Spanning a length of 41.2 kilometers, Kennon Road is a steep roadway in Benguet province that connects Baguio city to the town of Rosario in La Union and offers the shortest route to Baguio from Manila and other provinces in Central and Southern Luzon. It stretches over most of the municipality of Tuba in Benguet and the Bued River, which flows along a rocky canyon from great heights.
History of the Kennon Road
Initially named as Benguet Road, it was opened for travel on 1905 and was one of the most difficult and expensive civil engineering projects for its day. Aside from Filipino engineers, construction workers, and US Army Corps of Engineers, the American government hired foreigners from 36 countries to work on the road; a majority of which were Japanese. Hundreds of these workers died from Malaria as they were essentially working in a mountain that time, while many more were accidentally fell to their deaths. Sometime after the road’s completion, it was renamed to be Kennon Road, in honor of its builder, Col. Lyman Walter Vere Kennon.
When the 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit the city, Kennon Road, alongside other landmarks like the Baguio Museum, were severely damaged. It was reopened in September 1, 1991, after rehabilitation efforts led by the Department of Public Works and Highways were done but is currently closed again for remodeling.
The Lion’s Head
A popular tourist attraction along Kennon Road is the Lion’s head, a 40 feet structural landmark made of limestone and sitting 10-15 kilometers away from the city proper. Contrary to popular belief, its conception was spearheaded by Lions Club members in 1971 and was sculpted by Ifugao artist Reynaldo Lopez Nanyac. It suffered the same fate as the Kenon road during the earthquake in 1990, and cracks were worsened by vandalisms found in the sculpture. Once again, the Baguio Lions club led the rehabilitation of the damaged lion’s head, though its resulting appearance and color is strikingly different from the original. Nevertheless, it remains popular among tourists today and is a must-see when for first comers in Baguio City.
Dangers and Thrills of Kennon Road
Because it is located on a mountain, driving by the Kennon Road offers a scenic view of the lush vegetation of the Benguet province as it gets closer to the city. However, passing by this road is also greatly hazardous, especially during rainy seasons or in certain months of the year when fogs limit the visibility along the highway. Its steepest portion is known as the ‘Zigzag Road’ due to its hairpin turns and the numerous switchbacks required, which is said to be similar in construction to the agricultural rice terraces of Benguet and Cordillera Administrative Region. Taking to account the poor road conditions, the usual travel time takes from 45 minutes to an hour to pass through this winding road by car.