Baguio is always and always will be the Summer Capital of the Philippines. It’s always in season, never goes out of style. Since the sun shines ever so brightly in all 7,107 islands of the Philippines all year round, I can maybe say that Baguio is the eternal summer Capital of the Philippines. Hmmm…sounds fab, why not?
Thanks so much to SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) and TPLEX (Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway), the travel time becomes faster and what used to be a long 7-8 hour grueling road trip from Metro Manila can now be done in just about 4-6 hours. Baguio, isang kandirit ka nalang (Baguio, you’re just a leap away)!
I spent my college years in Baguio. The Baguio that I came to know and fell in-love with was the old, rustic city— far from the one that it is now. Nevertheless, my fondness remains unchanged. I learned to embrace and celebrate the city that it came to be. A place that we already called our own, I and my closest friends from college gather in its hearth every year, for as long as our schedules allow us to. If not, we go on individual trips only to feel its soil beneath our feet and breathe the now barely-there pine-scented chilly air in the morning.
Why am I writing about Baguio so suddenly? First, ABS-CBN has a new soap, Forevermore, which is being shot in Baguio and other lovely locations in Cordillera. I have watched the pilot episode of this TV series, then I got hooked that it became a nightly ritual. Second, at this time of the year last year I was there with my cherished college friends. However, due to various personal reasons we silently agreed to forego the yearly reunion this year.
My trip to Baguio is always a well laid-out plan, whether I do it alone or in the company of my friends. I have made a long introduction I know, but the ultimate objective of this entry really is to provide you an idea on how you spend your 2 days and 2 nights in Baguio with all your senses brimming with enduring pleasure right after and beyond the 2-day sojourn.
1. Breakfast at Cafe by the Ruins
A visit in Baguio should either start or end at Cafe by the Ruins, a fixture and almost synonymous to Baguio. Personally, when I think of Baguio I think of Cafe by the Ruins like a reflex action. My most favorite in this place is their blueberry muffins paired with their freshly brewed coffee. You pinch a portion, lace it with butter and strawberry jam and eat it slowly with eyes closed — no words, all you can ever think of is your next visit.
Cafe by the Ruins is on 23 Chuntug St., beside Burnham Park.
If your parents have taken you to Burnham Park when you were little, then, for sure, you have experienced boating at the man-made lake and biking around. Try doing the same things as you did when you were much younger and don’t ever miss the strawberry-flavored taho (soy pudding) peddled around by taho vendors.
Walk a few steps from the biking area, at the back is the Baguio Orchidarium. It’s a place worth a visit if you love flowers or gardening or a photography enthusiast looking for vibrant and blooming subjects to capture. Go around and check the flowers and greens that are all in tip-top shape. There are quiet corners where you can sit and relax or relish the zen vibe.
Whenever I think of Burnham Park, I think of plant boxes teeming with Dahlia blooms. It is the heart of Baguio and is located right at the city center.
3. Lunch at O’ Mai Khan
Nothing compares to this Mongolian Buffet Restaurant. This is by far the best of its kind here in the country. The ingredients laid out in vast array are all fresh and inviting. Eat slow, enjoy the food and the hospitality of the staff, and do not forget to leave some space for their must-have calamansi pie.
O’ Mai Khan is on Upper Session Road.
4. The Philippine Military Academy
Visit the premier military institution in the country and get a glimpse of the cadets’ life as they are trained to become the finest officers and combatants of the Armed Forces. This place is scenic with its well-maintained gardens, age-old pine trees, and vast slopes and plains of green.
The PMA is also known as Fort Gregorio Del Pilar and is located in Loakan.
5. Camp John Hay
The old Camp John Hay used to be the most picturesque tourist spot in Baguio. Despite the recent major makeovers, there are three something old that I go back to:
- Cemetery of Negativism
Not a real cemetery so there’s nothing creepy in here. It’s rather a symbolic cemetery with funny and witty epitaphs.
- The Bell House
Walk a little from the Cemetery of Negativism and you’ll see this well-maintained old white cottage with green trimmings. It is best to visit this place when it’s all dolled up for Christmas season. At the back is the quaint amphitheater.
This used to occupy a tiny corner at the ground floor of Puso ng Baguio building along Session Road. When we were in college, my friend Daff and I would pass by for a cup of hot chocolate, lovingly and passionately prepared by the owner himself whom we called Kuya Jojo. Right before our eyes he would execute how the best hot chocolaté drink was concocted and best enjoyed in a demitasse. This leaves a doting memory in my heart, just like my affection for Noli Mi Tangere. It takes me back to tsokolate ah! and tsokolate eh!
6. Dinner at Forest House Bistro and Cafe
This place reminds me so much of the rustic Baguio. This is maybe because when I was still a student I used to pass by this place as I jog along Loakan Road. My visit to Baguio is never complete without a meal or coffee from this place. All the food is quite good, it fattens my heart.
It houses the personal creations and collections of Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto Cabrera. It also has galleries for the works of other visual arts masters and contemporary artists. I personally like BenCab’s mural of 32 Variations on Sabel on Mariwasa tiles and bul-ol (rice god) and hagabi (long wooden bench) collections.
8. Lunch at Kung Jeon Korean Palace Buffet
Best enjoyed with like-minded friends who are disposed to dress up in Korean hanbok for a photo op before the eating spree begins. It is located in South Drive.
9. Wright Park, The Mansion, and Mines View Park + Good Shepherd
Continue walking down memory lane at these Baguio classic tourist attractions. Who would ever miss buying the famed ube jam pasalubong from Good Shepherd? For no apparent reason, I buy angel cookies by default. Alfajor caramel is good, too.
10. Dinner at Mama’s Table (by Chef Vicky Tinio Clemente)
A gourmet dinner experience that must be booked in advance, ours was booked 6 months prior. For a minimum pack of 6 at PHP1,650 per head (price may have changed by now), Chef Vicky will prepare a well thought of 8-course meal for your group served right at her long dinner table in her warmly-lighted, high-ceiling, and glass-walled cozy abode. It is built on high ground on Ambuklao Road, with a beautiful garden and stunning mountain view especially at sunset.
Chef Vicky will welcome you in her house with motherly geniality and will make your stay an indelible memory. She said that some visitors who get so drunk with wine and merrymaking would doze on her big cushioned sofas and go home by daybreak when they are already sober. Yes you heard it right, she welcomes visitors overnight for as long as they can snugly prop themselves up in her jumbo sofas without making a mess.
There are many other places and new hot spots to visit in Baguio. I’ll write about them, too — but before that, let me go up to the City of Pines first for some inspiration. 🙂
Most of the photos (the most beautiful ones!) featured on this entry are by my friend, Yzanne Merced. She is a legal practitioner by profession who finds joy in shooting the Pines on her free time. She printed some of her photos into postcards for public sale in 2010.