The origin of Baguio’s lion head is as colorful as the history of the road where it currently stands. When the Americans conquered the Cordillera highland in the 1900s, they had a hard time reaching the Benguet mountains. Establishing a short route to these mountains would greatly boost the local economy, so the American  government soon launched an expensive road project, much to the dismay of politicians in Washington D.C.

The Benguet Road (Kennon Road’s original name) was the most expensive engineering work at that time; it had cost the government a  total of $2.7 million, considered excessive for that period.

Despite the controversies, the project pushed through. The American government commissioned Maj. Lyman W. Kennon to complete the  construction in 1905. Later, then Governor General Leonard Wood issued an executive order naming the road after Kennon.

If you’re wondering what is Lions Club, it’s actually a service organization which aims to“meet the needs of communities on a local and global scale.” Founded in 1917 by Melvin Jones, Lions Clubs International (LCI) now boasts of 1.35 million members worldwide.

As for the name of the organization, the founder had suggested the lion because it stood for “strength, courage, fidelity and vital action.” At the 1919 convention however, a member named Halsted Ritter said that the name actually “heralds to the country the true meaning of citizenship: LIBERTY, INTELLIGENCE, OUR NATION’S SAFETY.”

The influence of the socio-civic organization soon reached the Philippines. On November 21, 1950, the Baguio Lions Club was established. It was one of the first Lions Clubs founded in the country and also the first to be established north of Manila.

From the 1950’s up to the 1960’s, the Baguio Lions had slowly spread Lionism in the area. Aside from recruitment, Lions Club  members also led fund-raising activities for organizations like Philippine National Red Cross and the Baguio Police Department.

The lion’s head  was first conceptualized by pioneer Baguio Lions Club members led by Luis Lardizabal who was the mayor of Baguio from March, 1960 to December, 1979. Lardizabal, who was also Lions Club governor from 1969 to 1970, sought the help of Lion members, businessmen, and those who attended the state convention to finance the project.

Construction of the lion’s head began in 1971 under Baguio Lions Club President and later, District 301-C Governor Robert John Webber. They commissioned an Ifugao artist named Reynaldo Lopez Nanyac to carve out the lion’s head from a limestone boulder.

Symbolizing the influence of Baguio Lions Club in the area, the massive lion’s head was finally unveiled in 1972 under the supervision of club vice presidents Moises Cating, David Borja and Arturo Santiago.