Cold weather, fog, rain, strawberry, grilled corn, lengua, peanut brittle, pine trees, session road, and Marcos highway are just some of my recollections of Baguio City. I had good memories of the place, because I used to frequent Baguio city when I was young up until high school. In fact, other than Manila and my province, Bataan, Baguio city is probably one of my most frequented cities in the Philippines. But that was a long time ago, it has been ages since I’ve last visited the city. And it’s good to finally be back.
Baguio city is an urbanized city in the province of Benguet, a six-hour ride from Manila and one of the most famous travel destinations in the Philippines. It is known for its cool climate, giving the city the distinction of being the “Summer Capital of the Philippines.”
We left Manila after 12 midnight for we decided to sleep in the van while our 2 drivers will do alternates. We did this so we won’t be wasting time and we could start touring early, for we would only be staying there for two days. The journey was smooth and fast, aside from the occasional stop-overs to go to the bathroom, to stretch our numb legs or to replenish gas, it was a direct ride. Before the sun is up, we were already at the foot of the Marcos highway and everyone was up and excited and we could already feel the cold breeze touching our skins, smell the familiar scent of pine trees and see the infamous, zig-zag road leading to Baguio city.
The road to Baguio city wasn’t that steep as I remembered it from my childhood, the weather, given that it was May, was still pleasant and the view from the top was still magnificent. We were off to a good start.
Before heading to our accommodation for our stay in the city, we decided to go first to Strawberry Farm. This strawberry farm was not the famous strawberry farm in La Presa, made famous by that hit TV show, but the one in La Trinidad and is only 30 minutes away from the city. It was early in the morning and yet we couldn’t find a place to park our van, for it was already occupied by tourists, not to mention that it was quite muddy for it rained the previous night. Once settled, we changed our shoes appropriate for the mud and we were off to strawberry picking.
May wasn’t the best month to go strawberry picking, for there was not so much we can get and harvest. The locals said that December to February are the best months, so we only did get what we can only get. Although it wasn’t at all disappointing for we enjoyed the strawberry taho (soy/bean curd pudding), that was a killer.
I just mentioned that the strawberry farm was 30 minutes away from the city, right? That should have been the case if it wasn’t for that horrendous traffic. It took us two hours to go to our boarding house, but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits, we were still looking forward to exploring the city.
Your visit of the city wouldn’t be complete without visiting the most famous place in Baguio, the Burnham Park. The surrounding area of the park has continually modernizing while the park itself has been preserved as an important travel spot for tourists. It is known for its man-made lake/lagoon where you can hire rowboats, skating rink, children’s playground, rose garden and picnic grove. Along the street is where you’ll find my favorite, grilled corn in butter seasoned with salt.
We started the following day with a visit to a church and we opted to go to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Atonement or what is commonly known as Baguio Cathedral. The cathedral was built on 1936 and played a great part during World War II. It was said that the cathedral served as an evacuation centre during and until the end, the liberation.
On the same year that the Baguio Cathedral was completed, the Philippine Military Academy was established. It is the Philippine Military school for future officers of the country. Tourists are allowed to enter the premises and explore its beauty, and during some good days, you can witness the soldiers during their drills and marvel at their discipline and precision in synchronized steps.
The Mansion is the official summer residence of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. The facade of the mansion has a Spanish-inspired look and the tourists are contented viewing it from afar for the public is restricted to enter the mansion house. Across the mansion house is the Wright Park, where tourists can go and do horse back riding. You can also take some pictures while wearing the Igorot traditional clothes.
These were all we can squeezed on our very short visit to the city. It was a short vacation but we had so much fun.
Camp John Hay