The City of Pines is a favorite destination of Filipinos at this time of the year. With its cold weather that matches up with the Christmas season, don't be surprised if your family or your peers are planning a weekend trip to Baguio. This city is the closest thing that you can get to that cold autumn feels on a tight budget. If you have an extra hundred, you can even get that winter-feels.
Sitting at 1, 540 MASL, Baguio City is the highest city, in terms of elevation, in the country. It is a year-round destination that packs in history, adventure, and culture in one complete itinerary. But apart from the usual visits to Mines View, horseback riding in Wright Park, and boating in Burnham, here are 7 interesting things to do when in Baguio.
Glamping in style
Yes, you heard it right. You can now camp out in style at Valleypoint Campsite in Sto. Tomas. Solo travelers can avail of an overnight package at Php1350 that includes glamping accomodation, breakfast, unlimited coffee, and one round of aerosoft shooting.
The campsite is located along a ridge that overlooks the southern part of the city and evenings are amazing with the view of the city lights. The campsite also has a common room with large pillows where you can spend the rest of the evening playing group games from the camp's selections or you can opt to sip a cup of warm coffee while chatting with friends.
For early morning risers, you can wake up to the cold Baguio morning just before sunrise and enjoy the light show of the sun rising. You won't see the sun rising but the play of colors at dawn is amazing. You'd realize that the cold wouldn't bother you as you get treated with its own version of its sea of clouds.
And just before leaving, get de-stressed by aiming the airsoft gun on a target and see how good you are on hitting the bulls eye. A great way to end your glamping experience. You can check out the Facebook page of Valleypoint Campsite here.
Walk the city
With its cool weather, exploring Baguio's tourism core by foot is the best way to go. You get to enjoy its weather and the city's beauty at your own pace and without the headache of getting stuck in Baguio traffic. You can kick off your walking tour with an insightful visit at the Museo Kordilyera where you get a glimpse of the unique culture of the different groups in the Cordillera.
Walking distance from the Museo Kordilyera is the Baguio Museum . The museum showcases the rich culture of the Cordillera. It also gives you a glimpse of how Baguio looked a decade ago and how the city developed into what it is now. The museum's main attraction is Apo Baket - a mummy from the Cordilleras. The museum has been her home for the past decades.
Walk along Governor Pack Road and find the historical marker where its development started before saying a short prayer at the Baguio Cathedral. Admire the church's rustic design with its pink facade, stained glass windows, and its twin belfries. The church also served as a shelter during World War 2 and within its ground is a memorial for the casualties of the war.
You can then walk down the stairs that leads down to Session Road, Baguio's most famous street. This is where you will find a lot business establishment, both popular and Baguio-based. Check out Vizco's and Tea House for their cakes or you can check out the ukay shops along Sky World. Looking for a vegetarian fix, head off to Oh My Gulay! You would be surprised at what you'd find in Session Road.
If you are thinking of lunch, I suggest that you take your food out instead of dining in. Because not far from Session Road is Burnham Park. Its huge ground is a great place to sit back, relax, and have a picnic while you enjoy the rush and the view. The park also offers a lot of activities for the young and old. You can try your hand out with boating on its lagoon, biking around, or by letting kids be kids on its playground.
You can cap off your walking tour by heading up to the Baguio City Hall. Along the way, you will pass by the city's own version of Rizal Park honoring the country's national hero. A view deck in front of the city hall will give you a commanding view of the city. A great way to end your city walking tour.
Have a picnic
They say that the best way to enjoy a place is to go the way locals do. Growing up in Baguio, going on a picnic is a staple among residents and forms part of everyone's childhood memories. I have yet to meet a Baguio resident who never had a picnic experience even once during their growing up years in this city.
The city has a lot of parks to choose from where you can share a meal with the family under its clear skies. Burnham Park, the upper part of Wright Park, the Botanical Garden, and John Hay are popular picnic spots in the city. The cool weather and the greens will be a memorable experience.
Baguio is a UNESCO Creative City with a lot of homegrown artists taking their roots here. The Bencab Museum and Tam-awan Village are top-of-the-mind art spots in Baguio that receives a lot of tourists on a regular basis. The art spots have become a city icon for artistry and creativity.
But the city has more creative spots to discover. Street art is a common thing to see and appreciate in Baguio. Skyworld may seem to be a great place to shop for ukay items but, when it closes its shop, you'd be amazed by creativity on its metal roll-up doors. So, keep your eyes open and appreciate the creativity on fence walls, roll-up doors and sidewalks that become canvasses of the young creative minds of Baguio locals.
While you are at it, Ili Likha Artist's Village is worth checking out along Assumption Road. This multi-level establishment was the brainchild of film-maker Kidlat Tahimik, who was recently recognized as a National Artist for Film. Artworks in different forms blend naturally with the complex's wooden structures and beams to create a sanctuary that would engage the artist in you.
The City of Pines is an old settlement pre-dating the Spanish occupation. It used to be called "Kafagway" and was a hunting ground of the Ibalois and other highland ethnic tribes. It was only during the American Period when Baguio was developed as a summer retreat for Americans. Burnham Park, the Mansion, Kennon Road, Teacher's Camp, and Camp John Hay were some of the structures built during this period.
Baguio's heritage and historical structures are mute witnesses to the both the good and the bad of Philippine history. The Baguio City Hall, Burnham Park, and the Mansion saw the development of Baguio from a rancheria to a bustling city. Session Road saw how local businesses bloomed and how bigger market players entered the local scene. Camp John Hay was a taste of America during the 80's until it was developed as an ecological attraction in the city.
Of course, we have heard the creepy stories of the log houses in Teacher's Camp. How its hauntings are associated to its early American inhabitants. You wouldn't want to miss out a visit to the famous Diplomat Hotel that have seen the horrors of the Japanese occupation of the city. It also tells you how a place once feared has slowly evolved into a destination that gives you a commanding view of the city. Well, a visit to Diplomat would never be complete without its haunting stories.
Wherever you go in Baguio, there will always be a touch of history. Don't just sulk up on the view but be amazed by the stories and history behind these tourist spots.
My love for the outdoors was born in Baguio. As a young boy, I enjoyed hiking on the trails around PMA. Some trails lead to another part of the camp while the other leads to the Loakan Airport or a "view deck" of Kennon Road. The scent of pine trees while walking on these trails are all embedded in my memory.
Although the scent of pine trees may no longer be there, hiking is still an activity worth trying out when in Baguio. The popular hiking trail of Mount Ulap can be done if you have an extra day to spare. My family have done its traverse and the commanding views of the Cordillera, La Union, and Pangasinan is enough of a reward for challenging you physically. You can read our complete experience here.
But if you only have a few hours to spare and you want to get close to nature, you can take a hike along John Hay's Yellow Trail. It snakes through the forested areas of the camp and will take around 2 hours to complete. It is a great way to exercise and commune with nature while you enjoy the cool climate of the city.
Mention Baguio City and expect people to associate it with ukay-ukay. You can't blame them because the city did popularize thrift shopping in the country. There are a lot of places to go ukay-ukay shopping in the city - Skyworld along Session Road, Abanao Street, and Hilltop to name a few. But the night market along Harrison Road is a must place to check out for unique finds. The street comes alive with its merchants selling anything under the sun. You just have to have a keen eye in searching for great finds. If you get tired and hungry in the process, food stalls are located on both ends of the street that offer different kind of street food and coffee.
But beyond the ukay-ukay economy of Baguio, there are a lot of great finds in Baguio's public market, from strawberries to the walis tambo. Freshly ground coffee, fresh vegetables, fresh flowers, freshly-made ube, and handicrafts are just some of the great "pasalubongs" that you can bring home. If you want to find what and where in Baguio's public market, check out my Baguio Palengke Attack blog here.
Baguio is also the home of a number of homegrown businesses. Mirthful Atman and Mirth Fragrances are two brands that I have come across and loved that are based in Baguio. Mirthful Atman is a shirt brand that aims to inspire one to be a "happy soul" through their cool shirt designs while Mirth Fragrances offer linen sprays and perfumes for everyday use. Check out the Facebook page of Mirth Fragrances here.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The Baguio that I grew up in has long evolved into an urban jungle marred by a boom in its population and traffic. Gone were the days that you wake up to the fresh scent of pine trees during cold mornings. But the city still tries to keep its culture, history, heritage, and its stories intact despite the changing environment that it sits in. Its tourist spots and its activities, both the old and the new, tries to connect its residents and its tourists to the old Baguio that I grew up in.
I hope that as we walk the city, enjoy its cool weather with friends and family, appreciate its beauty and artistry, and support its local businesses, we are able to see beyond Baguio's site and sounds. We are able to understand that, despite its development, the old Baguio feel is the key in keeping its uniqueness as a Philippine destination. That it is not just the cold but the unique blend of the cold and pine tree scent that complete the Baguio vibe. It is not just the beauty of its site but the stories behind it that make the city come alive. And we could make that promise to strive, whether locals or guests, to keep that city spirit and vibe alive in our hearts and mind, and more importantly in our actions.
Getting there: Victory Liner, Dagupan Bus, and Genesis Bus have daily trips to Baguio City. Regular aircon bus trips cost around Php450 one way while the De Luxe buses of Victory Liner and Genesis Bus costs Php750 one way. Taxis and jeepneys are the mode of transport within the city but, with the traffic, getting around by foot is faster.
City Core Walking Tour Itinerary:
9.00a - Museo Kordilyera
10.00a - Baguio Museum
11.00a - Baguio Cathedral via Governor Pack Road
11.45a - Session Road / Skyworld Ukay-Ukay Shops / Ili Likha Artist’s Village / Buy Lunch
1.00p - Picnic Lunch at Burnham Park / Explore Burnham / Boating / Biking
3.00p - Baguio City Hall via Rizal Park
4.30p - Ukay-ukay shopping at Abanao / Explore Baguio Public Market
6.30p - Dinner at Session Road
8.30p - Visit Baguio Market
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.