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“I Love Baguio City” - My Travel Story in the Summer Capital of the Philippines

The Strawberry Farm, Burnham Park, Mines View Park, the Mansion, Wright Park, Lourdes Grotto, and Session Road; these are among of the popular landmarks in the more commonly known “Summer Capital of the Philippines” – Baguio City. Why so? Well, the temperature here seldom exceeds 26 degree centigrade. During the cold season of December to February, the temperature falls down to even below 10 degree centigrade. The record low temperature was 6.3 degree and that was on January 18, 1961.

How to Travel to Baguio City?

Going to this cold city in the mountainous province of Benguet, Philippines is a six to seven hours travel by passenger utility bus from Manila. Starting from EDSA, traversing the NLEX, entering SCTEX, exiting the province of Tarlac and going through the neighbouring provinces of Pangasinan and La Union, and then exploring the zigzag road of either the Marcos Highway, the Kennon Road or the Naguilian Road, the coldest place in the Philippines will be reached. Baguio is about 250 kilometers from Manila and the city is approximately 1,400 meters above sea level.





Facts About the City of Pines
In 2012, the total number of visitors of Baguio City is 617,079. About 95% of them are domestic or local travellers. With respect to the total international visitors of the Philippines, the foreign visitors of Baguio City accounts for 0.67%. That is 28,931 out of 4,272,811 foreign visitors.

Sources:
http://www.nscb.gov.ph/rucar/stat_trsm_bgo.htm#arrivalsbyorigin
http://www.tourism.gov.ph/Pages/IndustryPerformance.aspx




"I Love Baguio City"
The famous words “I love Baguio City” can be seen printed on t-shirts, hats, bags, bonnets, mugs, and many other souvenir items that can be bought from Baguio. The phrase “I love” followed by the name of a particular place is in fact a popular expression and serving as a trademark as well of almost all tourist destination places around the world today. I and my wife’s first visit to Baguio City was in April of 2007. We were young then and the experience of walking in Burnham Park at around eight in the evening is not only full of romance for the two of us. It is also experiencing the coldness of the environment we had almost never experienced before. Baguio City changes a lot in that short span of seven years. Perhaps, government statistics alone will tell that the population of Baguio had dramatically increased since 2007. My personal experience and observation of Baguio City is the story that I want to share on this blog. For me, the words “I love Baguio City” is now something to think about not only by its visitors, but also of the local people of Baguio City. The reasons behind this will be the content of my short travel story here in Baguio City.




Our One-of-a-Kind Baguio Experience
Our first day in Baguio City starts at around six in the morning of April 3, 2014. We alight in Victory Liner terminal and then start our morning walk towards the city’s main street - the Session Road. The morning dew and the cold breeze welcome us nicely as we walk together with our backpacks. People are on their jackets and there are early joggers whose body are almost fully covered with their jogging outfit.

The tall pine trees are everywhere, on every corner of the streets, and the roads are just heading either downhill or uphill. Rarely you can see completely flat roads of more than a hundred meter in this city. We drop by first on the hotel which I booked in through Agoda.com since it is just some meters away from the bus terminal. That is just for us to be already be familiar with its location since our check in time is still in the afternoon.

The hotel’s location is somehow not a usual spot for establishments like this. It is at the bottom of a hill, beside the roads of which both opposite directions are going uphill, and it is constructed horizontally at the side of that hill. Some meters away on top of the hill is the SM City Baguio. Its neighbours are other hotels, residential areas, and government offices mainly the BIR, DILG and NBI.


Upstairs Bed and Bath


SM Baguio City



Baguio City Market
At around seven, we are already in downtown Baguio City, specifically in the popular “pasalubong” or take-home souvenir and product center – the Baguio City Market. This is where we take our breakfast. We rove around the market to see the fresh vegetables coming from different plantations in Benguet and nearby provinces. Although many stores are still close, we already happen to see a lot of things being sold inside this public market early in the morning. The fragrant flowers, strawberry jams, “walis tambo”or native broom, roasted coffee, baked raisin and cinnamon breads, and various kinds of fruits and vegetables are just scattered around. The market is quite old but you can witness and the tradition of selling to earn a living is there. Vendors are so lively when calling the customers for them to buy their products. Delivery boys are full of strength in carrying the baskets and sacks of vegetables on their shoulders. The crowd is not that big yet but you can hear the noise of money – trading in the market of Baguio City.


Baguio City Public Market





Lourdes Grotto
After about thirty minutes of exploring the market area, we then get a taxi which will take us to Lourdes Grotto. When we reach the place, right at the very entrance are the stairs painted in white. It was so stiff that you can see people climbing up and down the hill if not catching their breath, then slowly and cautiously walking in order to avoid accident and over fatigue. This is a sacred place for many specifically for the millions of Catholics in the country. They are here to offer their prayers and devotion to the Our Lady of Lourdes. It is believed that this religious site have healing properties, one of the reasons why people flocks here at almost any time of the year. This is where we tasted the “strawberry taho”. It was not that good but eating it at Lourdes Grotto, it’s a unique experience.








Burnham Park
At around nine, we head back to the city proper this time by riding the jeepney. The fare is eight pesos per person and that was fair enough for me to see the two sides of the road on a typical day in a Baguio community. Well, it is just the same as what are seen there in Manila – stores, shops, hotels, terminals, and houses. What’s only a little bit different is that some people are talking in their own dialect – Ilocano. You can hear that from inside the jeepney passengers and from people talking along the roads whenever the jeepney stops or slows down.

We then go to the Burnham Park and what welcomes us there are the colourful flowers and the calm water of the lagoon where boat riding and paddling is the number one attraction. If you look at any map of Baguio City, Burnham Park is always noticeable for this park is located at the heart of this city. This is where the day starts and ends for many in this city. This park named after the city’s architect and planner Daniel Hudson Burnham is definitely a must visit place.






The Mansion
Since it is just our first day, we only spend less than an hour in Burnham Park that morning. We take a taxi going to “the Mansion”, the home of the president of the Republic of the Philippines during the summer months of March to May. Since it is place where the president stays, the well designed and constructed gate is guarded by military officers. Visitors are only allowed to stay in a certain area that is right after this main entrance gate. We did not waste our time then. We take photos of the Mansion.








Wright Park
Just across the street is the entrance to the Wright Park. This is where this eye-catching man-made pond is built. Surrounding it are the flowering plants, walkways, and different kinds of pine trees. We walk straight towards the end of the pond and there is the resting station with benches and canopies. After drinking some water to refresh ourselves, we go through this downhill stairs which is heading to the horseback riding area. And yes, there are lots of horses out there. There is a big sign board stating that the fee for riding a horse is 300 pesos per hour. If you are a first timer, the horse owner or care taker will guide you if you want to try this enjoying outdoor activity. You can of course go and ride the horse on your own if you are already trained on this kind of hobby. However, we did not try riding the horses. Instead, we just take a walk on the nearby plant and souvenir item shops.







Igorot Stairs
At around twelve, we are already in the “Igorot Stairs” which is just near the entrance to our hotel. It is an amazing wonder because there are statues of igorot (natives of Benguet) and of other people placed on different parts of the staircase. It is like history on a glimpse similar to the wax museums where statues of famous personalities, dead or alive, are displayed. Half of the day is over and so we take a rest first at Upstairs Bed and Bath – an economy class hotel for practical visitors of Baguio city, like us.





Oh My Gulay
The afternoon of our first day was so extravagant. It is my wife’s idea to enter the popular creation of one of our local artists Kidlat Tahimik, the Oh My Gulay restaurant. To see is to believe. That is how I will describe my experience of going into this restaurant. Now, all you have to do is to take a look on these photos of the art collections of Kidlat Tahimik whom is also known in the Philippines as the “Father of Philippines Independent Cinema”.








Here, we eat the dishes some of the names of which when interpreted in Filipino language are quite daring and has double meaning. They are the “Anak ng Putanesca”, their very own Oh My Gulay salad, and the Waldorfesto (sounds like from a movie). What we did not order but are best sellers here are the “Super Sosy”, “Pasta Premadonna”, “The Saging and Mane Love Affair”, and “Cesar Asar” (Sounds intriguing, right?). But what completed our meal that afternoon are their “kape” or coffee and Hot Choco, two of their bests in the long list of “Mga Panulak” or simply drinks and beverages. You have just seen the art gallery showing the Philippines in the old times and the creative minds of many of our local artists like Kidlat Tahimik (which synonym is silent thunder). Eating at Oh My Gulay is really a one of a kind experience. It is on the 5th floor of La Azotea building along Session Road. This is definitely an eating place for you to try one day.







Baguio Cathedral
Our second day starts at the Baguio Cathedral or better be known as the Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral. This is one of the many Catholic religious places in the city which architectural design is a wonder to many visitors. There is a stiff staircase connecting the cathedral to the main street of Session Road. As we walk down the stairs, there are many artworks that can be seen on both sides. But one of the most significant work of art that directly relates to Catholicism is this two pillars of stone with the Ten Commandments of God engrave on them. Not only in this cathedral but also in Lourdes Grotto and Good Shepherd Convent you will see this religious symbol. If this is a way to emphasize to the people the importance of following the ten commandments of God, then this is a making a lot of sense. But as to whether people is following the Ten Commandments or not, let just be these two pillars of stone be the inspiration.







Mines View Park
Next to our list of destinations in Baguio City is the Mines View Park. For about a hundred pesos fare via taxi, we reach the famous landmark at around nine in the morning that day. There seems to be not that much changes in this place. The plant shops are everywhere. The pines trees may have grown but they are still the same pines trees giving beauty to this park at a cliff. As we go inside, the stairs made of stones and concretes warns us to be mindful of our steps. One mistake and you will stumble down the rough stairs. At the near end is a booth where you can wear Igorot costumes and then take photo shots in exchange of a fee. Not bad for twenty pesos for unlimited number of shots. And so here we go for the traditional Igorot costume fashion show.








On the other side of the Igorot booth is a horse and signboard stating “Picture taking on the horse: Php 10.00 per shot”. My wife did not waste her time. She ask the horse owner to guide her in riding the horse and then beg me to take the best photo shots. I can’t exactly remember how I was convinced to pose with her beside the horse and then pay Php100 afterwards. Those were ten shots all in all! Whoa! But it is really exciting to see a horse and then literally touch it. It is worth it to pay that amount provided that you do the best poses of your life which on our case is on the top and side of a horse like that one in Mines View Park.




The rest of our stay there is spent in viewing the mountains from deck constructed for the park visitors. And so I ask my wife to take some photo shots similar to the poses I did way back in 2007. And when I compared it to the old photos, the beauty of the surrounding is almost the same. But what I noticed is that the size of my body is no longer the same. Ha-ha. Well, kidding aside, our stay in this magnificent place is very relaxing. The highlights of our visit to the Mines View Park did not just end on the viewing deck. As we go back to the entrance area, we could not resist going inside the souvenir boutiques along the stairways. After some price bargaining and negotiation, we move out with some t-shirts and bonnets with us. And what follows next is we find ourselves in another photo session. This time it’s with the St. Bernard dog, a huge and lovely dog. Three shots for fifty pesos is just okay. After that, at the back of the Mines View Park letter carvings is “D’Igorot Place”. What is inside this place? Well, it has the souvenir items hand crafted by the Igorot people. I used to buy these two “Anito” figures and a table calendar made of wood. My wife buy a so-called “dream catcher” which is something that you need to hang on your doors. See some of the photos of these artworks for sale inside this store.
















Good Shepherd Convent
My early research of the locations of these landmarks of Baguio helps us a lot. Since I know that the Good Shepherd Convent is just some two to three minutes walk from the Mines View Park, then that becomes our next stop. This convent is famous for selling native delicacies like strawberry jam, ube jam, and peanut brittle. Well of course, since it is a convent, there are sacred sides and corners in this place. There are the statues of the Good Shepherd and St. Marie Euphrasie Pelletier. And by the way, the makers of the delicacies this convent is selling are the local people, mostly ladies, whom are trained under the Mountain Maid Training and Development Foundation. It was great day for us visiting this convent. Their delicacy products are as a matter of fact delicious and have a one of a kind taste. It will be great if you will also try visiting this convent and buying their products one of these days.











Strawberry Farm
We then head back to our hotel carrying the souvenirs and delicacies we bought. They are many and heavy but they are our good remembrance of the Mines View Park and the Good Shepherd Convent.

After resting, we decided to go out of our hotel at around two o’clock that afternoon. This next destination is totally awesome. It is the Strawberry Farm! Since it’s a little bit far from the city, for us to save some money, we take the jeepney going there instead of the taxi. We only spend eleven pesos each for a twenty minutes ride. We board the jeepney terminal situated beside the Baguio City Market. At around three o’clock, we are already there. From the main road, we still have to walk some three hundred meters before we reach the main entrance to the farm. And when we are already at the entrance, the next thing to do is to log in to this book for visitors.

Being a thrifty guy, I was hesitant in taking the 350 pesos per kilo of strawberry when you do the literal picking right in the middle of the farm. But I just find myself together with my wife picking the fresh, red, shiny and sweet strawberries in the farm some minutes after. I had never been into a strawberry farm in my entire life. This is my first time. I was my wife’s second. So during picking, we take these photos of the strawberry farm. Take a look.
















I have a background in farming. When I was a teenager, I plant different kinds of vegetables in our backyard. When I was even younger, I can still remember the days when I was with my uncles and grandfather plowing the fields and harvesting the palays. I know the difficulties and so out of curiosity, I began asking the lady farmer about her strawberries. I asked her about the peak season for strawberries and she said “It is during the cold months”. I asked her if she owns this farm and she said “No, the government owns this land and we farmers here used to pay them at 15 pesos per square meter per month”.

After our basket, which design is just enough to fill one kilo of strawberries, is full, I requested the lady farmer if she can stand beside my wife for a photo. She agreed and that is the highlight of my visit to the Strawberry Farm. The rest of the hour is me taking photos of the field, which area is about thirty to forty hectares on my estimate. When we are walking away from the farm going to the nearby jeepney stop, my wife told me that the lady farmer added a few grams of strawberries to the one kilo which we just intended to purchase. It is the strawberry ice cream and candy that completed our visit to this farm of the Igorots.











Session Road
We spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the scenic beauty of the Burnham Park. You can smell the fragrance of the flowers of different kinds planted along the walkways of the park. The leaves are green, the sky is blue, and people are busy taking photos of this wonderful park. You can see how happy people are. This park in the city is truly giving comfort and relaxation and I really felt that when I was there. We jump out of the park for a while to take our dinner. We dine in at Pizza Volante situated along Session Road. We ordered pizza, pasta, fish menu, and this cake which according to my wife is the restaurant’s signature dessert. We go back to the park and stay there until the evening. The transition from day to night is a good feeling when you are at Baguio City. The cold temperature in the afternoon even becomes colder when it’s seven or eight in the evening. People are on their thick jackets. The flowers began to spread their sweet smell. The pines trees appear to be swaying against the mild breeze being blown by the winds into the park. Here are these trees with red hairy flowers scattered around the lagoon. There are roses, dahlias, sunflowers, stargazer, and many more kinds of flowers adding perfect beauty to the park. At around nine, we begin our walk going back to the hotel. It is cold and dark and it is a great feeling.


















Pasalubong at Baguio City Market
Out third and last day is all about exploring the Baguio City Market. I buy these Benguet and Kalinga brands of coffee from the well-known “Garcia’s Pure Coffee”. A kilo of broccoli, a string of sayote leaves, a kilo of aubergine eggplant, three pieces of sugar bits, some grams of beans, some grams of white carrot, some grams of longganisa, two packs of this special kind of firewood, four walis tambo, several jars of strawberry jams, and more; those are what we bought in this market.












What's Wrong with Baguio Today?
This second visit to Baguio City means a lot to me. I am a visitor and at the same time an observer of the things happening around. What I just shared are the somehow good stories of our stay here. There are no bad or untoward incidents that happen to us in Baguio City, but there are things that make me feel bad about what’s happening around Baguio City and into my country Philippines as a whole.

The city is full of vandalism. The street signboards which will guide the motorists are vandalized. The walls in the parks and even several establishments are vandalized. The benches, stairs, and even body of the trees are vandalized. I quickly notice these things right on the very first day we arrive at Baguio. There is something wrong in the city and it needs to be changed. As we travel on the roads going from one tourist spot to another, here is another thing which I found dangerous and life threatening. They are the many houses built at the side of the mountains in and out of the city. I am not to judge the engineers and architects in charge of erecting those structures. But as far as the safety of the people is concerned, it is unsafe to build many houses on these areas since Baguio City is known for landslides during the rainy and stormy days.

The number of houses today compared to 2007 certainly increases a lot. I am sure something is wrong in this direction of progress and development of the city. Let us all hope that it is not yet too late for the government to act for a change. Lastly, there seems to be a minor decline on the number of visitors felt in 2011 to 2012 if we are to examine the statistics sent out by the Department of Tourism. For whatsoever reason, here are the numbers for you to figure out.

2006: 709,671

2007: 760,348

2008: 814,975

2009: 770,187

2010: 738,386

2011: 552,497

2012: 617,079

Source: http://www.nscb.gov.ph/rucar/stat_trsm_bgo.htm#arrivalsbyorigin











Manila Bound
We board the Victory Liner bus going back to Manila at around nine in the morning on our third day. With all our things packed and secured well, our travel takes around ten hours which is longer than usual. It was fun and exhilarating seeing the zigzag roads of Baguio City. I am a window photographer (taking photos beside the window of the vehicle I am riding into) and so I take this perfect opportunity to photograph the beauty of Baguio City and its surrounding towns and mountainous areas.

I have to conclude that Philippines is truly beautiful in terms of our natural resources like of those seen around Baguio City. I had laid down my observations to which I am proposing for changes. I believe that if they will be done, the pure benefits are for us – the Filipinos. And you will definitely say the words “I love Baguio City” with all your heart and soul.








You may also want to read:

Philippines: The Land of the Greatest Filipino Artists in the World - Part 2
Philippines: The Land of the Greatest Filipino Artists in the World - Part 1
“Pasalubong” – What Makes this Filipino Word Very Special?
Interesting Facts from the Historic Province of the Ilocanos - Ilocos Norte, the Philippines


About this Post
Thank you for reading this lengthy post about Baguio City. Hope that this could guide you on your travel to Baguio City.


You’ve just read a blog posted by Noriel Panganiban of www.knowriel.com. Feel free to comment below or visit www.knowriel.com for more information about Noriel and his vision for positive changes in the Philippines.

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