10 Things I Love About Baguio City

by - 6:40 AM

Here are the top ten reasons why I love Baguio City:

What better way to beat the summer heat than spending it in the Summer Capital of the Philippines - Baguio City! The place is great not only during summer but also within September to February when you get to experience Baguio at its coldest. One of the things I love about Baguio is getting dressed up and bundled up with winter-type of clothes that I don’t normally wear in the city when the temperature could get as high as 33 degrees centigrade.

Lovin' the sweater weather!

This City of Pines (as what Baguio is otherwise called) is the quick getaway place for most people who want to escape the smoldering heat of the metropolis; but, does Baguio City offer more than just the lovely cool weather? You’ll soon come to love Baguio more than just the weather like I did.

You would never go wrong bingeing on food in Baguio! There’s a reason why Benguet is called the “Salad Bowl” of the Philippines - the vegetables and fruits here are guaranteed fresh and affordable and there are numerous food places that Baguio has: Cafe by the Ruins, Ketchup Food Community, 50’s Diner, Pizza Volante, and many more. 

Happy Tummy indeed!

We had our sumptuous lunch at Ketchup Food Community at Romulo Drive - a food haven composed of five different restaurants: 
Canto (steaks and ribs), 
Happy Tummy (Thai favorites), 
Green Pepper (Western offerings), 
Rancho Norte (Pinoy food), 
Rumah State (Indonesian-Malaysian dishes).

Since Canto (lomo ribs) was closed when we visited, we ate  at Happy Tummy instead and ordered Pad Thai and some grilled Thai chicken to go along with it. Yum! 

Who doesn’t love cheap taxi rides? In Baguio City, riding a cab is the fastest and most convenient way of going from one place to another without burning a hole in your pocket most especially if you are a group of 4 persons. We mainly used this as a means of transportation to get to places that were a bit far from each other like getting to Camp John Hay from Session Road. But otherwise, we would walk whenever we can to save on money.

Prior to this trip, we already researched and plotted out the possible places we wanted to visit and grouped together those that were near each other. Here’s an example:

Tour A: Mines View Park, Good Shepherd, The Mansion, Wright Park, Botanical Garden

Tour B: Camp John Hay (Bell House, Historical Core, Cemetery of Negativity), Tree Top Adventure

Tour C: Burnham Park, Session Road, Baguio Cathedral

Other places that are worth visiting if you have a day more to spare:
BenCab Museum, Tam-awan Village, Philippine Military Academy Grounds, Strawberry Picking at La Trinidad, Benguet

Whenever I hear of Baguio City, the first thing that comes to mind are the pine trees. Pine trees that are scattered all over the city. Pine trees that are sometimes enveloped by thick fog in the early hours of the morning. Pine trees everywhere. There's a reason why this city on a mountain is called the "City of Pines", right? And these thoughts came to life at Camp John Hay.

Aside from feasting your senses on pine trees, there are a lot of things you can do in Camp John Hay itself:

Bell House. Tour around the historical house which was named after Major General James Franklin Bell, the then commanding general of the American Forces in the Philippines. Since we visited during the Yuletide season, the house was such a happy place to be with all the Christmas decors around.

The Bell House at a distance. It kinda looks like an old ancestral home to me.

The living room area. It feels like I'm not in the Philippines anymore!

The dining area. That door leads to the back of the house where you'd see the amphitheater.

Bell Amphitheater. Right beside the Bell House is an amphitheatre surrounded by  a well-maintained garden full of colorful flowers. This is a great place for photo ops and garden events.

The amphitheater as seen from the Bell House.

Colorful flowers all around. Did you know that Baguio celebrates the flower festival every February known as the Panagbenga Festival? Now you know.

Cemetery of Negativity. Otherwise known as the Lost Cemetery, this spot may be a bit creepy and peculiar at first but if you look past beyond the graveyard, you will realize that the place is actually a symbolism to bury all the bad vibes in life - laziness, fear, low self-worth, etc - that comes in witty epitaphs.

"NEGATIVISM is man's greatest self-imposed infliction, his limiting factor, his heaviest burden.. As you leave this hill remember that for the rest of your life, BE MORE POSITIVE."

Creepy but witty!

Tree Top Adventure and Gastronomic Feat. Aside from the Historical Core tour, you may also release the daredevil in you by ziplining across pine trees or by walking several meters off the ground in Camp John Hay Tree Top Adventure! We failed to do this the last time we visited because we were so pressed with time but this is something you’d definitely enjoy with your barkada. I am sure you’ll get tired from all the screaming and walking but don’t worry, Camp John Hay has a lot of restaurants and food places to satisfy your hungry tummy.

One other great thing you can do at Camp John Hay is to relax and just enjoy nature-tripping and people-watching. I saw some having picnic and bringing along their own baons but please don't forget to clean up after your mess, okay?

Nestled on top of a hill is Mines View Park and was named such because it is overlooking the abandoned gold and copper mines of Itogon. Outside the park are numerous stalls where cheap pasalubongs of native crafts and delicacies are found. We also rented native Ifugao costumes for Php 20.00 for our photo ops with the picture-perfect background. And did I mention we found a pink pony here? Cute.

The observation deck. It's best that you visit the place in the morning when it is clear of fog.

Seen beyond are the lovebirds, oh, I mean the mining town of Itogon. LOL

Native Igorot costumes are available for rent too at Php 20. 
Here's Datu Gus in his rented ensemble. 

Famous for its “Pool of Pines”, this immaculate-looking park is right across The Mansion, another key city landmark. At the end of the pool is a stairway that leads to the horse's stable where you’ll find ponies of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Aside from the horses, this is also where I got to taste the best strawberry taho ever! It has real strawberry bits, not the artificial flavoring/syrup I’ve tasted when I bought one at Burnham Park.

The famous Pool of Pines aka Wright Park. Right across is The Mansion.

Going up: pool of pines. Going down: horse's stable. 

These are just some of the horses to choose from at Wright Park. Not only is this a fun activity for kids but this is something they definitely will remember in a long time.

I'm not really a fan of strawberries but this is the bomb! It has real strawberry bits floating with the still hot and fresh taho (soft tofu). Such a perfect treat for walking the entire morning.

With its elaborate iron gates, you’ll never miss The Mansion - the Philippine president’s official summer home. I don’t remember paying any fees, we just went right in and snapped pictures of the place. In front of the Mansion is a circular driveway that leads to the front door of the edifice and they say the building is open to the public if there are activities scheduled inside.

I wonder if the past presidents really do spend a day or two of their summer here. 

Such an intricate piece of metal work. Some people compare this wrought-iron gate to that of the Buckingham Palace in London.

Located right at the center of the city, Burnham Park is not easy to miss! Named after Daniel Burnham, the city’s planner, this park has a man-made lake at the center where you can go boating for a minimal fee. If you don’t feel like paddling, there are bicycles available for rent on the side or you may just stroll around or chill on a bench and watch people passing by.

The lake where you can go boating. Rates vary depending on the type of boat you choose.

Lots of bicycles to choose from - unicycle, vintage-looking bikes, BMX, and even tandem bikes. Or if you are with kids, why not go for a tricycle with a funky design? Name it, they have it (even Jollibee-designed bikes).

If there’s one tangible thing you shouldn’t miss bringing home with you, that would be Mountain Maid Ube Jam from the Good Shepherd Convent. This place is being ran by nuns and part of the proceeds of the delicacies you buy would fund the Cordillera scholars’ education.

A few meters from Good Shepherd's gates is the Mine's View Park.

Session Road  is probably the most famous road in Baguio as it is the main thoroughfare and business hub of the city. You will find a lot of hotels, affordable inns, restaurants, and unique food places scattered along the stretch of this infamous road. This is where we found LaBrea Inn where we got a decent room to stay overnight.

Baguio City is located in the mountain province of Benguet in Northern Luzon, about 250 kilometers from Manila or around 6 hours of bus ride. But for those who are not from Luzon, there are various options available to reach this cool city in the mountains.

Fly to Manila - Bus to Baguio. Almost all local airlines have direct flights to Manila. From Manila, buses are available round the clock and travel time could take anywhere between 5 to 6 hours. When we arrived in Manila at around 11 pm, we took a cab to Victory Liner in Pasay for 160 php and the bus we rode promptly left for Baguio a little past 12 mn.

Fly to Clark - Bus to Baguio. Buses bound for Baguio are readily available in Dau Terminal and this route will shorten your bus trip for a couple of hours compared to coming from Manila. If your flight arrives at night and if you are travelling during the peak season or weekends, this may pose a problem since most of the buses stopping over at Dau Terminal are from their Manila stations and are most likely full already. An alternative if you are arriving in Clark would be riding a bus bound for Dagupan, get off at Tarlac, and ride a bus going to Baguio.

Our original plan was the Banaue-Sagada-Baguio route but since our flight got postponed to a later time, we'd have to revise the plan because there's no way we could catch the last night bus leaving Manila for Banaue. We arrived in Manila at around 11 pm, took a bus to Victory Liner Terminal in Pasay, which is the nearest bus station from the airport, and we rode the ordinary bus bound for Baguio a few minutes past 12 midnight.

Quick Tip: If you intend to do the Banaue-Sagada-Baguio route, better choose a flight that arrives in Manila in the morning, taking into account possible delays in flight schedule. That way you’ll be able to secure your night bus tickets to Banaue (as it gets sold out early) and then just spend the rest of the day killing time in Manila.

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