By Nikka Corsino
Baguio’s cool climate is always a welcome respite from the lowlands' heat and humidity any time of the year. For some, weekends in Baguio also bring back childhood memories, which often includes horseback riding at Wright Park or boat-paddling at Burnham Park.
Although Baguio is admittedly more congested today, this mountain city still gives plenty of reasons for visitors to keep coming.
And if a weekend is all you can spare, here are some suggestions for a great time in and around the city:
If you’re coming from Metro Manila, board a Baguio-bound bus from Cubao, Manila, or Pasay on Friday night. Midnight trips are the most advisable, where you arrive at around 5 am or 6 am. If possible, book your return trip as soon as you arrive since trips back to Metro Manila on weekends fill up fast.
Buses to take:
Restaurants to try for breakfast:
If your hotel, inn, or guesthouse does not permit early check-in, while the hours away by having breakfast at any of the following local places:
Danes (Lower Mabini St.)
For those on a budget, Danes is a good place for hot pandesal and coffee. Frequented by locals, Danes serves freshly baked pastries every day.
Pizza Volante (Session Road)
For those who want a rather heavy breakfast, Pizza Volante along Session Road serves hearty and affordable continental and Filipino breakfast dishes. The restaurant is open 24 hours, making it a good choice for those who arrive in the wee hours of the morning.
Choco-late de Batirol (Camp John Hay)
Another breakfast option is Choco-late de Batirol, which serves rich, hot tsokolate (flavors include cointreau and strawberry, among others) and Filipino breakfast choices.
Visit the BenCab Museum
Km. 6, Tuba, Benguet
After checking in at your hotel, proceed to the BenCab Museum (opening hours: 9 AM to 5 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays). Entrance fee is at P100.
The BenCab Museum is home to works of National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto Cabrera as well as those of other local contemporary artists. The museum also has a Cordillera Gallery, which houses artifacts from all over the Cordillera region. The museum also holds exhibitions regularly.
Its in-house cafe, Cafe Sabel, serves gourmet pasta, sandwiches, and salads using local ingredients.
Tip for commuters:
Although there are jeepneys passing by the museum on the way back to Baguio, these are almost always full, making the trip back a bit tricky. You may instead negotiate a waiting fee with the cab driver who took you to the museum.
Drop by the woodcarvers’ village
Km. 6, Tuba, Benguet
It may be too early to buy souvenirs, but the handmade wooden wares at the Wood Carvers’ Village, just a few meters from the BenCab Museum, may just persuade you to fork out your first few hundred pesos. Everything from dining sets to tissue holders to ebony chopsticks is sold here.
Watch international and local classics at Cinematheque Baguio
With admissions usually at P100 (or sometimes free), the Cinematheque Baguio allows the public to view internationally acclaimed indie films, documentaries (such as Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust, produced by a team that includes Emmy Award-winning producer Russell Hodge and Terry Irving); and Filipino titles, such as those by Lino Brocka and Maryo J. de los Reyes.
Film festivals are also held regularly– the Franco-German Film Fest, Bangladesh Film Day, Spring Film Festival, Football Stories Film Series, Inquirer Indie Bravo: Film Festival, Cine Europa 17, and Cine Totoo Caravan are some of the film festivals held throughout 2014.
Check the Cinematheque Baguio Facebook page regularly for screening schedules.
Explore Tam-Awan Village
Pinsao Proper, Baguio City
Should there be no screening at the Cinematheque on the day of your visit, you can head to Pinsao Proper instead for Tam-Awan Village.
Marrying the city’s rustic mountain ambience with original works from Cordillera artists, Tam-awan Village is perfect for those who want to learn more about the region’s indigenous art forms. The village also holds regular exhibitions, workshops, and cultural shows. Entrance fee for adults is at P50, senior citizens and students at P30, and kids 12 years and below at P20.
Visit the Baguio Museum
If Tam-Awan Village is too far for you, opt for the conveniently located Baguio Museum instead along Governor Pack Road. This four-level museum features an extensive collection of artifacts and media about the different regions of the Cordillera: Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Kalinga, Apayao, and Abra. The museum also holds regular workshops and seminars, as well as a library for research and exhibit purposes.
The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 9 AM to 5 PM. Adults enter for P40, senior citizens for P30, college students for P20, high school students for P15, and elementary students for P10. The Baguio Museum is at the DOT-PTA Complex along Governor Pack Road, near Sunshine Park and UP Baguio.
Restaurants to try for lunch:
For lunch, dine in one of the local restaurants along (or near) Session Road: Tea House (for Chinese-style dishes), Jack’s (for affordable rice meals), Solibao (for traditional Filipino fare), Hill Station (for some of Baguio’s best fine dining), Oh My Gulay (Kidlat Tahimik’s fascinating vegetarian restaurant), and the newly opened Cafe by the Ruins Dua (for hearty Asian Fusion dishes and freshly baked pastries).
If you’re dining at Hill Station, you may also check out the other establishments located inside the historic Casa Vallejo building, such as Mt. Cloud Bookshop for some select Cordillera titles, North Haven Spa for coffee or strawberry scrubs, and Baguio Cinematheque for screenings of Filipino films, old and indie.
You may also try Japanese restaurant Chaya along Legarda Road, or Ketchup Food Community along Romulo Drive across Wright Park. Ketchup Food Community has 5 restaurants – Canto (for lomo ribs and burgers), Happy Tummy (for Thai food), Rumah Sate (for Malay and Indonesian food), Green Pepper (for pastas and sandwiches), and Rancho Norte (for home-cooked Filipino food).
Visit Baguio’s numerous parks
If you’re traveling with family, you’re most likely going to visit some beloved Baguio spots, such as Burnham Park, Botanical Garden, Wright Park, The Mansion, and Mines View Park.
While in any of these places, snack on strawberry taho, which goes for P15 to P20 a cup.
From Mines View Park, drop by Good Shepherd Convent and stock up on ube jam, alfajor, cashew peanut brittle, and strawberry jam.
Proceed to Fort Del Pilar to visit the Philippine Military Academy, with its Relics Point and museum (admission is at P10, from 8 am to 12 noon and 1 pm to 5 pm).
Relax and listen to music (or play some yourself) at Kaffeeklatsch
Located just off Legarda Road at City Camp Alley, KaffeeKlatsch features a rustic, cozy, and relaxed ambiance, as well as an open stage where guests can opt to play acoustic music. Order a cup of Roasted Karamel coffee and sit on one of the cushy chairs at the cafe's mezzanine.
Go thrift shopping along Harrison Road
If you’d rather see some late-night action than chill out, and if you love thrift-shopping (and still have energy left at the end of the day), head to Harrison Road (between Burnham Park and Session Road) from 9 pm onwards for cheap clothes, bags, and shoes. Stop by for some sweet corn, noodle soup, and street food – all clumped at the northern end of the strip – in between.
Sweat it out at the Camp John Hay yellow trail
Popular among cyclists and runners, the Yellow Trail at Camp John Hay offers a scenic trail for jogging and hiking, even for beginners. If you’re not up for this, a few rounds of jogging around Camp John Hay’s sloping grounds (or Teacher’s Camp’s) also makes for a good start to your day. Alternatively, you can do some rounds of jogging at Burnham Park.
Visit the Baguio City Public Market
Fresh highland vegetables, Cordillera coffee beans, cherry tomatoes, baby potatoes, strawberries, sundot-kulangot, and many others are available at their best prices at the Baguio City public market. Head there early in the morning to take advantage of the choicest Benguet vegetables, and take your pick from Sagada, Kalinga, or Benguet coffee beans. Coffee Alamid (civet cat coffee) is also available.
Soak up the arts and fuel up at Ili Likha Artist Village
Artist and filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik’s new art-and-food space, the Ili Likha Artist Village along Assumption Road features a mélange of artwork in a fascinating, eclectic space. A space both for artists and diners, the multi-level Ili Likha was built around trees and offers art pieces – a lot of which is recycled, such as old bicycles and bottles – in every nook and cranny.WANDER ABOUT. See an eclectic mix of art pieces from local Baguio artists at Ili Likha Artist Village. Photo by Donald Rentiquiano
Also a food community, Ili Likha has several small restaurants serving rice meals, stews, and hot chocolate, among others.
Have a picnic at Camp John Hay
Order food for takeout in town before heading for Camp John Hay. Try the local favorite, buttered chicken, at Good Taste (with branches along Cariño St. and behind Baguio Center Mall). A local restaurant, Good Taste is known for its big servings and affordable food. You can then rent a table at the Camp John Hay grounds for P100 and while the rest of the afternoon here.
Visit the Camp John Hay historical core
Reading epitaphs may not exactly be your idea of sightseeing, but the Cemetery of Negativity offers a rather unique experience. The entrance to the cemetery reads, "No more for here is buried the world’s negativism for all time. Those who rest here have died not in vain – but for you a stern reminder. As you leave this hill remember that the rest of your life. Be More Positive.”
The Cemetery is part of the Camp John Hay Historical Core (admission is at P60 for adults and P30 for students and senior citizens). The compound also includes the Bell Ampitheater and Bell House, named after General J. Franklin Bell, who developed Camp John Hay into a military recreation area. The Bell House, which features American architecture, houses memorabilia from the American military period.
Go strawberry picking at La Trinidad Benguet
If you are taking a late night bus trip, you can squeeze in a trip to the Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, about 20 minutes from the city center. Strawberries are in season from February to May and they go for about P300 per kilo if you pick them yourselves (or P80 to P90 a kilo for pre-selected, packed ones).LA TRINIDAD. Head to nearby La Trinidad to experience strawberry-picking. Photo by Owen Ballesteros
EXTEND YOUR TRIP
Hike to Mt. Cabuyao for the sunrise
Known among locals as the “hidden mickey” (because of the two radar dishes which, from afar, look like cartoon character Mickey Mouse’s ears), Mt. Cabuyao in Tuba, Benguet is reachable through a 45-minute hike from the Green Valley Police Station in Baguio.TAKE IT IN. Trudge up Mt. Cabuyao before the sun rises and enjoy this view along the way. Photo by Owen Ballesteros
The way to the radar summit is actually a steep road paved on most parts, making this activity perfect for beginners. Do the hike in time for the sunrise for a sweeping view of the whole city.