Photos by: Bianca Pascual & Charlie Fernandez
With an average of 15-26°C temperature, Baguio is the best escape from the sweltering heat of a tropical country like the Philippines. Because of this, the American soldiers used the city as their retreat spot when the country was under its rule. This explains the traces of American roots in many of Baguio's landmarks.
Tucked in the mountain ranges of Cordillera, it is locally known as the “Summer Capital” and is a favorite destination especially among families. However, there is more to Baguio than just its cool weather. It has a thriving art scene and a healthy mix of good organic food.
Starting with a good cup of coffee
The best way to freshen up from a long land travel is by having breakfast in Café By the Ruins along Chuntug Road, near the City Hall. The café aims to preserve Benguet heritage through food and culture. Their menu offers a varied combination of mountain rice, fresh vegetables, home-baked breads and the famous Benguet coffee.
You may want to try Ole Nick’s Tuna Sandwich, an open-faced sandwich named after literary legend, Nick Joaquin. For the hungrier traveller, try their bacon dish, thick slices of pork belly, matched with organic mountain rice. Pair this with a cup of Ruins coffee—beans grown from the mountains of Benguet. The more adventurous might want to try Civet Cat coffee.
The cafe is also a perfect spot to meet up with local artists, as it often hosts poetry readings, art exhibits and other performances.
Enjoying the outdoors
Because of Baguio's weather, spending time outdoors is a welcome activity. Several parks litter the city, mostly named after famous Americans who once inhabited the area. Among these are the Burnham and Wright Park. Mines View Park offers a spectacular view of the city.
Other activities include horseback riding, boating (in Burnham), and endless photo opportunities. Stores line the parks where you can buy souvenirs and other Baguio knick knacks. For only Php25 (±USD0.50), you can fill yourself with grilled corn on the cob or skewered dried squid.
Vegans will find it easy to order a healthy meal for the length of their stay in Baguio. A must-try is Bliss Café inside Hotel Elizabeth. The hotel is a few meters up from Wright Park, along Gibraltar cor. J. Felipe Street. The café has been around since 2004 and reflects the philosophy of the owners Jim & Shanti of a healthy body, mind and soul. Though its menu offers nothing but vegetarian fare, Bliss Café serves non-vegetarians 90% most of the time.
Museum in the mountains
Baguio must be one of the most culturally-rich cities in the country. Artists are known to converge regularly for exhibits, performances, discourses in many of Baguio's thriving art scenes. As a testament to the talent that abounds, one should go and visit National Artist Ben Cab's Museum in Asin, Benguet, just fifteen minutes away from the city proper.
To get to the museum, drive towards Naguilian Road and turn left upon reaching Asin Road. Not to worry, there are signs to guide you to the museum. Asin Road is a residential area and one will be surprised to find a commanding museum down the winding road. It's best to take a car or a taxi than public transport as it is quite difficult to take jeepneys to this place. Also, make sure to arrange for the taxi to wait for you, or ask for the taxi driver’s number, just in case you miss out on each other.
Entrance fee is at Php100 (±USD2) to tour a three-storey gallery. It houses works by contemporary artists and a few pieces by National Artists such as Joya, Ang Kiukok, and, of course, BenCab. Aside from the artworks, bask in the landscape surrounding the area and the architecture of the museum.
To end your vacation, a stop over at the Baguio Market is necessary. You can find the market at the very end of Session Road, one of Baguio's busiest thoroughfares. Grab your share of famous Baguio souvenirs such as ube & strawberry jams, peanut brittle, chocolate flakes, vegetables, strawberries, and even brooms.
Adjacent to the market is the Maharlika Livelihood Center where you can get knitted cardigans, Ifugao bags, table runners, placemats, wood pieces and fresh flowers at really cheap prices.
Get lost in Baguio's winding roads, bask in cheap finds, healthy living, and rich culture. Baguio has most definitely become more than just its weather.
At a glance
Baguio is approximately 250 kilometers away from Manila and the most comfortable and fastest way to get there is via private transportation. Getting around Baguio shouldn't be a problem either, as taxis are abound.
Café by the Ruins
25 Chuntug Road, Baguio City 2600
(074) 442 4010
Lobby of Hotel Elizabeth (Gibraltar St. Corner J Felipe)
(0917) 528-1166; (0917) 846-4729
Hotel Elizabeth, Gibraltar St. corner J.Felipe St., Baguio City,
(074) 619 0367
Maharlika Livelihood Center
Magsaysay Ave, Maharlika Livelihood Center G/F, Baguio City, Benguet,
Distance – 250 kilometers from Manila
Travel time – An average of five hours travel time by land, depending on the traffic and road situation
Via Private Vehicle from Manila to Baguio
Via Public Bus from Manila to Baguio
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