The Baguio Rundown
The undeniable, bellwether hilltop and highland escape of the Philippines is several hours drive north of Metro Manila in the peerless Cordillera Administrative Region. As the foremost home of ancient indigenous cultures, UNESCO World Heritage rice terraces, lush flora and exotic fauna, the Cordillera is a Luzon must. The region has a terrific platform and gateway showcase in Baguio City. The predominant urban pulse point of the Cordillera is a wildly popular destination with mobs of domestic tourists and itinerant international backpackers and, as such, easily emerges as the most desirable summer capital in the archipelago nation.
The busy and vibrant mountain city is a manifest chill out, cool down and counterculture counterpoint to the smoggy, gorged furnace that is Metro Manila and the National Capital Region. A fine ensemble of inherent points of interest and idyllic vistas combine to make Baguio City a veritable mountain and high altitude version of Boracay, the de facto island holiday escape of the Philippines.
Yet with over 300,000 people, Baguio City is no remote highland village. Though decidedly breezy, the city is indeed a city in the strict sense of the word, with all the telltale, typical Luzon urban sprawl to show for it. As such, the best counsel for impatient, intrepid visitors is to flee the congestion of Makati, Manila and Quezon City, take in the numerous attractions within Baguio proper and then make a hasty beeline for more remote, verdant climes in the Cordillera Administrative Region provinces of Apayao, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain.
Baguio’s Top 10
10. Mansion House was the official residence of the U.S. Governor-General and now summer residence of the President of the Philippines.
5. Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral, or Baguio Cathedral, is the dominant landmark in the city.
9. Tam-Awan Village is a heritage village and open-air museum that re-creates the Baguio of yore.
4. Burnham Park is a fine green space and the brainchild of eminent 19th century architect and urban planner, Daniel Hudson Burnham.
8. Fort Del Pilar has terrific views of the Cordillera and is the official home of the Philippine Military Academy.
3. Camp John Hay is a mountain retreat built on the site of a former U.S. military base.
7. Mount Saint Thomas, or Santo Tomas Benguet, is a semi-active stratovolcano with a summit height of 2,260 m.
2. Asin Hot Springs, 16 km from Baguio City, is a geothermal zone chock full of curative spa resorts.
6. Bell Church Temple Complex features a collection of interesting architecture that spans a number of religious influences.
1. Lourdes Grotto is one of the most venerable religious shrines in the Philippines.
Baguio City History
- Baguio City Cathedral – The majestic church lies at the top of Session Road and offers a fascinating 360-degree view of the city.
- Camp John Hay – Vibrant, woodsy American-inspired shopping destination and park in one.
- Kennon Road – Also known as the “zigzag road” and one of Baguio City’s major access points.
- Philippine Military Academy – Has produced some of the country’s top leaders.
- Foundation Day – The month of September is the annual commemoration of the city's Foundation Day.
Baguio City Art & Culture
- Baguio Arts Festival – Renowned arts festival which aims to encourage and build up the talents of local artists.
- BenCab Museum – The newest attraction in Baguio City showcasing several galleries by national artist Benedicto Cabrera.
- Oh My Gulay Artist Café – Make a fuss over a vegetarian cuisine experience while being surrounded by eclectic interiors.
- Tam-awan Village – Home to exquisite Cordilleran craftsmanship that is uniquely blended with indigenous aesthetics.
- Wood Carver's Village – A 3km stretch of woodcarving hut shops.
Baguio City Shopping
- Session Road – Busiest spot in Baguio City, where you can find boutiques, studios, restaurants, bookstores and cafes.
- Baguio City Market – Visit to find great deals on souvenir items. Haggle all you want for local products like handwoven blankets, native handicrafts, strawberry jams and local sausages.
- Harrison Road Night Market – Experience a Portobello Road-like shopping with a row of thrift stalls lining Harrison Road every night from 9 pm to 5 am.
- Good Shepherd Convent – Popularly known for food products made by Good Shepherd nuns.
- SM City Baguio – The biggest shopping centre in the city with everything you need.
Baguio City Gay & Lesbian
- Same-Sex Mass Marriage – Gay wedding rites are conducted here.
- Desert Moon Bar – An entertainment gay bar that offers live music.
- Gay Pride Movement Celebration by Baguio Pride Network (BPN) – Activities like free hair cuts and tree planting go along with LGBT pride promotion.
- Samurai Bar – One of the most famous gay bars in Baguio City.
- Nevada Square – A weekend hot spot where different bars line up for the party lover to enjoy.
Baguio City Outdoor
- Burnham Park – Enjoy rowing at the manmade lake or stroll around the peculiar Baguio scenery of the park.
- Panagbenga Flower Festival - Started back in 1994, it is the city's most popular event that highlights the famous floral float parade and street dancing.
- Wright Park – Try horseback riding at an affordable rate.
- Mines View Park – One of Baguio City’s undisputed sightseeing destinations where you can witness the breathtaking panoramic view of the Cordilleran Mountains.
- Botanical Garden – Vast park with various ornamental plant species perfect for picture taking.
Baguio City Sport
- Camp at the Balatoc Crosby Park and take pleasure in the pristine and scenic mountains in the area.
- Hike the highest peak of the city at Mt St Tomas, also perfect for trekking and rock climbing.
- Take your loved one to go jogging at South Drive in Baguio City.
- Mountain biking along the mountain ranges of Binga Dam Loop is a paradise for bikers.
- Play golf at the "naturally air-conditioned" golf courses of Baguio Country Club.
Baguio City is approximately 250 km north of Manila in the Cordillera Administrative Region province of Benguet. The city covers a relatively small area and population for urban Luzon and the Philippines: 49 km² and just over 300,000 people. The primary section of the city corresponds to a highland plateau in northern Baguio that has a maximum elevation of some 1,400 m.
Baguio City is completely landlocked within the province of Benguet and surrounded by municipal capital La Trinidad to the north, Itogon to the east and Tuba to the west and south. With City Hall as a de facto central node, Baguio extends, on average, for 7.5 km on all sides and has a border circumference of 31 km. In all, the city has 20 administrative districts and over 130 barangays, or neighbourhoods. The vast majority of landmarks, however, cluster within a narrow, easily identifiable portion of Baguio.
Baguio Eat & Drink
Restaurant fare in Baguio runs the gamut, from American fast-food to traditional Kapampangan, pan-Asian to Pinoy classics. Throw in spectacular hilltop scenery from many a room and the city offers a good enough mix not to lull hungry visitors to sleep over the course of a short visit.
Forest House (16 Loakan Rd) is one of the most popular in Baguio, just southwest of Camp John Hay.
Oh My Gulay (Session Rd) is a skylit restaurant with inventive décor andvegetarian fare.
Hill Station (111 Session Rd) serves crisp salads and sports a menu that tilts towards international fusion.
My Diner (88 Abanao St) is a blatant homage to 1950s American pop culture, with all the requisite menu items in tow.
Café by the Ruins (25 Chuntug St) is a verdant, artsy escape with good regional Filipino food.
Gerry’s Grill (Upper Session Rd) is as good a place as any to enjoy a plate of pancit and impressive terrace vistas of Baguio.
Kusina ni Ima Restaurant (Legarda Rd & Cariño St) is a good bet for Kapampangan classics like frog and cricket adobo.
Barrio Fiesta (Upper Session Rd) has some of the most authentic Pinoy cuisine in the city.
Bliss Café (Hotel Elizabeth) is a non-carnivore Buddhist hangout with a definite eat, pray, love vibe.
Star Café (39 Session Rd) is a legendary restaurant in Baguio that serves primarily Chinese fare.
Catholic religious and traditional festivals figure prominently in the annual Baguio calendar.
Panagbenga Festival is one of the most famous annual events in the Philippines, let alone Luzon. Yet the Baguio Flower Festival, as Panagbenga is known, is a relative newcomer on the scene. The inaugural festival was in 1995 and the event has been a colourful city staple ever since, with ample pageantry, displays of indigenous heritage, trade fairs and bazaars throughout the month of February.
Baguio International Arts Festival is a deliberate attempt to boost cultural tourism and resuscitate, revive and bolster the creative soul of the city. Held over one week in May.
Grand Cordillera Festival takes place in November in Baguio City and celebrates the rich ethnolinguistic legacy and heritage of the foremost region.
Baguio Holy Week celebrates Easter with archetypal Filipino flair, pomp and drama every year.
When To Go
Mild mountain weather is Baguio City’s trademark. The clement subtropical climate in the lush highlands features temperatures well below the average in Metro Manila and by a welcome 8°C to 10°C at that. Temperatures, in fact, waver between 58°F (14°C) and 76°F (24°C) from March to August and 52°F (11°C) and 74°F (23°C) from September to February. All in all, a pleasant reprieve from the oppressive urban furnace that is the National Capital Region of the Philippines.
The weather report is not all rosy in Baguio, however. The average sum total of yearly precipitation is staggeringly high at over 4,500 mm. Almost half of the annual rainfall in the city occurs over two months: July and August. To elucidate further, ponder the fact that an average August in Baguio sees almost twice as much rain as the city of London endures over the course of an entire year.
The months of May, June, September and October fare better but still generate a good deal of the wet stuff. If you like to stay dry, consider a visit to Baguio City in either January, February or March.
What To Miss
The odd, persistent peddler, tout and beggar comes with the territory in Metro Manila, throughout the Philippines and, indeed, Southeast Asia. Baguio City is no exception. As a popular tourist destination, the Cordillera Administrative Region lures a fair number of annual visitors to a host of attractions in and out of the capital and, with them, inevitable flocks of opportunists, with intentions good and bad, follow. Be careful of scams and wary of swindlers but do not, under any circumstance, let a tentative, overcautious spirit spoil the party.
Malls, malls, everywhere. The Filipino love affair with malls - big, massive malls - is a source of perpetual bewilderment and fascination for outsiders. Nonetheless, a trip to the city-like SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, Metro Manila can, for example, be a memorable fly-on-the-wall, sociological and immersive cultural experience. Not so in Baguio. Skip the malls and stick to the parks and mountains.
On the whole, Baguio, as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines”, has definable traces of tourist trap about it. Overdevelopment is rife and has come with major costs, notably the partial desecration of the Cordillera environment and a ceaseless rise in typical, tacky emblems of mass tourism. Worldly, veteran travellers with requisite experience will undoubtedly be able to sort the wheat from the chaff in Baguio and cut a hasty parth to more serene, northerly Luzon provinces when the city’s charm corrodes.
Metro Manila is the only viable gateway to Baguio, with frequent, affordable bus service from three stations in the national capital: Cubao, Pasay and Sampaloc. The journey up the island of Luzon and into the Cordillera generally takes anywhere from five to seven hours.
While technically possible to fly between Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila and Loakan Airport in Baguio, service is sporadic. The vast majority of domestic tourists take the bus or drive.
Within Baguio City, the transport method of choice for locals is the ubiquitous jeepney. Otherwise, taxis provide a more comfortable, if not more expensive, ride. Many visitors simply hire drivers for the day in order to see the countryside and main points of interest.
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