Filed under: WOK in LUZON | Tags: Alfajor, Baguio City, Baguio Pasalubong, Bell House, Bulul, Camp John Hay, Cemetry of Negativism, City of Pines, Good Sheperd Convent, Igorot costumes, Mines View Park, Session Road, Strawberries, Strawberry Farm, Strawberry Taho, Summer Capital of the Philippines, Tam-Awan Village, Ukay-Ukay, Zola Restaurant
A Different High in Baguio.
The City of Pines
I always had fond memories of Baguio as a kid. Together with my family, I remember spending our summer vacations in the city of pines enjoying the cold weather and the rustic charm of the place. Unfortunately, after sometime this summer family tradition was stopped. That’s why I was as excited when my college friends invited me to join their Baguio trip over the long weekend. It was 3:30am when we reached the Victory Liner terminal in Baguio City. I was shivering as I step out from the bus and it was drizzling outside. The weather forecast days before our trip said that there will be scattered rain showers in Baguio during our stay in the city. I thought it would be a good thing since it will be extremely cold. After we have unloaded our bags, we had a cup of strawberry taho (soy pudding) to warm ourselves.
We then took a cab going to my friend’s house. The road was covered with fog and strobes from the cab’s headlight made our path more visible. It felt like we were in a scene from a Hollywood horror movie and anytime a white lady would appear in front of our cab. Thank God, it didn’t happen. When we arrived we took a short nap as we prepare ourselves for the day’s activities. When I woke up, it was drizzling outside and was freezing cold from our balcony. The sky was covered in whiteness as if it was a white canvass painted with silhouettes of trees hiding behind the white fog. It was a great morning and we are ready to see more of Baguio.
No View at the Mines View Park
We rented the service of Kuya Bobot (please see his contact details below) to tour us and bring us to the places we included in our Baguio itinerary. Our first stop was the Mine’s View Park. Supposedly, the view from the viewing deck of the park will give you a panoramic view of mountain ranges and Benguet’s gold and copper mines but unfortunately the view was covered in fog during our visit. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed our photo session wearing native Igorot costumes which we rented for P10.00. You can also have your photo taken with the locals of Cordillera, but they have a talent fee of P10.00 – and by the way they pose with a peace sign. I find it disappointing that their culture is used for money making and the authenticity of their culture is being commercialized. Within the vicinity of the park, souvenir items like woven mats; carved statues; knitted apparels; and other Baguio products are being sold.
LaTrinidad, Benguet: Strawberry Capital of the Philippines
One of the must-visit places when you go to Baguio is the strawberry farm in La Trnidad, Benguet which is approximately 30 minutes from Baguio city without the traffic. We were praying for good weather on our way to La Trinidad so that we could have the chance to pick fresh strawberries from the field. The sun was up when we arrived but unfortunately strawberries aren’t ready for picking because it wasn’t the harvest season yet. According to the vendor we talked to, the best time to visit the farm is during the month of March just in time for the harvest season and the annual Strawberry Festival in Benguet. Instead of being disappointed, we just treated ourselves with a cup of hot taho with fresh strawberry toppings for our effort. Right across the strawberry fields, fresh strawberries are sold for P100.00 per pack. We also tried the strawberry wine which tasted like fruit juice which is slightly bitter. Prices of strawberry wine differ per brand but some are sold in medium-sized bottles which you can buy for 3 for P100.00.
Cultural Immersion at the Tam-Awan Village
Fifteen minutes away from the Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet is an artist’s haven in Tam-Awan Village. Upon entering the gates, we followed the stone staircase going up. Tall trees and nipa huts welcomed us and we enjoyed various art installations displayed in trees and along the pathway. With the initiative of the Chanum Foundation, the village was built as venue to those seeking appreciation of the Cordillera culture and arts. Art exhibitions and showcase of local artists are usually put on display inside the village. Aside from artworks, the Tam-Awan village also showcases a model village of the Ifugao ang Kalinga Houses. We followed the trail inside the lush forest and led us to different pit stops wherein nipa huts are built. It was indeed a nature and cultural experience as we learn how the Cordillera people had lived at the same time we took pleasure appreciating nature. Another activity you can do inside the Tam-Awan village is have your portrait drawn by in-house artists for only P100.00. A café and restaurant is also situated inside which offers organic food and other Cordillera dishes.
To know more about the Tam-Awan village, click here.
Country living at Camp John Hay
The following day, we headed towards Camp John Hay – a popular destination in Baguio which used to be a rest and recreation facility during the American colonization in the Philippines. The place brought back so many memories of my childhood, as we used to spend most of our time inside the camp when I was still a kid. What reminds me best of the place is the cemetery of negativism. When I was still a kid, I thought pets are buried under those tombstones because of the cartoon epitaphs. Not until our recent visit that I learned its real purpose – the tombstones are symbolism of man’s negative attitudes, frustrations and regrets and the idea is that when you leave the cemetery you will have a more positive outlook in life. I never thought there’s deeper meaning behind those epitaphs.
Near the cemetery of negativism is the historical Bell House and amphitheater. The white and green house named after General J. Franklin Bell used to be a vacation house but now it serves as a museum of American colonial architecture and lifestyle. I find the house appealing as it exudes a cozy and homey feel. The exterior blends well with the lush forest and manicured gardens and the view from the balcony is breath taking – a perfect place to spend lazy afternoons gazing at tall pine trees and enjoying green view. I recommend visiting this place for a one-of-a-kind Baguio experience.
Late Lunch and Ukay-Ukay hopping at Session Road
I still had a hang-over from our Camp John Hay visit, but we were off to Session Road to have our late lunch. This stretch of road is the main thoroughfare in Baguio City where restaurants and business establishments can be found. We had our late lunch in Zola along Session Road. Their menu offerings are affordable and good enough for hungry travelers like us. After filling ourselves with pizzas and shakes, we were off for a treasure hunt at Baguio’s Ukay-Ukay.
Aside from strawberries and pine trees, Baguio City is also known for its Wagwagan outlets (stores which sell second hand items, clothing and shoes). We visited this Ukay-Ukay store (which has a second floor) across the public market and I was surprised with the vast choices of clothing and shoes for sale. If you’re patient enough to scavenge inside the stores and more than willing to wear second-hand clothes, then you might score branded items for an affordable price. I was patient enough to withstand the smell of moist clothes and I bought a jacket for myself. For sure, I will be back.
It was our last day in Baguio City, so we decided to visit the Public Market to buy our pasalubong. From peanut brittle, strawberry jams, and choco flakes all of these are staple take home treats from Baguio. Prices differ per brand, but you can buy an assortment of three goods for only P100.00. Fresh produce and vegetables can also be bought in the public market. They even have a pack of vegetables perfect for chopseuy (vegetable stir-fry). The famous Baguio walis (broom) which is known to be sturdy can also be bought in the market. Bring home one, for sure your moms will be happy with their new walis!
We also visited the Good Shepherd Convent near Mines View Park to buy their famous strawberry jams, choco crinkles, and alfajor (cookie sandwich with caramel filling covered with confectionery sugar). Prices of their goods range fromP150.00-P200.00. Their products are made by the Good Shepherd nuns and Cordillera locals as a source of livelihood. It is always best to visit the Good Shepherd convent to buy your pasalubong because some stalls in the public market sell imitation of their products with brand names like Little Shepherd. So beware, and read the label first.
The long weekend might be over, and our trip might be short but I will always have good memories of Baguio. The cold weather, the cozy atmosphere perfect for lazy mornings, the sight and smell of pine trees, the sweet treats – all of these are worth coming back to. Baguio has this distinct charm that will always make you feel that you’re in a different town or country. I just hope the City government of Baguio will take some actions to preserve the natural beauty of the place. The city seems to be polluted and has been overly commercialized. It’s not too late to bring back the good old days I have witnessed in Baguio.
(I would like to thank Loren, Sab, Riva, Pau, Zyla, Prec, Fidel and Aj for the great company. Thanks for the free accommodation, Loren. It was a great weekend!)
For the chauffeur service of Mang Bobot, call him at 09059624258. He charges P1,000.00/day. We recommend his service, he will even give you side stories about the different places in Baguio.