My Three Trips to Baguio

Baguio, again? I got that reaction from friends and family. It is because in the span of 13 months, I have been to Baguio three times.

I went to Baguio at end of January 2019. At that time, I read reports about single digit temperatures and it really felt like that. It was that cold that I layered my clothes. Good thing it was a work trip so we stayed mostly indoors. We stayed in Baguio Country Club so staying indoors was not a problem since I got this view.

We had time to go to Mines View to shop for souvenirs and I bought some hand towels and jams.

When I posted a few photos of that trip, I got this comment from my friend, Wela.

Be careful what you wished for.

By March, there was a seat sale for a trip to Manila. It was only 1200++ round trip so off we booked that November Baguio trip to celebrate Shirly’s birthday. This was my second trip to Baguio for that period.

I was really looking forward to this trip because this was Wela’s first trip with friends and my first trip with both of them. Wela and Shirly are my longtime friends. They were my friends since grade school. Even when I went far, far away in high school, we kept in touch through letters. So this trip was special.

Because I am the artsy-fartsy friend, I need to visit something artsy during the trip. We went to BenCab Museum.

I have been to that museum before and I love it there. This is my dream if I have millions of pesos. I will build a gallery, cafe, studio with a nice garden. I put dibs on that idea.

And this is my beef with BenCab. I cannot afford anything I like in the museum but the entrance ticket and the meal in the cafe. Poor me!

We went to another artsy place. I have not been to this place before. This is the Tam-awan Village. The village features the rich culture of the Cordillera. This was also a nice inspiration to that gallery+studio+cafe+garden of my dreams.

Our driver suggested that we visit the Diplomat Hotel. I have no prior idea what the place is all about. It sounds like a spooky place to me but it was day time and Shirly who has been there did not look scared. She even told us that the courtyard was nice. I even had my picture taken at the courtyard.

The hotel was in ruins. If my memory serves me right, it used to be a monastery turned garrison turned hospital turned hotel turned government building and so on. My imagination did not run wild. Not until I posted my photo on Facebook and I get comments about its notoriety. I even watched a Jessica Soho feature and it was about a tourist who captured something on video while on that courtyard. Scary! Now that my innocence (ignorance) has been broken, I declare that that was my last trip to that hotel. Ha!

We went to the Baguio Botanical Gardens. I love flowers so this was a happy place. They have elephant statues which I think is better than riding those poor elephants in Thailand.

I posted this photo of me in the middle of these yellow flowers. My uncle commented in jest that there is a snake beside me.

Fast forward to February 2020, there is a snake beside me! There is an area in the botanical garden with all the Chinese zodiacs. Although I am surrounded by dragon-born friends, I was born on the year of a snake. I am a dragon at heart, snake by birth. Charots.

We also went to the strawberry farm in La Trinidad, ate ice cream and bought some souvenirs

We dropped by the colorful Stoboso houses.

In the evening, we went to eat some cake because it was Shirly’s birthday. We had strawberry shortcake from Vizco’s.

So everybody thought I was done with Baguio. Not quite. I got a message from Uncle Jing that he would be going home to the Philippines in 2020 to attend his 50th college homecoming. Uncle is the husband of my mother’s sister who lives in Canada. He is from Baguio. He would not be able to travel to Butuan to visit us so he suggested we go to Baguio instead. The easiest person to invite to Baguio is me and my cousin, Azenith. I already know how to go to Baguio and Azenith had too many leave credits. So off we went.

On February 1, 2020, Azenith and I traveled to Baguio. We flew to Manila, rode a taxi to PITX . PITX is the new Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange. The terminal is spanking new with modern amenities. It is like an airport terminal. There is a Solid North bus there that travels to Baguio non-stop.

It was already past 6pm when we arrived in Baguio. Look at our tired but happy faces!

We had dinner and went back to the hotel. (But at 9 p.m. , we wiggled our way to the night market at Harrison Road).

Our hotel was along Session Road so I woke up to this view every day in Baguio.

There was free breakfast in this hotel cafe.

And one can eat in this little terrace with this view. We didn’t though. The tables were too small for three people.

Our first day in Baguio was on a Sunday so we attended mass first. The cathedral entrance was a few steps (and three flights of stairs up! ha!) from the hotel.

Off we went to visit The Mansion…

… and Wright Park.

I saw paintings for sale at Wright Park. Should I start selling paintings this way in Guingona Park? Nah, the introvert in me can’t stand socializing with passersby.

Then, off to Mines View Park! I hoarded another set of hand towels. I think I have expressed before that there was nothing to see at Mines View Park. The view deck is narrow and crowded and the mountains there do not look magnificent but still I took a selfie because I wasted time to go up there. I might as well get something out of it.

It was Azenith’s first trip to Baguio so I brought her to the tourist traps. Ha! She looked stunning compared to my toothy grin.

Lunch was in the Vanilla Cafe at the Kamiseta Hotel. I read beforehand that Kamiseta Hotel serves buffet breakfast and lunch on weekends. Since we already have free breakfast at the hotel, I wanted to have lunch there. I wanted to see their sunroom with the colorful chairs and fancy decors that are easily associated with Vanilla Cupcake Bakery. If you happen to see their branches in Manila, this is the expanded version of the cafe.

This should have been my logo, don’t you think? Double K and a flower since I love botanical art. But then again, I use K squared for a logo because long before my math was at that level, my father already taught me what it meant and integrated it in my signature. Now, I multiply life by the power of two. Charots. (In case you do not know, it is a line from a song.)

We went to the botanical garden after. It was a quick walk from the Kamiseta hotel.

I want to have a canopy of bougainvillea in my dream garden. This is the inspiration.

On the second day of the trip, we went to Atok, Benguet. I wanted to see the Northerm Blossom Flower Farm. It was a Monday. I chose that day to avoid the weekend crowd but, alas, the farm was closed for maintenance every Monday. I did not know that. So, we went to other spots in Atok instead. We went to the highest point of the Halsema Highway. This used to be the highway with the highest altitude in the Philippines (until last year, the Kiangan-Tinoc-Buguias Road in Ifugao snatched that title).

This is the awesome sight from the view deck. Behind those clouds is Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon.

On my left is Mt Timbak.

We went to Bosleng Grotto after. The view was majestic- a far cry from the crowded Mines View Park.

On our way to the grotto, we passed by cabbage farms.

To maximize our trip since we were not able to see Northern Blossoms flower farm, we visited Haights Place. There were not much flowers so I insisted to have my picture taken among the snapdragons…

… and alstromelias.

This place is also where those cherry blossoms from Japan were planted. They are expected to bloom in a few years. I now have two reasons to go back to Atok- cherry blossoms and flower farm.

This trip was already my fourth trip to Baguio in my lifetime and I have not tried strawberry picking. Or should I say I do not have a photo of me picking strawberries until this time. Ha! Voila!

I spied another way of displaying and selling paintings.

After this, we drove back to Baguio city. We rested and took a stroll around Burnham.

The Panagbenga Parade was cancelled due to the coronavirus scare but the garden landscape entries were slowly being set up.

We had dinner and went back to the hotel to pack.

We left at 9 a.m. the next day.

Bye, Baguio! You are lovely. Hope to see you again someday!

Baguio in a Day

Since our trip to Bangkok was cancelled, my aunt and I had 5 days in Manila. We can’t be spending all those days in malls and traffic so we decided beforehand to go to Baguio. I have never been to Baguio. My aunt had visited Baguio several times in past but was still interested in going.

Traveling to Baguio was convenient. Right after we landed in NAIA 3, we took  our lunch at the airport and took a taxi to Victory Liner in Pasay. Victory Liner travels to Baguio every hour. We were hoping to catch their First Class bus but there was only one seat left so we settled for the regular air-conditioned bus. It was an 8-hour trip. Quite long but we were comfortable. My aunt loved that vendors are allowed to go inside the bus. She remembered going to Baguio with my aunts more than ten years ago and they were in a hired van. They were very hungry  but when they told the driver to stop for food they were always told, “Malapit na.” (It’s near.) She remembered how they devoured their meals when they arrived in Tarlac for a stopover.  With our trip, she was never hungry. We bought this huge sweet corn (the biggest corn on cob I have eaten in my life) and chicharon from vendors.  The food made us forget the 8 hours of travel.

We arrived in Baguio at around 8PM. I loved the twinkling lights of  Baguio as we approached the city from the mountains. Too bad I was not able to capture it on my camera. We headed straight to the hotel to rest.

We woke up early the following day. It was a Sunday (March 2) and the last day of Panagbenga. The first order of the day was to find a church.  My aunt who was with me had spent the whole summer in Baguio in her 30’s for teacher’s training.  So I asked her:

Me: Tita, what is the name of their cathedral here?
Tita: St. Peter

When we reached the cathedral, it was called “Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral”. Ang layo! I realized that I should not rely on her for directions around Baguio. Hehe!

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We had breakfast after the mass and walked along Session Road.  There were bazaars in the street.

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 We saw gorgeous flowers. How we wished we can bring them to Butuan!

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How cool is this? They can grow strawberries in a planter!
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We really do not have an itinerary for the day. We walked where the road led us and found this busy intersection.
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My aunt said that she had been here before and that Burnham Park was somewhere near. When we were nearing what looked liked a park, I approached a law enforcer and asked where Burnham Park is. He amusingly replied with arms wide open, “Ito na po, Ma’am.” Ah ok. It really showed how clueless I was.

There were exhibits of the landscaping contest. We bought some shirts for pasalubong since there was a bazaar.

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The park was teeming with people.  I initially planned to try boating but the sun was already up and I was wearing a sweater! I thought it was going to be cold during the day.  Pass muna ang boating!

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We found a neat opportunity to remember our Baguio trip: a photo in a costume! Our best Baguio pic ever! LOL!

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When I posted this on Facebook, one cousin asked how I was able to convince my aunt to wear the costume. The answer: only ten pesos per picture with your own camera!

After we were done with the pictorial, we went Mines View Park. I dunno how this looked before but there weren’t so much to see. Sorry, Baguio! Do not ban me for saying this. I love everything else. 

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The only consolation was that it was near the Good Shepherd where I bought strawberry jam, ube jam, peanut brittle and lengua de gato. We made a pitstop at the Botanical Garden and had lunch in the city proper. The bottles of jams were heavy to lug around so we went back to the hotel.

There were three things I wanted to do while in Baguio. Two of which did not happen: strawberry picking in La Trinidad and visit the Tam-awan Village.  The third one  I pushed to be there in the afternoon. I was glad we did. We visited the Bencab Museum!

Ben Cabrera is a National Artist for Visual Arts. He owns a museum in Tuba, Benguet, which is less than 20 minutes away from the city. The museum houses his works from paintings to sculpture.

There were works from other artists as well.  This photography exhibit by Emmanuel Tolentino looks interesting.

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This is Bencab’s muse, Sabel.
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I had to take a photo of this one.

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This is a digitally reprinted hand-colored lithograph by another artist. When I went to the museum shop, there is a similar digitally reprinted watercolor painting of a bird with BenCab’s signature. I asked how much it was thinking I might get one as a souvenir. The staff replied, “P 20,000”. I have to pick my jaw up from the floor. I should have taken up fine arts in college.  Hehe!

The museum had several floors. I forgot to count them. This is the view from one of the balconies.  I read somewhere that he bought the mountain across this to prevent anyone from ruining the view.

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I took this photo on our way out. No, this is not a painting. These are real orchids in the lobby. I love how it turned out in my photo.

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I really recommend visiting the place.

We had time to spare. I got a message from my other aunt asking if we have visited Camp John Hay. Not yet.  So, off the Camp John Hay! We rode the jeep to go there so we were dropped at the entrance. I never anticipated that the road up is on an incline. My aunt was panting while going up. The goal was to go to The Manor.  We only walked up to Le Monet Hotel. My aunt already refused to walk further. Ha!  Good thing they had a Panagbenga float on display.

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As expected, the flowers near the Le Monet entrance were gorgeous.
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We went back to Session Road where I bought strawberries sold on the sidewalk.  From there, we called it a day.

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I will be back, Baguio!

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