Baguio City: Experiencing the City above the Clouds

TRAVELOGUE 101

Baguio City: Experiencing the City above the Clouds

Ampucao, Itogon

Mt. Ulap

 

 
Bontoc Rd, Baguio, 2601 Benguet

Stobosa Houses La Trinidad

 

 
Km. 5 La Trinidad, Bontoc Rd

Strawberry Farm La Trinidad

 

 

I

Intoduction

Traveling to Baguio City in the summer is an absolutely exhilarating experience if you are so used to the heat brought about living in Metro Manila. And this can be an amazing experience especially when you are spending it with family or friends. You may also find that, in the summer, this is when all the other tourists come and go and this can be a harrowing experience especially if you are in dire need to be alone in a strange city meeting new people native to the place.

I went to the place early in the year, on January—and to be honest, this is the best time of the year to go visit this beautiful city. The prices of hotels are on discount, the tourist packages are on more discount, and there are not too many people visiting the place. Plus, January and February is the coldest time in Baguio City so you would be experiencing down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit which you would not experience if you visit during the summer.

II

Before Traveling: The Essentials

It would be a good idea to book your hotel (or even with an AirBnb host) before getting to the place—this is a rule of thumb to consider before doing any traveling. This is what I did before going to Baguio; I was able to book a hotel room at a large discount which is already a great place to start. There are a lot of great hotels that you would find on different travel booking websites; as you must already know, Baguio is one of the hotspots for tourists to visit in the Philippines so it is only natural for the city to have so many hotels lying around the city.

You can book at hotels as close to Burnham Park or as close to Camp John Hay (or even at The Manor at Camp John Hay). This would, of course, depend on the budget that you have. Speaking of budget, it is of utmost importance that you have a set budget for everything. If you want to be an old fashioned traveler, you can always look for inns that would give you a homey yet inexpensive stay; but if you want to be the tourist type who can spend a fortune, there are a huge amount of options for upscale hotels that can accommodate you.

Ultimately, how you set your budget or even your theme in traveling (e.g. once a year travel all-or-nothing kind of travel) will determine how you want to set your itinerary.

III

Setting Your Itinerary

It is very important to be preparing your itinerary whether or not you are the type to go on a whim or a total travel planner. Your itinerary does not necessarily have to be something you need to constantly follow; instead, let this be your personal guide in letting you see the place you want to see. What I do personally is to write down what I need to see at the place—these would be a non-negotiable for me. In Baguio, what the non-negotiable place I absolutely needed to see was the BenCab Museum.

Depending on what you want to see, you can list down all the places and then wrap your schedule around those places. In my case, I was scheduled to be there for three days so I wanted to go to all the places I want to visit within that time period. I simply view my itinerary as a checklist and every time I check a box there, I feel extremely accomplished. This can be yours too. Your travel, your rules.

IV

Getting There

When we visited the city this time, it was so easy for us to get there. During this time of the year, not many people will be traveling—they will mostly be back at work, and yet the hidden gem to using this time to travel is everything that you can possibly do because of the few amount of tourists in your way. The beauty of this starts from getting there: I was able to book a bus ride heading there in a good seat on Victory Liner for about Php 500.00—I made sure that the bus left at 7AM for me to get to Baguio before I have to check in at the hotel.

Because of the new construction of roads heading up north, I was able to get to Baguio City in 4 hours; and back then, it would take you up to 8 hours to get there. In 4 hours, they will also be allotting time for stopover just past NLEx. A little nap during the travel and you’ll soon wake up with the clouds floating right beside you.

Going up the mountain heading to Baguio will be mesmerizing—it would seem that you are surrounded by mist, even the road would sometimes be shrouded but if you think about it, you are actually surrounded by clouds. Being in this part will be just as cold as when you get to Baguio but when you get past here, you will soon feel like you have been transferred to a different world especially with all the interesting shops that you will pass by along the road.

If you are seated on the left side of the bus, you will find that you are in for a treat—this is where I was seated, by the window. Once you get past the noteworthy tunnel that you will pass by, you will be then on a bridge that connects two mountain tops. The beauty of sitting on the window seat at the left side of the bus is that you will be able to see the colorful and vibrant colors of the roof and you will then know that you are in Baguio.

V

The Sights

It can be confusing to think about what places you can go to because of the multitude of sights you can visit. This is where an itinerary will help you completely—because then you have a checklist of where you want to go to and you can arrange it depending on your time. This is where my time management was tested since I was forced to think of the most efficient way I can do everything without being too tired at the end of the day.

I am a freelance writer who loves to travel and this greatly challenged my time and energy management because I after going to all the beautiful sights, I was still able to get back to my room in the hotel and write articles for my clients. The itinerary helped me in making my Baguio experience a beautiful as well as an efficient travel. In traveling, you will find that you can only go to so many sights and spots, here are some of those beautiful sights that I visited.

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Photo by:   tripadvisor.com

BenCab Museum

For the art lover, visiting the BenCab Museum is the first thing on your checklist to be going to. This is where I felt that I was transported to a different world. Unlike the typical building, this museum is built downwards: the first floor is technically the building’s top floor / roof, you will be going down to get to the second, third, fourth floors, and then down out to the garden. Of course, you would need to purchase your ticket for Php 150.00 for general admission; you can also pay Php 120.00 if you are a student with a valid ID; or Php 80.00 for senior citizens and PWD with a valid ID.

You can avail for a guided tour if you want to be assisted along the way; but if you are an avid art lover who has a penchant for self-interpretation of artworks, you can always go around the gallery alone and savor every moment of it—that is what I did. Oh, if you want, you can also take photos of the artworks and there will be guides hanging around different galleries if you want your photo taken by them.

Depending on the event currently happening at the museum, you will find different artworks exhibited at the place. There will, of course, be some of the permanent collections in the place—all of which you must see for yourself. At the lowest level of the museum will be a café where you can eat lunch after you go around the galleries—you will love their native meals with the distinct tastes.

Outside the building will be a beautiful garden with a koi pond where you can see the fish going around in groups. And if you would like for them to gather around you, you can simply stand or sit near the water and they will be there expecting food from you. If you want to avail of it, you can also check out their farms located further from the building and the tour guide can always take you there for a quick peek. This absolutely is one of the favorite things I did when I went to Baguio City, I never would have missed this for the world.

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Photo by:   Fabulous Philippines

Mines View Park

Going here at Mines View Park—even at this time of year—have a lot (and I mean a lot) of people. I have no reason for this, but the most I could think of is probably because of the breathtaking view being at the viewing deck will give you. I got up a rock which allowed me to see the view without the people’s heads getting in the way and it absolutely gave a good view of the land below. With the breeze hitting your face and the view of the different shades of green over the mountains, I was able to appreciate the place.

Apart from the beautiful view, what I found interesting about this place was the countless souvenir stores available on one side of the park. Being the philanthropist that I am, I went to the farthest store where almost no one goes (because they all have the same products to sell and most buy at the stores closest to them) and bought wines and pastries as a “pasalubong” to friends in Manila. Bignay wine is a great wine that actually has a lot of health benefits and you can give this to friends who have diabetes. Strawberry wine, of course, is a sweet wine that is special to them for a more luscious wine experience. This is a good place to buy your pasalubong and, if you are going to buy a lot, make sure you get a good price from them.

There are also other things you can buy from this area like small plants and herbs like succulents and mint plants. It would be better to buy these if you are traveling by car since you would not have any place to put them if you choose to go by bus.

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Photo by:   Baguio City Guide

Burnham Park

This place, practically at the center of the bustling city, is where you can stroll around and even try out some activities any time of day. I was checked in just across from Burnham Park so I was able to go through here several times when looking for a place to eat lunch or dinner or even when heading off to SM City Baguio on my last day. Of course, it is not the time of year where you will see the plants teeming with colorful flowers but it was just as beautiful with all the greeneries.

Apart from the beautiful view, what I found interesting about this place was the countless souvenir stores available on one side of the park. Being the philanthropist that I am, I went to the farthest store where almost no one goes (because they all have the same products to sell and most buy at the stores closest to them) and bought wines and pastries as a “pasalubong” to friends in Manila. Bignay wine is a great wine that actually has a lot of health benefits and you can give this to friends who have diabetes. Strawberry wine, of course, is a sweet wine that is special to them for a more luscious wine experience. This is a good place to buy your pasalubong and, if you are going to buy a lot, make sure you get a good price from them.

There are also other things you can buy from this area like small plants and herbs like succulents and mint plants. It would be better to buy these if you are traveling by car since you would not have any place to put them if you choose to go by bus.

Orange
Photo by:   Basiatravel.com

Camp John Hay

Camp John Hay is great for an afternoon to evening visit—this is the one I went to because in the afternoon, you would not believe how cold it can be there especially when you are surrounded by woods. There are different things you can go to when you visit the place—you might only need to pay an entrance fee of about Php 50.00 if you want to see the Bell House and the amphitheater not far from it.

When I went to Camp John Hay, there was a wedding going on at the amphitheater so I was not able to go there; but this does give you the idea that you can have a wedding there (and you can hold the reception at The Manor). It was a beautiful venue, I must admit—and at this time of year, there are actually fewer people than there would be in the summer. The Bell House was another story entirely.

There are a lot of historical stories revolving around this Bell House which I will not delve into—but what I want to talk about is what I felt being there, apart from the funny, creepy feeling of old ghosts there (let us not get into talking about the haunted hotels lying around Baguio). It was a beautiful feeling of serenity especially when you stand at the balcony overlooking the looming trees around the camp.

Walking around the house, littered with a few people gave me a sense of home—despite a family never living there. The house was still covered with Christmas decors since the Christmas season ends usually in February (in preparation for Valentine’s) and I saw the living room still designed with a huge Christmas tree with fake presents at its foot and some stockings hanging over the fireplace. It was a beautiful setting which certainly reminded me of a family, a home.

Camp John Hay is littered with other sights you can visit. Just outside of the Bell House, I was also able to see the Cemetery of Negativism. This is not your typical kind of cemetery where dead people go to, but this is where all your negativity is buried. For the number of tombstones in this cemetery, I am quite sure you would see at least one you could relate to; may it be laziness, procrastination, being a doormat, being a glutton, and so much more.

It would be a plus if you were checked in at The Manor (which, understandably, can be an expensive way to go); they have a restaurant where you can eat for dinner and all kinds of wonderful meals. Of course, because the wedding’s reception was located at The Manor, I was not able to try to eat there. It is a great place, however, to take photos if you are feeling fancy.

Being at the camp in the afternoon until dusk is my best recommendation because when you are here, you would see the beauty of the sunset. Simply stand among the high trees and face the west—stand there and wait. You will see the sun slowly going down, every ray of light slipping through the trees trying to block the sun’s view. It will give you an overwhelming sense of amazement, I am absolutely sure. I did not notice I was holding my breath as the sun went down. I took a deep breath and inhaled the cool breeze softly touching my face. Baguio is certainly a place where you can appreciate both the art of humans and the art of nature.

VI

Conclusion

On my three-day trip to Baguio, I was able to see everything that I wanted to go to. Of course, these are only a few of those. I know there are so many more you might be thinking of going to like the haunted hotels, the Bell Church, the Holy Land, the Lion Park, or even the Mt. Pulag National Park. Again, this all boils down to your itinerary and how well you can manage your time and energy. You have to always aim for efficiency or else you will find that convincing yourself to stay in your hotel room would be quite easy.

This would be a great adventure with all the right tools, the right mindset, and the right motivation. If you are a traveler, you might also enjoy coming here to go where the locals go and talk with the locals—it would be just as a fulfilling an experience with this. Talking with the taxi driver gave me more opportunity to know about the current events in Baguio and it will always be an interesting conversation when they are promoting the place to you like the locals they are.

Being here allowed me to appreciate so many things about cultures and historical value, but most of all, the beauty of all the art I saw. I am absolutely certain that this travel experience will be just as worth it if you try it out and you may find hidden gems that you would not have expected to find—this is the value I learned when experiencing the city above the clouds. Take into consideration what you may find along the way—you might meet a new friend, a new romantic interest, a renewed respect for life and nature, or even a personal development if you are going solo. You might find that you will get back more than you have put into this kind of experience. So why don’t you try?