History and Biography of Euseibus Julius Halsema

by: James (Jim) J. Halsema
(His son)

Eusebius Halsema as an older teenager. Click on photo for larger view.

Eusebius Halsema
was the mayor of Baguio City from 1920 to 1937. He was born in the village of New Bremen on the plains of western Ohio on March 12, 1882.

The son of the town's watchmaker and jeweler, who had migrated with his wife from the northern Netherlands for economic reasons, he worked his way through Ohio State University to receive a degree in civil engineering in 1907.

Unable to earn a decent living in Los Angeles as a real estate planner because of the recession of 1907-08, he and his partner took the civil service examination as engineers for the Philippine Government's Bureau of Public Works and arrived in the Islands in October 1908. Halsema served 29 years.

His first assignment was the Cebu engineering district, where he was made engineer in the charge of construction of the Osmeña Waterworks, the second to be built in the Philippines, which he completed early in 1912, ending a cholera epidemic and a rash of fires which had devastated the port.

Ohio State Flag

He went on his first home leave to Ohio and married his townmate Marie Boesel, the daughter of the New Bremen banker. They arrived in Manila to be told that Cebu had been devastated by a typhoon which required them to a post where no houses had been left with roofs.

In 1913, Halsema was transferred to San Fernando, Pampanga and was promoted to District Engineer of that province the following year. Here he worked with Honorio Ventura, the governor; Miguel Unson, the provincial treasurer, and Jose Paez was his assistant. In that year his daughter Betty was born.

In 1916 Halsema was placed in charge of the Manila port works.

When the United States entered the first World War, he and other American engineers of the Bureau of Public Works volunteered as officers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

While on duty in the United States his son Jim was born.

Contemporary flag of the City of Baguio

The Halsemas returned to the Philippines in 1919. Halsema was building a railroad to the Malangas coal mines in Zamboanga when he and hundreds of others were stricken with blackwater fever, the worst form of malaria.

He was sent to Baguio at the end of the year as mayor, city engineer and district engineer of Benguet, positions he held for the next 17 years.

Under Halsema's direction, Baguio was gradually transformed from a sleepy village of 5,000 people connected to the lowlands only by one-way roads to a prosperous city of 25,000 with paved roads and an air link.

The city-owned public utilities made possible a balanced budget which permitted city subsidies to establish the Mountain Province High School, the construction of Burnham Park auditorium, additions to the market, numerous elementary schools, and other facilities that attracted tourists from abroad and from the Philippines.

He built the Mountain Trail (Now known as Halsema Highway) to Bontoc with the cooperation of the people along its route, which was opened in 1930.

Contemporary flag of the Philippine Islands

Halsema was one of the last Americans to retire from active duty in the Philippine Commonwealth government, leaving his post in 1937. The present American Embassy in Manila was constructed when he worked as head of a private construction company. He looked on Baguio as his home when he retired.

The Halsemas were interned by the Japanese when they came to Baguio at the end of December 1941. In 1943 he and his wife were allowed to live in Baguio. He was killed during the bombing of Baguio on March 15, 1945 and is buried with his wife in the Baguio cemetery.

In recognition of outstanding service and dedication to the City of Baguio, the "Baguio Medal" was posthumously awarded to Eusebius J. Halsema during a special ceremony held on March 26, 1984 at the Pines Hotel in Baguio City. The accompanying Citation was also read prior to the awarding of the medal.
Mayor Ernesto H. Bueno presented the award to Mrs. Betty H. Foley and Mr. James Halsema, children of the late E.J. Halsema. The response of the Halsema family was made by James "Jim" Halsema.

The awarding of the Baguio Medal was the highlight of the Baguio Diamond Jubilee activities held in 1984. Kag. G. Bert Floresca and Atty. Conrado H. Bueno, Chairman and Co-Chairman respectively of the Baguio Diamond Jubilee Executive Committee were also present when the award was given.

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Updated Sunday, November 21, 2004