Perhaps one of the most haunted locations in the Philippines is the abandoned Diplomat Hotel, perched high on Dominican Hill overlooking the city of Baguio. I had the opportunity to visit the creepy site in 2019 and learned of its tragic history.
The castle-like edifice was constructed in 1915 as the Colegio del Santissimo Rosario, but in 1917 it became a retreat and vacation house for a Dominican order of priests. Up until 1940, the priests were able to relax, pray, and meditate in the house’s lovely fountain-splashed courtyards and cool, stone corridors far from the crowds of the city below. But that peace was brutally shattered when the Japanese army invaded the Philippines in 1941, landing on Batan Island (not to be confused with the Bataan Peninsula). American and Filipino forces fought a strenuous defense, but by early 1942 were forced to surrender the Philippines to the Japanese. Still, Filipino guerillas were effective in harassing the Japanese army during its occupation, especially in the mountains and jungles.
From 1940 until the liberation of the Philippines in 1945, the Dominican retreat house was used as a refugee center. But for the Japanese Imperial Army, “refugee” was a relative term. There is no definitive record of how many people were tortured and killed by Japanese soldiers at the retreat house, but it is said that priests were beheaded, nuns were raped and killed, and many civilians, including children, were murdered by the soldiers.
In February 1945, American forces that had returned to the Philippines, launched an attack on the Japanese army at Baguio. After heavy fighting, the city fell to the Americans in April. It has been reported that some of the Japanese soldiers defending the retreat house committed hara-kiri (suicide), rather than surrendering to the Americans.
After the war, the Dominicans repaired the retreat house and occupied it until selling it to a hotel group in 1972 that renamed the structure the Diplomat Hotel. That was a short-lived venture; in 1986 the hotel closed, and it has remained a deteriorating derelict ever since.
The Diplomat Hotel (as it is still called today) is considered a national heritage landmark and is open to the public, as there is really no way to stop anyone from entering its premises. It’s a favorite haunt of local ghosthunters who claim to hear children crying and people screaming and have reported apparitions of headless ghosts.
Another haunted site in Baguio used by the Japanese army is the Laperal Guest House, originally built in the 1930s as a summer retreat for a wealthy businessman. The Japanese soldiers who occupied it during the war committed atrocities there also, raping and killing women, and torturing and killing people they accused of spying for the Americans. These poor souls linger there still according to local paranormal investigators.