Happy 2015, guys! I’ve many plans for the year that I can’t wait to share with you all. I’ll make a separate post for my 2015 resolutions, but among the things you can expect to see on Wander Write Now are more posts on my home country, the beautiful Philippines, plus some new—and equally beautiful—faces.
To start the year right, here’s a peek into how my family and I spent our holiday getaway in Baguio City, found in the Benguet province of northern Luzon. This mountain city, which was developed by the Americans as a hill station back in 1900, is popularly known as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, thanks to its cool climes that make it the perfect escape during the peak of Manila’s heat.
It may as well be considered our local Christmas village too. It seemed that majority of Manila made the climb to Baguio over the holidays. My parents’ taxi driver said they’d never had so many visitors as they did this past Christmas. Manila’s legendary traffic took this city by storm, so much so that we made headlines on local news.
Heavy traffic and long lines aside, it was a wonderful vacation for the Barts. We enjoyed the cold weather—the lowest we experienced was 13C, brr!—and the chance to be together outside our hometown.
If you get the chance to visit Baguio, here are some things you should consider adding to your itinerary:
1. Immerse yourself in Philippine art in BenCab Museum.
This was the highlight of my trip, and if you’re into art, I’m sure you’ll say the same after exploring this stunning museum. The spotlight is on Philippine National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, most popularly known as BenCab, and his dramatic paintings and sculptures, but there are also works by other Filipino artists.
The beauty that you’ll find here isn’t just restricted to the architecture of the building and the artistic treasures it houses. You’ll also see it in its garden and the breathtaking vista that’ll tempt you into staying just a bit longer.
If you’re lucky, you might even come across the master himself, who lives right beside the museum. We saw him at the in-house Café Sabel. Unfortunately, he left before I could ask to take a picture of him. There’s tons more I want to say about the BenCab Museum—and photos I’d like to post—so watch for that soon. In the meanwhile, you can visit their website for more information.
The BenCab Museum is located at Km. 6 Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet. It’s open on Tuesdays to Sundays, 9AM to 6PM. Admission is P100, with a special price of P80 for senior citizens and students with valid IDs.
2. Hunt for bargains at the ukay-ukay and market.
The Baguio ukay-ukay is a must for budget-conscious shoppers. Why ukay-ukay? Because traditionally, you’re supposed to dig through a haphazard pile of clothes, both new and secondhand, to unearth your next favorite deal. It’s not always easy to find the gems among the stones, so to speak, but when you do, you’ll feel amazingly victorious.
I admit I was so determined on scoring myself a cheap but nice leather jacket that I didn’t take a single photo during my shopping trip. Despite not finding that darn jacket, I bought two brand-new knitted tops for P550 and a knitted scarf for P160. Not bad, considering that prices were higher than usual due to it being the peak season. I was told that you can normally bargain for even cheaper prices.
3. Enjoy the view at Mines View Park.
You’ll probably have to weave your way through the crowd to get to the lookout point that makes this park a favorite among visitors, but the vista awaiting you there is well worth it.
Rent a binocular to get a closer look at the villages, Benguet’s mines, and the Cordillera mountains. If you’ve had enough of the view, check out the shops selling plants, local delicacies, and handicrafts. You’ll find more of them just outside the park, though products may be more expensive than those in the public market.
4. Line up for ube jam, peanut brittle, and other local treats at Good Shepherd Convent.
Speaking of delicacies, you’ll do well to make the short hike up to the Good Shepherd Convent after visiting Mines View. Everyone knows they have the best ube jam in town. Even those who aren’t fond of that purple yam will find something to satisfy their tastebuds, whether it’s strawberry jam, peanut brittle, cashews, lengua de gato, or any of their many other homemade products. Be sure to come early in the morning before their bestsellers run out.
After lining up for your treats, explore their lovely gardens and enjoy a few minutes of silence and relaxation. The peaceful surroundings and fresh scent of nature sure make that easy to do.
There’s also a observation deck for those who’d like to take more photos of the view.
The Good Shepherd Convent is located at 15 Gibraltar Road within walking distance of Mines View Park. It’s open daily from 8AM to 5PM.
5. Eat to your heart’s content at Ketchup Food Community.
Do the people in your group have different food cravings? No problem. Ketchup Food Community allows you to order from any of its five restaurants, which serve up varying cuisines.
Rumah Sate spices things up with Indo-Malay dishes, Happy Tummy gives you a taste of Thai delights, and Green Pepper gives you the best of Cordillera-Filipino favorites. There’s also Rancho Norte, which offers hearty meals such as bagnet and sisig, and Canto, which promises yummy steaks and burgers at good prices.
After filling your belly, why not take a walk to the nearby Mansion? Originally designed by architect William E. Parsons for US Governor-Generals, this is the place that the Philippine President calls his summer home.
Right across its grand gate is Wright Park. You can’t miss the long reflecting pool running along its center.
If you’re interested in a different kind of exercise, you can pay to take a horse ride around the park.
Ketchup Food Community is located at Romulo Drive and is open daily from 8AM to 10:30PM.
6. Inhale the scent of pine trees at Camp John Hay.
This time around, we didn’t check in at Camp John Hay Manor. Neither did we return to the Lost Cemetery of Negativism, aka the pet cemetery, which is a must for first-time visitors (find my favorite tomb marker that reads “Why Dident I?—Born ????? Lived wondering why. Died for no reason”).
Nope. This time, we traded in choco-late de batirol for cakes and coffee at the Baguio-AyalaLand Technohub—home to restaurants, stores, and this company:
I must say, it was quite jarring to find this in Camp John Hay, which I’ve always associated with nature and relaxation, but I guess it’s a sign of the times. There are still pine trees standing, but among them, you’ll see Army Navy, Sumo Sam, the local favorite Vizco’s Cafe, and of course, Starbucks.
Baguio-AyalaLand Technohub is located at Ordonio Drive inside Camp John Hay.