Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hello, Stranger! Revisiting Baguio After Two Decades

The last time I visited Baguio was during the Holy Week of 1994 together with my family. I remember the freezing temperature despite being a summer month, the swelling crowd as many hied off to the summer capital, and the sight and smell of pine tress upon entering the city.

I never got to set foot in Baguio again until twenty years later, thanks to my boss who brought us her staff up north for a weekend trip. Weeks later, our family trooped to Baguio for my mother's birthday celebration. Then last weekend, my Pink Family travel group and I went up north again for a weekend relaxation and another birthday celebration.

In a span of two decades, definitely so much has changed in Baguio. First, what used to be a six to eight-hour trip has now been cut down to four hours. Then there are the de luxe buses which made travelling more comfortable (with toilets so bladder breaks are no longer a problem). A lot of establishments have sprouted down Session Road while some old-timers have bid adieu like Star Cafe. But what made me sad though on this trip back was the diminishing number of pine trees in sight upon approaching the city and the terrible traffic jams that greeted me.

Here is a rundown of some things to do and places to visit in the summer capital of the country. The next post will be about dishes/dining places to try in Baguio City.

Tam-awan Village
Pinsao, Baguio City
Entrance Fee: Php 50.00

Tam-awan, which means vantage point, typifies a village in Cordillera with Ifugao huts and uphill terrain. On weekends, there's a show featuring the dance and music of the Ifugaos. You'll also find artists doing sketches of guests and the art galley and cafe are filled with artworks. 

BenCab Museum
Km. 6, Asin Road, Baguio City
Entrance Fee: Php 100.00

Who doesn't know BenCab? The national artist Benedicto Cabrera who is revered in the art circle has a museum which is like one huge at gallery featuring not just his muse, Sabel, but also the works masters and upcoming artists.

Ramon Orlina

Also within the museum is Cafe Sabel which overlooks a farm and garden. 

Philippine Military Academy
Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City

The bastion of brave women and men who pledge to serve the country and protect its people. There's a museum, the Relics Point, the memorial for the departed alumni, the sundial, the aircrafts and the welcome breath of fresh air and pine trees. And if you're lucky, you can witness some cadets doing their drills.

Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral (Baguio Cathedral)
Mount Mary, Cathedral Loop, Baguio City

For Catholics, the Baguio Cathedral usually gets the first stop for those visiting Baguio. The pink church with its twin spires is a sight in the city. The church is a witness to the unfolding history, being spared from bombardment during World War II to serving as refuge during the war and the devastating earthquake.

St. Joseph the Worker Church
Pacdal Circle, Baguio City

If the Baguio Cathedral gets too crowded and if you're within the vicinity of Wright Park and Mines View, then there's St. Joseph Church that is worth the visit. We attended first morning mass and the place exuded a sense of serenity as the morning rays streamed in. And the priest who said mass was so cool about having selfies with the churhgoers.

The Grotto
Dominican Hill Road, Mirador Hill, Baguio City

It was a foggy afternoon when we made our way to The Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes. For the faint of heart, ascent may start midway, on a road where vehicles have access and where vendors sell candles and flowers. But those who are very much able, taking the more than 200 steps to the top is worth it.

Construction of the Grotto started in 1913 under the Jesuit priest, Fr. Jose Algue. The image of Our Lady of Lourdes was carved by Isabelo Tampingco.

Near the image is a newly constructed chapel. The scent of wood used in making the pews and building the chapel permeates the air while the use of glass on the altar and on the sides allows you to have a glimpse of the pine trees and the sky, a nice place to take refuge and commune with God.

Pink Sisters' Convent and Chapel
Brent Road, Baguio City

Another place to meditate and find spiritual solace is the Pink Sisters' Convent and Chapel.

Camp John Hay
Baguio City

A trip to Baguio won't be complete without spending a few hours or even a day or night at the Camp Joh Hay. This reservation area was named after John Milton Hay, the U.S. Secretary of State during the terms of Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. You can take a walk, jog, play golf, do some shopping, or have a picnic surrounded by pine trees.

Historical Core
Camp John Hay, Baguio City
Entrance Fee: Php 60.00

Here you'll find the Bell House, a typical American home named after Gen. J. Franklin Bell, once a Commanding General in the Philippines. 

From the porch of the Bell House, one can see the Bell Amphitheater which serves as venue for various occasions.

And a few steps from the Bell House is the Cemetery of Negativism where negative thoughts are ditched symbolically.

Treetop Adventure
Camp John Hay, Baguio City

For the thrill seekers, there is the Treetop Adventure next to the Historical Core. There are different packages to choose from for the various rides and attractions --- the Canopy Ride, Funicular, Superman Zipline, Tree Drop, Silver Surfer and Skywalk Adventure.


Camp John Hay, Baguio City

Here you'll find outlet stores, pasalubong shops and dining establishments.

Wright Park
Leonard Wood Road, Baguio City

This park was named after Governor Luke Wright who commissioned the architect Daniel Burnham to develop the city as a recreation area for the American soldiers.

Currently, apart from being a park where people can stroll and loll around, it has also become a place for people to get the chance to do horse back riding.

The Mansion

Leonard Wood Road, Baguio City

Just across the Wright Park is The Mansion which is the official summer residence of the President of the country. 

Botanical Garden

Leonard Wood Road, Baguio City

Located near the Teachers Camp, it is a huge garden filled with a variety of flowers, trees and other plants as well as native huts and foreign-inspired gazebos. There is also a group of Igorots at the entrance of the park who oblige to tourists wanting to have a photo op with them.

Mines View Park
Gibraltar Road, Baguio City

Much has changed in this place. A paved ramp has replaced the steps leading to the observatory deck. Apart from the horses, tourists now line up just to take a photo with a couple of St. Bernard dogs.

Burnham Park
Baguio City

This huge park right smack in the city center was named after the urban planner Daniel Burnham. It has a huge football field, a lake where people ride in those colorful boats, a skating rink, benches and tables surrounded by pine trees where one can sit and relax and play a mean game of chess and bicycles that are up for rent. 

The Lion's Head

Kennon Road, Baguio City

You know you're in Baguio when you see this humongous head of a lion on Kennon Road. This famous landmark is a project of the Lions Club which symbolizes the presence of the organization in the summer capital.

Bell Church
Magsaysay Ave., Baguio City

Several minutes from the public market, on the road bound for La Trinidad, you'll find Bell Church. The compound has manicured gardens, a temple and architecture with dragons and bells.

Strawberry Farm
La Trinidad

Technically outside Baguio City but a short drive from the city, tourists flock to this place to experience picking strawberries when in season. On other months, lettuce are up for harvest.

Stay in a cottage and sit by the fireplace

With such chilly temperature, wouldn't it be nice to stay in one of those American-inspired cottages and curl up in front of a fireplace while reading a good book and enjoying a cup of coffee or hot chocolate?

Walk down the Session Road

Get lost in the crowd, feel the vibe, stretch those muscles and reminisce Baguio that was especially some old favourites down this stretch that have bid adieu.

Photo by Tin Tamondong

North Haven Spa
Casa Vallejo, Baguio City

Pamper yourself to a really good massage after a long day of going around the city. It's located next to Hill Station and Mt. Cloud Bookshop.

Mt. Cloud Bookshop
Casa Vallejo, Baguio City

For the book lovers, this place will definitely be a treat. From old publications to Filipiniana selection and popular titles, too, you'll find your treasure trove here.

Good Shepherd Convent
Gibraltar Road, Baguio City

This place has become a favourite haunt for pasalubong such as the peanut brittle, snow balls, strawberry and ube jam and the choco flakes.

Public Market
Baguio City

Here you'll find rows of stalls selling pasalubong staples, from the fresh vegetables to sweet treats, knitted bags and wallets to shirts and brooms and other knick knacks associated with the city. 

Next: A Taste of Baguio

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Thank you for visiting Traipsing Chronicles. I hope you will continue walking with me as I wander and see the world. Cheers!

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