lopez.

Transcript of Rizal’s existing baptismal record

At the right side of the church, facing the entrance, is the Garden of Gethsemane, a small garden with sculpted, life-size images of the Stations of the Cross and a Well of Repentance (Balon ng Pagbabalik Loob).

Garden of Gethsemane

Church of St. John the Baptist: J.P. Rizal cor. Mercado St., ‎ Poblacion 5. Tel: (049) 545-1565.  Feast of St. John the Baptist: June 24.

How to Get There: Calamba City is located 53.3 kms. (a 1.25-hour drive) from Manila and 46.5 kms. (a 1-hour drive) from Santa Cruz. The church is located across the plaza and adjacent to Rizal Shrine.

Church of St. Gregory the Great (Indang, Cavite)

Church of St. Gregory the Great

A huge part of this stone church, started during the term of Fr. Luis Morales (1672 to 1676), was finished on 1710. In 1869, its roof was replaced with galvanized iron (one of the first churches in Cavite to use such). During the Philippine revolution, the church was burned but it was restored under the auspices of Msgr. Mauro de Leon in 1953 and Fr. Cornelio Matanguihan in 1987.


Its 3-level Baroque façade has a semicircular arched main entrance with portico, above which is a semicircular arched window with balustrade.  Both are flanked by semicircular arched statued niches, single superpositioned Tuscan columns and massive piers topped by urn-like finials. The triangular pediment has a semicircular arched statued niche at the tympanum.

The church’s Baroque-style facade

The 3-storey, octagonal bell tower, on the church’s left, has semicircular arched window openings with balustrades and is topped by a pointed roof.

The 3-storey bell tower

Inside are elegantly carved doors, impressive carvings on the choir loft balcony and elegant and impressive rose-colored trompe l’oil paintings (done during the 18th century) on its ceiling. The walls and pillars of the church also have several commemorative gravestones.

The church’s interior

The retablo has three levels of niches for images of saints, with the central niche reserved for the image of St. Gregory the Great, the town’s patron.

The main altar and retablo

At the right side of the altar is a painting of St. Michael and the Archangels. The church pulpit has the Jesuit monogram surmounted by the image of the Christ child, a sign of its being a parish under the Jesuits before the suppression of 1768.


The adjacent old convent has wide windows and wrought iron work along the sides.

Left side retablo

Right side retablo

Church of St. Gregory the Great: Brgy. Tres, Indang 4122, Cavite. Tel: (046) 415-0211. Feast of St. Gregory the Great: Second Sunday of May.

How to Get There: Indang is located 66 kms. from Manila, 12 kms. from Trece Martires City and 8.9 kms. from Mendez.

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Naic, Cavite)

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was first constructed in the 1800s with wood and cogon grass. Six years after its initial construction, a kopa, a pair of cruets and ornamentation was added. In 1835, the construction of a new stone church was started by Don Pedro Florentino. Its bell tower was completed in 1892.

The church convent

After the Tejeros Convention of March 22, 1897, the the church convent was used as the headquarters of Andres Bonifacio and the Naic Conference was held there. In this conference, the old Tagalog letter of the flag was replaced by the “Sun of Liberty,” with two eyes, a nose and a mouth and its symbolic eight rays.

The church interior

Before World War II, the church was one of the tallest (about 5 storeys high) and the longest (almost 10 blocks long) churches in Cavite. In width, it was second to the Imus Cathedral. On November 17, 1996, it was made into a Diocesan Shrine.

The church’s Neo-Gothic facade


The church’s three-level Neo-Gothic façade, the only one of its kind in Cavite, has a pointed, lancet-like arched main entrance flanked by square pilasters and similarly pointed arched windows.

The 4-storey bell tower

The second level has three pointed arched windows while the triangular pediment, with inverted traceries below the eaves, has a circular window at the tympanum.  The central pilasters rise up to the pediment and end up in pinnacles, dividing the façade into 3 vertical sections. The sides of the church are reinforced by thick buttresses.

The thick buttresses

The 4-storey, square bell tower, on the church’s left, has alternating circular and pointed arched windows and is topped by a pyramidal roof.

The main altar

Its interior has 3 major and 2 minor Gothic-style altars with the Very Venerated Image of the Immaculate Concepcion, Patron Lady of Naic, in the main altar.

Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Capt. Ciriaco Nazareno St., Poblacion, Naic 4110, Cavite. Tel: (046) 412-0456. Feast of the Immaculate Conception: December 8.

How to Get There: Naic is located 47 kms. from Manila, 13.3 kms. from Trece Martires City, 12.9 kms. from Maragondon and 12.8 kms. from Tanza.

Church of the Holy Cross (Tanza, Cavite)

Church of the Holy Cross

The Church of the Holy Cross (also called the Diocesan Shrine of St. Augustine), started in 1839, was destroyed 20 years later during a strong earthquake.


The church was rebuilt in 1873 by Fr. Jose Trobat. On May 3, 1980, it was declared as a Marked Structure (of Historical Significance) by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

The 3-level Baroque facade


Its 3-level Baroque façade has a semicircular arched main entrance with portico, above which is a square window, flanked by paired superpositioned flat pilasters and statued niches. The segmental pediment has a semicircular arched statued niche at the tympanum.

The 4-storey bell tower

The 4-storey bell tower, sitting on a square base, has semicircular arched openings on the upper octagonal storeys. It is topped by a dome with a campanile on top.

The church interior

Church of the Holy Cross: Tanza – Trece Martires Rd., Tanza 4108, Cavite. Tel: (046) 437-7086. Feast of St. Augustine: August 28

How to Get There: Tanza is located 33 kilometers from Manila, 12.7 kilometers from Trece Martires City, 3.7 kilometers from Rosario, 12.8 kilometers from Naic and 6 kilometers from Noveleta.

Noveleta Tribunal (Cavite)

Noveleta Tribunal

The Noveleta Tribunal, the first municipal hall of the town, was where, on August 31, 1896, Noveleta-born Gen. Pascual Alvarez, under orders from his uncle Gen. Mariano Alvarez of the Sangguniang Magdiwang, killed the Guardia Civil Capt. Antonio Rebolledo within the hall of this building.

The narrow wooden stairway leading to the second floor

Lt. Francisco Naval, the adjutant of Capt. Rebolledo, was also killed. The rest of the Guardia Civil were disarmed and imprisoned. This incident further intensified the Cavite front of the Philippine Revolution. It was repaired on August 1998 during the term of Mayor Dionisio L. Torres.

Capiz windows and ventanillas


This historical, 2-storey building, with its narrow, centrally located wooden stairway leading to the second floor, has wooden columns, a balcony in front, a bank of sliding capiz windows with ventanillas, and calado (lace-style fretwork or latticework) on the soffit and roof eaves.

Philippine Historical Committee plaque

Noveleta Tribunal: Gen Antonio St. Poblacion, Noveleta, Cavite. Coordinates: 14°25’38″N 120°52’51″E.

How to Get There: Noveleta is located 27 kms. from Manila, 18.7 kms. from Trece Martires City, 6 kms. from Tanza and 3.5 kms. from Kawit.  The highway divides in this town, one branch going to Naic and Ternate and the other towards Cavite City. The Tribunal is situated just 10 m. from the Church of the Holy Cross. You can park your car in front of the church.