Hotspot for Learning English
Baguio was developed by the Americans as the retreat and recreation abode of U.S. armed forces during the 20th century. When it was designed by architect and urban planner, Daniel Burnham, it was supposed to be intended for 30,000 residents only. As the years passed, however, you not only see the usual flock of tourists populating the busy streets of Session Road or the classic tourist traps. Instead, you see more young people around – those who almost take up a whole sidewalk while chatting loudly about their exam in Statistics, those who crowd coffee shops to read or review notes, or those foreign nationals – Koreans, Japanese, Arabs, and Africans in university uniforms, hanging out in Jollibee and going crazy over Chicken Joy.
Indeed, Baguio is not only known as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines” but has now become a home to what the locals call “transient residents”, also known as students.
Educational Center for all races
Many students flock to Baguio for tertiary education because of the prominent schools that have been providing quality and competitive curricular programs for years. Some of the oldest schools and universities in the history of Philippine education can also be found here.
At present, Baguio has over 100 schools for pre-school, elementary, high school, and tertiary education, as well as vocational courses. There are already around 43 public schools for elementary and high school, 18 universities and colleges, 16 international schools, and 37 vocational schools. Private schools with pre-school, elementary and high school or those that offer only one or two of these levels are already around 59. Day care centers in barangays are all over the city as well.
Based on surveys, there has been a continuous increase in student population every year. According to a census done in 2010, the total population of Baguio was 318,676. During this time, the student population for all levels reached to around 138,000, wherein 42% of this number was comprised of university students. Since the trend has not waned yet, Baguio has been maintaining this number of students every year and is even anticipating a possible increase.
It is true that in the past, Baguio was the educational center for the residents of the Cordillera and Northern Luzon region only. However, studying in Baguio also became favorable to students from other provinces including those who live in Manila, Central and Southern Luzon just to escape the heat of the lowlands. Apparently, students are not only attracted to the cool climate of Baguio but also to the various venues for self-discovery and personality development during their academic journey. The art community is very alive and active, programs for indigenous youth as well as research for Cordillera studies are well-promoted, religious organizations are free to practice their faith, and advocacy for advancing human rights and welfare are being voiced. One would also notice that foreign students are now more involved in sports, evangelical missions, and community development projects. Indeed, Baguio is now populated with and is nurturing more passionate and critical thinkers.
A Pioneer in the ESL Industry
Since the start of the new millennium, Baguio has been populated with what ESL learners would call “English academies” – a term brought about by the boom of the trend of studying English. At present, there are around 38 academies that offer ESL programs, TESOL courses, as well as review courses for the different English testing systems. These programs are not isolated to South Koreans anymore since Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Arabs, Africans, and Europeans have also discovered Baguio for this purpose.
If students from other provinces come to Baguio for its cool climate, the same can also be said for the foreign nationals who study English in the city. Apart from that, these ESL learners are attracted to the environment of Baguio – the serene countryside atmosphere but with enough venues for recreation and entertainment.
English as part of everyday life
The Americans developed Baguio to what it is at present. Hence, communicating in English has become natural among the people since the language was taught by American missionaries in the 1900s. Unlike in any other towns and cities in the Philippines, English is widely spoken in Baguio. Apart from their own dialect, some locals even prefer to communicate in English instead of using the national language, Filipino, more familiarly known to other nationalities as Tagalog.
Balanced student life
Unlike other cities in the Philippines, Baguio is not populated with harmful and distracting entertainment venues. Fun yet wholesome leisure can easily be found in the city center and one can feel safe and secure just by taking a stroll in Burnham Park. There are countless venues for unwinding and relaxation after a day of strenuous studying and it’s also not difficult to look for a place to jog, exercise and get fit as you can enjoy the outdoors at any time of day.
Though Baguio is not as developed as the nation’s capital, Manila, it has sufficient establishments and basic services to cater to the needs of various types of students. Signage for apartments and houses for rent are everywhere and stalls for meals, snacks, and drinks have sprouted like mushrooms. The same goes for computer shops, printing shops, and 24-hour convenience stores. Moreover, as the city gets more crowded with foreign students, restaurants and grocery stores specifically catering to them also flourish quite well.
For such a small city, supposedly designed for 30,000 residents only, it is astounding that Baguio is able to withstand the bloat in population considering the number of students that come and go every year. Nevertheless, as long as the students keep their burning passion for ambition, never stop aiming for successful careers, and never lose the diligence for studying their chosen fields, Baguio will continue to be the home to these young minds and lead them to a better future.