The fog is descending from the cold gray skies above slowly creeping through the damp misty pine forest blanketing the solitary derelict of a two-story square edifice on top of the highest hill in the neighborhood. I could feel the chills as I entered the lofty metal gates onto the sloping path lending a view of the big cross on top of the façade of the building that was once an affluent hotel.
The ruins of the oldest structure in the area – the Diplomat Hotel – still stands to this day on top of the Dominican Hill bearing witness to its glorious past and enigmatic history. The white building is slowly showing off its age with the red color of the original bricks and moss starting to veil some of its corners.
The fortress-baroque-style Colegio del Santissimo Rosario was built in 1913 as a school and retreat house for the Dominican Order under the directions of Fr. Roque Roaňo, an engineer from the University of Santo Tomas known for the constructions of earthquake-proof buildings. It was constructed with the support of the locals and other Asian expatriates living in the Cordillera region at a cost of P200,000 and was opened in 1915.
It remained as a vacation house for the Dominican priests but ceased its school operation due to lack of enrollees or perhaps the Order established the compound initially as a school to evade paying city tax at that time.
The Japanese Imperial Army came and invaded the city. During that period, the building served as a refugee center and eventually was seized by the invading army and turned it into a garrison where POWs were imprisoned and tortured to death. Stories told, there are several priests and nuns who suffered their demise within the compound. The edifice was not spared from the blanket-bombing of 1945. It was largely damaged and after the surrender of the Japanese armies and end of World War II, it was reconstructed in 1947.
In 1973, the property was acquired and remodeled into one of the city’s upmarket 33-bedroom hotel by Diplomat Hotels Inc. while maintaining its core structures as originally constructed by the Dominicans which still features the Gyronny Cross standing on its pedestal in the middle of the façade above the main entrance. The hotel was managed by Tony Agpaoa, and being a well-renowned faith healer at that time, several of the hotel’s patrons constituted Agpaoa’s patients coming all the way from Europe seeking miraculous – if not mysterious – healing. After fourteen years, the hotel died down resulting from the untimely death (heart attack) of Agpaoa, and the place was closed to the public since then.
Long period of melancholy has claimed the grandiose of the building. Its interiors and fixtures started to fall apart, window panes shattered, moss and weeds collected in the beautiful garden and fountained courtyard, white painted walls flayed.
The once lively and spirited place fell into derelict condition.
The restless souls of those who have lost their lives – the priests, nuns, tortured prisoners, those who had suffered gruesome deaths in the hands of the invading armies during the war, patients who came for cure in the hands of a miracle healer whose hopes failed and eventually passed away – finally gotten righteous possession of the forsaken place.
Tales of the unexplained started to circulate around the place – to neighboring houses, local residents, and visitors alike – Diplomat Hotel is haunted.
If stories are to be believed – visions of headless priest roam around the place, nuns in white habits, slamming of doors and shuttering of windows, screams being heard in the middle of the night, and other cryptic apparitions and noises.
5:00pm (February 8, 2015) I was there, wandered around the place, few visitors that day, the stairs to the second level was bolted and entry was prohibited. I did not encounter any strange visuals, no baffling sounds except for the noises coming from some visitors.
Truth or otherwise – for me – the stillness, silence, coldness, the antique characteristics and features of the dilapidated ruin of the Diplomat Hotel renders its ghostly eeriness (if not melancholic but beautiful existence) to the place more than any strange stories told.
The property was acquired by the city government in 2005 and opened the place to visitors entry free as historical Heritage and Nature Park.
Opening times: Everyday from 8:00am to 5:00pm
How to get to Diplomat Hotel:
Located at the Dominican Hill, the ruin of the hotel is not far from the Lourdes Grotto, in fact, it is walkable from there in case you plan to hit both places.
Take the jeepney from Lourdes Dominican Hill Jeepney Terminal at Kayang Street located at the back of Abanao Square Shopping Mall. Tell the driver to drop you off at the Diplomat Hotel. The jeepney will pass near the hill, before it goes down to the left of a forked road, get off and walk your way to the ascending right side of the forked road, about a hundred meters, you’ll be reaching a dead end (where kids are playing street basketball) where you’ll be in front of the metal gated compound of the old Diplomat Hotel.
Fare is P8.00
You can always get off first at the Lourdes Grotto and either walk your way up to the hill or (if you’re lazy), take the same jeepney to the hill.
Location on Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/AO6Qa