Spending a Weekend in Baguio- The Summer Capital of the Philippines
The Philippines is a tropical country. We all know that. But even though Filipinos are used to the heat; running away from the hot weather is still one of our To Dos especially during the summer. Luckily for those who are living in Manila, the escape is a little easy to execute because there are regular trips from Manila to Benguet where Baguio- The Summer Capital of the Philippines- is found.
Recently, I have read an article that the travel time from Baguio to Manila can be narrowed down from almost seven hours (by bus) to three hours if drivers take the Pozzurobio Exit. How cool is that? Makes the colder weather and fun activities accessible to a lot of people now, don’t you think?
In early February this year, my college friend, GJ, and I went on a spontaneous trip and spent a weekend in Baguio. We only wanted to relax and have a comforting weekend and decided that Baguio would be the perfect location for that since it was not our first time in the city anyway. So, after the short interview that I had for 24 Oras Weekend regarding my saving techniques that you can also read about in this post, we hopped onto the bus in Cubao, buckled our seats and readied ourselves for about six hours and thirty minutes of travel time, two stops included. Since we opted to take the regular bus instead of the deluxe bus of Victory Liner, the travel time was a bit longer. But no worries for us because we easily spent the travel time sleeping on the way after a few minutes of chatting when we left the station.
The building of the Airbnb room that we booked is along the highway, so we did not have to spend more for fare from the bus station to our accommodation. What was even more perfect was the fact that we arrived just in time for check-in and only had to wait for a couple of minutes in the lobby to be able to get into our room. From the get-go, I was satisfied. The room was clean, cozy and well-kept. The air conditioner was not a necessity given the weather, but they do have an electric fan and of course, a heater for the cold days and nights. When we visited Baguio, it was not as cold anymore considering the Panagbenga Festival was about to start, but it was cold enough for us not to use the fan especially during the night.
Woodnymph, Pink Sisters Convent, Burnham Park, and SM Baguio
We freshened up to look better after the long travel before our Day 1 officially started. First off, we took the cab to Woodnymph to get a late lunch. This Korean restaurant serves unlimited Samgyeopsal in a buffet style, so we got to try other Korean dishes, too. Of course, after stuffing ourselves with good choices of meat, we had to have some Bingsu (Yes, we still handled the cold). But the good thing about this is that since we were so full, we did not have to have dinner anymore even after hours of walking until evening.
Because we wanted to burn at least some of the calories that we just consumed, we decided to walk it out to our next location- the Pink Sisters Convent and Chapel. Surprisingly, a lot of people do not know that there is also a Pink Sisters Convent and Chapel in Baguio aside from the one in Tagaytay- myself included.
There were quite some visitors in the chapel when we arrived, but unfortunately, we did not get to hear the mass. Nevertheless, we filled our short time in the chapel with thanksgiving and prayers. Seeing St. Arnold Janssen made me feel a little nostalgic, too. It is as if it were just yesterday that we were celebrating his Beatification in the Divine Word College of San Jose.
We walked again and found our way from the Pink Sisters Convent and Chapel to Burnham Park. After all, no weekend in Baguio would be complete without a visit to one of its most popular tourist attractions. And true enough, there were a lot of people biking along the makeshift track, renting boats to enjoy the Burnham Lake, and posing to get the best photos with the wilting sunflowers. It was sad to see that a lot of the flowers were dying already even before the Panagbenga Festival and I could only hope that they were still saved especially for the event. What caught my attention the most, though, was the sight of families and friends having picnics in the park. I could easily remember Hanami, a Japanese tradition of having meals under the Cherry Trees during spring. I found it fun to see people having a great time together while sharing homecooked meals.
We did not have to spend a dime (save for the cab cost from and back to our Airbnb) for transportation on our first day because, after Burnham Park, we walked back to SM Baguio when the sun was already starting to set. By the time that we got to SM Baguio, it was already dark. We got ourselves some supplies for the weekend from the supermarket, spent some time roaming around the small branch and hopped on the taxi to go back home. The taxi line looked ridiculous at first, but it was moving rather quickly. Another thing to note here, too, is that most taxi drivers in Baguio are honest and fair. They do not charge the passengers any extra amount. And they give the change precisely as expected whether they have to bring out coins or not unlike in Manila where fares are rounded up, or an additional P50.00 (even with the taxi meter) is almost necessary all the time.
When we got home, I was able to watch the clip from the 24 Oras feature, enjoy some downtime and get this: after a long time, I was able to sleep before 12 o’clock! That is an achievement for me, alright? It is one of the reasons I loved this trip; Somehow, I felt like a regular person with a regular routine and a normal body clock. Sweet!
Baguio Cathedral, BenCab Museum, Camp John Hay, Bistro by Hill Station, Mines View Park, The Good Shepherd, Café by the Ruins
Since it was a Sunday, we had to wake up early to make it to the 8 AM Mass. From our Airnbnb, we went straight to the Baguio Cathedral to catch their last English Mass for the morning. Although it was not my first time to spend a weekend in Baguio, it was my first time to hear the mass at the Baguio Cathedral, so this was pretty special for me. I learned before that you could make a wish if you visit a church for the first time so I did not waste my opportunity. After offering our post mass prayers and candle lighting, we went straight to the BenCab Museum which was around 20 minutes away from the Baguio Cathedral.
The BenCab Museum is home to our National Artist Benedicto Cabrera's art collection. The four-level museum is one of the most popular museums in the Philippines today, and a must stop for tourists visiting Baguio. While it is just a 15- minute drive from the Baguio City Center, visitors usually come with their cars, so it is the only tourist spot where taxi drivers are quite hesitant to drive to unless they get hired. Fortunately, we found a driver who was willing drive us there while following the cab meter.
We spent around two hours in the museum marveling not just the magnificent view from the building but the artworks BenCab has created and collected over the years. Sabel and the variations of one of his most famous artwork were there, too. There were also Bulols or Ifugao Rice Gods in the museum.
I think one of the reasons why this museum gets visits from a lot of tourists is the location itself. The farm and garden provide a great break from the city view, and the green and open space allow everyone to enjoy the fresh air of Benguet. Plus, Café Sabel waits at the bottom of the building to serve guests snacks and refreshments.
From BenCab museum, we went straight to Camp John Hay for lunch. We tried out Bistro by Hill Station, and I finally got to fulfill my rice craving. After that, of course, we had to wander along the lines of trees for a little photoshoot. There was also a group of friends having a picnic in the area just like in Burnham Park.
We took the taxi from Camp John Hay to Mines View Park for a short visit at the observation deck. The panoramic view of the gold and copper mines is just a sight to see. It is no wonder that from the outside up to the park itself, a lot of vendors selling from brooms to Ube Jam and Peanut Brittle were lined up. I would say that I liked the rainbow broom the most, though. It is such a shame that I did not get to take a photo of it!
Our tour at the Mines View Park was a breeze. We went straight ahead to the observation park and enjoyed the view (with a lot of people) for a while. Just a couple of things that I noticed was the St. Bernard and the horses the locals use for photo ops with the travelers. I am not aware if they have schedules because I saw a similar dog outside the park but I still think that it would be better if they were not there. In my opinion, they looked sad and even though I love dogs, I would not want to support this business.
Now, this is something I am sure not everyone knows- Mines View Park is incredibly near from the Good Shepherd Convent. If you are bringing a car to the Mines View Park, the chances are that you even parked near there. So, if you are buying their brand (which every Baguio tourist usually does), I suggest you take your car there or at least park there instead to save hundreds of pesos. Would you believe that they sell their 24 oz Ube Jam for P350.00? I asked around outside, and resellers sell it for P500.00. They do have a limit per person, but it is worth the saving especially if you are also buying their other products.
Since we still had daylight, we asked our driver to drop us at the Panagbenga park. We did not expect it to be so small, but there was a butterfly garden that you can check out. It is also just walking distance to Café by the Ruins Dua. The old Café by the Ruins was unfortunately hit by fire last year.
The staff of this restaurant was so kind they allowed us to leave our things when we went to the bus station to change our booking for the next day. When we came back, I got to try Rita’s Rice which was a cream- based chicken with rice enough to fill my hungry stomach for the night.
Baguio Public Market and Hill Station
Before we checked out from our room and left Baguio, we made a quick trip to the market to get my sister some Japanese Cucumber to make some salad because she loved it when she went there one week prior. I did not get to haggle the price for some reason, but when I arrived in Manila, I learned that she got a ½ kilo of the cucumber for P60.00 while I got mine for P110.00. I was wondering if the price changed drastically over the course of one week, but if it was overpriced and I was taken advantage of, I would feel sad and probably a little unwise.
Before leaving Baguio, we had a brunch at the real Hill Station which was below the reception area of Casa Vallejo- one of Baguio’s famed hotels built in 1909. It was a beautiful and posh place with great food. I had to try the Baguio Longanisa from their Pinoy Breakfast, but I can proudly say that the ones Mindoreno’s make can still be a great competitor.
Baguio is not perfect. I can say that without faltering. We had a few incidents where we felt we were taken advantage of because we were tourists but I always remind myself whenever I experience these kinds of things- I could be anywhere. So instead of dwelling on the bad sides, I try to appreciate and concentrate on the good sides - like the fact that it is easy to navigate and explore, it is cheap, the weather is really great, the food we got to try were amazing, the views were breathtaking and so much more. It is a perfect weekend getaway destination for sure. My friend and I had so much fun during this slow-paced weekend and would not mind coming back again in the future.
Have you been to Baguio? Let me know what you loved about it the most!