Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cool Escape to Baguio

The last time I went to Baguio, there are only two things I remembered the best about it – it’s cool weather and pine trees. I won’t forget the cool breeze of air that surrounds every sight of the city. Every minute of stay in Baguio, I breathe fresh air from the mountains. While, majority of the city’s landscape is covered with layers of layers of pine trees making every corner of it, a scenic sight with beautiful mountain or hill backdrops.  I was only 12 year-old then and it was one of my fondest memories of my first time trip to Baguio way back in Summer 1997.

Undoubtedly, the most popular sight in Baguio - Mines View Park.
Fast forward, October 2012. I embarked on a road trip to visit the Mountain Province. My back and butt is enduring the pain of sitting long inside the van service that I am riding for this long road trip. My eye is getting red from having lack of sleep as I couldn’t get one inside a moving vehicle. The road trip is taking long. Yet I still hold on my patience that this will be over. We did stopovers to stretch our muscles and freshen up. And we went up again to the road to travel to our intended destination. After a long drive up to the north, we reached the place at six in the morning.  It was just in time for a morning sunrise welcome in the place dubbed as the “Summer Capital” of the country – Baguio. As my foot sets on the ground after the long road trip, I knew it marked my return to Baguio after 15 years!

Baguio is a haven of chill spots, greenery parks and cool mountain weather that makes it as the "Summer Capital of the Philippines." Summer might be the best time to visit it because its cooler climate and mountain fresh air serves as a Shangri-La for those vacationers who are dire heat of summer temperature from the metro. But whether it is summer or rainy season, Baguio is still an ideal place to chill and relax. It has always been popular because of its weather. Baguio’s cool weather climate is its main draw that keeps vacationers coming and keeps on returning to it. I think the sights and places of interests are just secondary but nonetheless worth a visit too. So while having a long stopover in Baguio while en route to Mountain Province, I tried to explore some of its popular and traditional place of interests that some I did not explore yet during my first time visit.

Pine Trees everywhere. A sign we are in Baguio!
Good morning Baguio!
Welcome to the city of pines - Baguio City!
Baguio Sunrise in a scenic road...
The Mansion is one of the frequent sights to visit when in Baguio. Also known as the Mansion House, it is the official summer residence of Philippine presidents. According to information, it was built in 1908 to serve as the official summer residence of US Governor Generals during the American colonization of the country. From then on various conventions and political meetings were also held at The Mansion. The building stands out for its elegant design of Spanish colonial theme architecture on the main building. It ornate ironwork main gate is also one of its architectural wonder that’s why it is one of the most photograph part of the sight. Surrounding The Mansion were greenery landscapes of pine trees, vast grass field and blooming flowers of various types.

The Mansion - official summer residence of Philippine presidents.
Mansion House's historical marker.
The verdant grounds of The Mansion.
Just in front of The Mansion is Wright Park. This park is popular for morning joggers but it is also popular for midday walks and strolls. Its main feature is its long reflecting pool lined with pine trees known as “Pool of Pines” and the park circle which is located at one end of the park.  Tall pine trees and decorative street lights line both sides of the access road beside the pool. Wright Park is also popular for ponies that can be rented out for a ride in period of time. Children and kids will surely be delighted in this riding activity.

Wright Park marker.
Wright Park just in front of The Mansion.
I then, returned to Mines View Park for the second time. But this time, while sampling Strawberry Taho which makes my morning visit a sweeter threat. Basically Strawberry Taho is the same taho threat with strawberry syrup flavour instead of sweetened brown sugar.  Mines View Park is no doubt  the most popular sight in Baguio but not only because of its overlooking deck of mountain scenery and view but also for its numerous shops of “pasalubong” just right at the entrance of the park which you can bring home to your loved ones and friends.

Since its early morning, there were only few people roaming around. While I still enjoying my Strawberry Taho, one of the local park vendors asks me and my friend to try an Igorot costume photoshoot for a perfect Baguio souvenir. At first, I’m really hesitant to try it because I find it silly but my friend insists that it is a fun idea so I gave in. It was my first time to try wearing an Igorot costume complete with accessories of traditional wooden javelin and shield for a photo shoot. We pose and pose of all sorts like fighting, calm and wacky. In the end, it was all fun after all.
Baguio souvenirs!
Strawberry Taho in the morning!
Going wacky the Igorot way!
The scenic view deck of Mines View Park.
But the most important site not to miss in the park is the overlooking view deck of the park where a breath-taking panoramic view of Benguet’s gold and copper mines and the surrounding mountains unfold before your eyes. This view also shows the mountainous and verdant landscape surrounding Baguio and Benguet. It is best viewed while enjoying the cool weather of Baguio which I delightedly experienced. The vast green color covering the mountain slopes and sky-blue painted sky was a Baguio view that I won’t forget. I got relaxed from the view that I’m seeing in my eyes.  This spectacular mountain scenery should not be missed when visiting Mines View Park. Baguio trip experience won’t be completed without visiting the park!

Mines View Park's scenic viewing deck.
City of Pines!
More and more souvenirs at the park.
Mines View Park marker.
Good Shepherd Convent is the next stop for most visitors coming from Mines View Park. This convent has a store populary known for the different products made by the Good Shepherd nuns and workers for visitors of Baguio City. Among the most sought items are fruit preserves, strawberry and ube jams, cashew and peanut brittle, and coco jam. Most of their products are also sold by different stalls in the Baguio Public Market and at various other outlets within the city. During my visit, I tried a sample of their home-made chicken empanada and it was unexpectedly delicious. My friend and travel mate for the trip was the one who insists to me try it since I’m hesitant that it might just taste the same empanada sold in the metro. But it was tasty and its crust was crispy - just perfect to satisfy a hunger morning snack. Later I also tried their Chocolate Chips Oatmeal cookies. I say it’s a healthy snack for health and diet conscious people.

What I also like in Good Shepherd Convent is its surrounding garden. The garden is named after Ste. Marie Euphrasie Pelletier, the foundress of the Good Shepherd Sisters. This garden has a very relaxing view of the trees and flowering plants that were carefully planted and trimmed together to delight visitors who are looking for quietness and reflective thought. There are also secluded benches and nooks where you can sit, relax and admire the beauty of the garden flowers and trees – just ideal for reflective thought and pondering.

Products sold at Good Shepherd Convent.
Morning threats sold at Good Shepherd Convent.
The garden's marker.
Right at the entrance of the garden.
Lovely blooms.
The garden of Ste. Marie Euphrasie Pelletier.
 Our last musing in Baguio before we en-route to Sagada was to have a coffee at Starbucks inside Camp John Hay. Camp John Hay is a recreational resort and historical sight in Baguio City which visitors can take trails to explore it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fully explore the place since we are just on a sidetrip and we are heading for a long road trip again. So we just drop by to Starbucks which I think probably the most popular coffee shop in Baguio. Starbucks is uniquely located inside an old American house-style building. No wonder about it since Camp John Hay is made with a purpose to be a resort and leisure place of American soldiers. What makes this Starbucks branch in the country unique is that it has a fireplace and chimney which still can be used if you want to feel warm from the cold weather! Now, that’s American style of living trademark! Inside Starbucks, I wasn’t only able to sip their famous blend of coffee but also experience the old American ambiance of 19oos with its very historical and antique shop location.

Camp John Hay is a major attraction in Baguio City. The camp covers almost 250 acres. It is complete with sporting activities like golf course and treetop climbing, shops, restaurants, hotel (Camp John Hay Manor) and eco-tourists trail for visitors to try and enjoy the camp.

Starbucks Camp John Hay branch.
More coffee please!
Cozy frappe.
Nice ambiance of Starbucks outdoor facade.
 The next 7 hours was a long road trip to Mountain Province where we had to pass through the province of Benguet. While on the road in Benguet, I had a chance to view Mount Pulag from a distance. This mountain is Luzon’s highest peak and mountain. As pointed by the tour guide, I saw the peak of Mount Pulag covered with fog-like stream of clouds and surrounded by verdant trees while shadowed by a blue hue. The mountain is popular for hiking trail explorations for those who want to explore Benguet. After viewing Mount Pulag, we had a stopover to the Highest Point of Philippine Highway System landmark. Located in Atok, Benguet at 7,400 feet above sea level, the landmark site was on the edge of a view deck cliff where I chance upon to see the beautiful mountainous landscape of Benguet and its surrounding valleys. It’s a popular stopover too when visiting Benguet and while en route to Mountain Province since the landmark’s view deck provides a space to stretch muscles from the long drive and has a restroom nearby aside from enjoying the view of Cordillera mountains.

Mount Pulag - Luzon's highest peak.
Highest Point of Philippine Highway System marker.
Gorgeous mountain and valley scenery at the view deck of Highest Point of Philippine Highway System marker.
The beauty of Benguet.
Indeed, it was a worthy return after 15 years to Baguio. Yet I have to fully explore the city of pines. There is still so much more to explore and experience in the “Summer Capital” for me. I know the saga of Kafagway* continues.  But until that day comes, I have sit back again in the van, relax and enjoy the stunning views of Cordillera Mountains that we are passing through as we take a 7 hour long drive journey to Mountain Province while I still have a lingering memory of my cool escape return to Baguio. 

*Kafagway is Baguio's ancient name that means "a large open space". 

Cool Escape to Baguio is part of my Cordillera Region Tour blog series where I join a road trip to visit the regions’ three main places of tourist destination - Baguio-Sagada-Banaue last October 5-8, 2012. The main destination of the tour is exploring Sagada, Mountain Province where I stayed the longest. Baguio and Banaue, Ifugao is part of the side trip of this Cordillera Region Tour.  

My Cordillera Region Tour is courtesy of Hannah Julianne Travel and Tours – 111 Fiesta Homes, San Jose, City of Dasmarinas, Cavite. For travel tour inquiries, contact 0916.6853413.
*This is not a paid article.


  1. And I'll probably be back in Baguio again... this Summer 2013.

  2. I only managed to visit Baguio once, when I was still in college. I thought it was lovely. However, my mom who's been there only recently told me it's no longer as nice as it once was. Pero judging on your pics, mukhang maganda pa rin naman.

  3. nice to see updates again from the Philippines..wow I have been to many countries in europe but only explored some places in phils..but happy to stepped in visayas, mindanao and luzon..wish to visit baguio in the future...good job Ian..keep it up!

  4. Thanks for sharing. I like your images. Mines View Park is really one of the amazing destinations in Baguio. Also strawberry farm made more popular by the ABS-CBN's Forevermore TV Series. ^_^
    see Top 10 Tourist Spots in Baguio with Pictures

    1. Thank you. Mines View Park also improved its facilities and most of the footsteps are paved and refurbished as well. Yes, the crave for strawberry was ignited once again because of that TV series.

  5. For those who wants to buy Sagada Mountain Tea leaves please call or text 09753139784

  6. Awesome vacation points in baguio. so beautiful nature of the baguio city.
    best vacation house in baguio


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