Although it was originally built as a retreat house for friars of the Dominican Order, before it was developed into a school and eventually, a hotel, much of this dilapidated building’s history has been anything but peaceful.
The Dominican Hill Retreat House was built in 1913 atop a hill in the famed Philippine City of Pines. Taking advantage of tax exemptions, it was briefly converted into a seminary called Colegio del Santissimo Rosario. If you think ghosts of dead priests walking the hallways is good enough for a pretty horror story, wait till you learn about what transpired inside the walls of the former Dominican Hill Retreat House during the height of World War II.
With Baguio being the site of one of the most hard-fought theaters of war in Luzon, next to Manila, Bataan and Corregidor, the property wasn’t spared from the invading Japanese who tuned it into a garrison.
Well, with the outbreak of war, it became a camp for refugees escaping the Japanese army, but was eventually invaded.
There the Japanese secret police, the Kempeitai, imprisoned Filipino prisoners of war, detained and interrogated suspected Guerilla members, committing terrible acts of brutality, massacring, raping, and torturing many of its inhabitants, and even decapitating nuns and priests, as well as civilian refugees.
Apparently, during the liberation of the Philippines in 1945, as the American forces inches closer, Japanese soldiers committed suicide in the building’s right wing.
And the ghost tally of the Dominican Hill Retreat House just increased hundred-folds.
After decades of neglect, the local government of Baguio converted it to become a hotel. After undergoing remodeling phase that constructed a total of 33 bedrooms, but still retaining the original architectural features, in the 1970s, the wartorn building was converted to the sophisticated and beautiful Diplomat Hotel.
Managing it at the time was businessman, psychic surgeon and spiritual healer Tony Agpaoa. Since then, it became the haven of his patients that mostly came from abroad and they stayed here while being healed.
There was also a controversial incident here, wherein fire broke out many years ago and several guests who were then staying at the hotel were trapped inside and died. One of the caretakers also affirmed that for unknown reasons, a woman who used to work here as a nurse committed suicide by jumping from the rooftop where a cross was situated.
Either way, since the death of Tony Agpaoa in 1987 (had a heart attack inside the hotel and was rushed to a hospital, where he died) the hotel was shut down, and declared off limits to the public and to visitors as well.
However, the people who are living nearby were often disturbed by sounds coming from the Dominican Hill at night. They would hear banging of doors and windows, clattering of dishes and voices of screaming people, who seem to be agonizing.
Soon the deserted, deteriorating building became infamous for being one of the most haunted ruins in the country.
Several ghost stories surround its gray and washed-out red walls, with many people saw headless apparitions at night, and reported hearing screams, cries, banging on doors, and other strange and desperate noises. Crying coming from kids and babies became also a common noise, which can be attributed to the massacre of numerous children done at the site.
Some believe the building is haunted by the restless spirits of its grim history.
In any case, the supposedly haunted ruin attracted an increasing influx of visitors, and the old hotel is now under rehabilitation by the national government as a Heritage and Nature Park. The hotel has two floors and an accessible roof deck with a panoramic view of the city, and its west wing has been cleaned and remodeled as an event space.
Now, by embracing its haunting atmosphere straight out of a good horror movie, the Old Diplomat Hotel is surely one of the most beautiful places to visit in the City of Pines.
Ghosts? I’d rather not find out myself.
Images from web – Google Research