Still a favourite destination for many, the summer capital of the Philippines offers visitors a respite from the intense heat of the metropolis. With an average temperature of 18-21ﹾC, it is cooler than anywhere else in the country.
The adventure starts as soon as you are greeted by the iconic giant lion’s head statue along the scenic Kennon road and shortly after, that unmistakable scent of pine trees wafting in the air. Over the years, the city has been transformed but somehow managed to retain its old charm and unique character. Long before the city’s tranquil surroundings was marred by urban development, famous landmarks like Burnham Park, Mines View Park, Wright Park were a bliss for lowland visitors. From beautiful, sprawling flower-bearing gardens, horse riding to the natives’ indigenous display of spirit, this getaway from the metropolis can be refreshing and relaxing. Nowadays, the landscape has changed dramatically but a trip up north is worthwhile if only for the crisp cool breeze, abundance of local produce such as strawberries, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower to name a few.
The city is also home to the country’s premier military school, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) for over 100years. The campus at Fort Gregorio Del Pilar serves as training ground where only the best Filipino men, and recently, women prepare for military service and eventually embark on an illustrious career and become leaders of the country. Its annual alumni homecoming held in February, attracts thousands of visitors in itself. It is a perfect opportunity to witness notable alumni and the impeccably dressed cadets in their gala uniform executing a well-rehearsed ‘pass in review’.
Baguio also serves as the primary gateway to Sagada, Banaue and Kalinga Apayao.
Baguio is about 155miles from Manila. Travel by private transport takes 4-5hrs during the day and less during the night via NLEX-SCTEX and continuing onto one of the major highways: Kennon Road, Marcos Highway or Naguilian Road.
Several bus companies operate this route from key points around Metro Manila. Ordinary and first class services run throughout the day with one way fare costing between GBP7.00 – 12.00 (Pesos450-750).
*Light jacket for colder days and slightly thicker ones to wear during the night and when taking a public airconditioned bus.
*Festival: Panagbenga (February) - It is a month long flower festival to celebrate the ‘season of blooming’ and reflects tradition, history and values of Baguio and the Cordilleras.
What else to see?
(Our Lady of the Atonement Cathedral) – This cathedral located on top of the hill in the hear t of the city with a distinct rose coloured twin spires is over 82yrs old. One has to climb a total of 104 steps from Session Road to the church grounds.
St Louis University
It is undoubtedly the largest university in the north and over a century old. This private university saw more than 30,000 students over the last academic period. It has established itself as one of the leading and reputable universities in the Philippines.
Good Shepherd Convent
It is not your typical convent but a social enterprise, Mountain Maid. The nuns together with indigenous Igorot students in a work-study program make the best strawberry jam, ube jam, peanut brittle and more which are top choices for ‘pasalubongs’. The uniqueness of the local culture also makes these products more special. There is also a viewpoint within the vicinity overlooking the city.
Camp John Hay
This is one of the remaining American colonial architectures where you can relax, explore and play. The sprawling grounds have a golf course and offers recreational activities. For those adventurous enough, try the zipline or free fall whilst less daunting activities are reserved to admiring the butterfly sanctuary, visiting the bell house or simply spread out a picnic blanket and just let the day pass gazing into the horizon. The Manor and Forest Lodge are top choices for a luxury stay in the city of pines.
This is the official summer residence of the President of the Philippines. It has beautiful gardens and manicured lawns and the elaborate main gate resembles that of Buckingham Palace. A mini museum houses memorabilia and works of art collected over the years by former occupants.
One of the more exciting activities to look forward to is ‘strawberry picking’ and 3km from the city proper is La Trinidad Valley, one of only a few places in the country where the fruit is grown.