Thursday, July 21, 2011

Baguio City - Rustic Yet Cosmopolitan

My wife had already completed all formalities for our Baguio City trip. She booked our stay in Pine Breeze Cottages located along Bokawkan Road. The cottage we rented is fully furnished, modest in design and layout. It has two bedrooms, a toilet and bath (with hot water of course), a spacious living with an adjacent dining area and a fully-equipped kitchen. The vicinity of Pine Breeze Cottages was always kept clean and tidy. Pine trees abound the area, the gardens are well trimmed and maintained. It is situated on top of a hill so one have a vantage view of Bokawkan and nearby areas. There is 24-hour security and proximity to city center is relatively close. The cottage was big enough for my family at a daily rate of P2,800.

Pine Breeze Cottage
I arrived in Manila after completing my overseas duty on December 22, 2010. It was a grueling 12.0 hours flight from Oman via Bangkok transit.
My wife, Jo and younger son Yves including my eldest son's family (my son AJ, his wife Olga and my three grandchildren; Beatriz, Dominique and JD) were all excited and looking forward to this trip because this will be their first time to experience the Christmas week in the City of Pines.

Baguio City is 210.3 kilometers (130.6 miles) from Pasig City. We started at 5:00 a.m. of December 24. My son Yves took the first driving shift, he's very familiar with the shorter routes from Pasig City to NLEX Balintawak. I took over his driving after reaching our first stop at Shell Station after the Valenzuela toll exit. Driving through NLEX and SCTEX was a breeze but after exiting Tarlac City things started to get slow. We patiently drove our way through the main traffics of Tarlac and Pangasinan. Just a word of caution, be cautious of the numerous motorcycles plying the route, most of them doesn't care and will not even bother give way.

We reached Rosario junction at 11:30 a.m. I took Marcos Highway instead of Kennon Road because I'm not aware of the present condition of Kennon Road. Marcos Highway on the otherhand has always been a reliable route rain or shine because it's much broader and not as steep as Kennon Road zigzag.

After almost 6 hours of driving, our first sight and smell of Baguio City welcomed us.

Benguet Province

Foggy Mountain
Fog Began To Impair Road Visibility

We arrived in Baguio City at almost 2:00 p.m. After checking-in our cottage, my wife and I went to Baguio City Market to purchase our provisions in time to prepare for dinner and our traditional Noche Buena. While we were busy shopping, the kids were similarly occupied unpacking their stuffs and exploring the vicinity of our transitory abode for the next coming days.

My Lovely Grandchildren: JD, Dominique, & Beatriz 
A Typical Igorot Hut In Pine Breeze

Pine Trees Abound The Area

Vibrant Colors of Baguio
Baguio City is well known for it's lovely and colorful flowers, they celebrate Panagbenga Festival (Flower Festival) during the month of February. The festival was created as a tribute to the city's flowers and as a way to rise up from the devastation of the 1990 Luzon earthquake. The festival includes floats that are decorated with flowers. The festival also includes street dancing, presented by dancers clad in flower-inspired costumes. Originated by the Bendian, an Ibaloi dance of celebration that came from the Cordillera region.



Christmas Day

At the stroke of midnight, we had our customary Noche Buena. My grandchildren persistently slept, completely missing the midnight celebration this is because they were too exhausted during the entire trip. 

We had Pasta Alla Carbonara (Fettuccine), Barbecue Chicken and Liempo (Pork Belly), Queso de Bola (Edam Cheese) and fresh strawberries brought from the market earlier. My wife brought along her traditional Beef Mechado she prepared at home, and of course our eternal Chinese Ham.

You have to pardon my bragging but when it comes to traditional home cooking, my wife can pride herself and give assuming chefs a run-for-their money.

Our Firestarter Busy Texting

Sharing Tips On How (Not) To Prepare Tender Juicy Barbecue
Driver By Day, Cook By Night
Looking For His Cellphone Inside The Marinate Pot

Hillside Residences
Baguio City Skyline At Dusk

The Entire Cast

Our first order-of-the-day on Christmas Day - attend the Christmas Day mass celebrated in Baguio Cathedral.

With My Younger Son, Yves
With AJ And His Family 

After the Christmas mass in Baguio Cathedral, we went on with our first day Baguio City tour itinerary. We drove towards Leonard Wood Road and visited the following attractions; Baguio Botanical Garden, the Presidential Mansion, the Wright Park – Riding Circle, Camp John Hay and Teacher's Camp. 

Baguio City Botanical Garden

AJ's Family (Wife - Olga, Children - Dominique, Beatriz and JD) 

Wright Park Infront of The Presidential Mansion

The Presidential Mansion Taken From The Wright Park
AJ's Family In Botanical Garden
My Wife Shopping for Souvenirs

Our Portrait That Will Last A Lifetime

Our succeeding days were the usual trips to Baguio City's renowned landmarks. We visited the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto. The kids went for the 100-plus steps until the cavern were Our Lady of Lourdes is enshrined. My wife and I took the much easier footpath. Popoy (nickname of my grandson, JD) was with me when we started our hike but the little guy refused to walk on his own so i have to carry him all the way up. 

AJ and Dominique

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto

An Altar Of Christ Near The Grotto

We visited Mine's View Park and did souvenir shoppings specifically the famous Baguio "walis tambo" in the Mine's View Market. Mines View was teeming with people, it is jampacked with traffic and pedestrians. It has no orderly management of traffic particularly parking.

We spent one chilly afternoon strolling the vastness of Burnham Park, my family rented a row boat and tried their skills in the lagoon. AJ ended up with a lump on his forehead because my wife constantly hit him with the paddle end.

Burnham Park Lagoon

Session Road and Burnham Park

The Lagoon In Burnham Park

We visited Camp John Hay a second time to see Mile Hi Shopping Arcade. SM Mall in Luneta Hill Upper Session Road was one landmark you should not miss because it sits on top of a hill that provide a panoramic view of the entire city. SM Mall doesn't run it's air conditioning system during winter time. A word of advice, it is very difficult to secure a parking slot within the mall during peak season.

Lush Greenery Of Camp John Hay

Pine Trees Abound Camp John Hay

Fun Moments In Camp John Hay

Someone Is Seeking Comfort?
The Late Afternoon Moon Rise

Line Of Pine Trees In Camp John Hay

We drove 6.0 kilometer towards La Trinidad, Benguet to experience hand picking of strawberries in the fields. The Strawberry Fields of La Trinidad was huge in term of land area. But it was a dismal treat because a kilo of freshly hand-picked strawberries will cost you P500.00 compared to similar strawberries sold at Baguio City market where you can easily fetch and bargain for only P180.00 a kilo.

Strawberry Field
The Strawberry Fields of La Trinidad Valley 

Strawberries Ready For The Picking

Our experience in the Bell Church was rather unique because it gave us some insights on the principles of faith associated with Buddhism. The compound houses intricately designed arches and buildings adorned with flags, bells and dragons. It has a pagoda and nicely landscaped gardens. It was a pious and solemn visit. The wishing pool was one main attraction of the Bell Church.

The Wishing Pool

Bell Church Main Facade

One of The Lovely Pergolas Inside Bell Church

Bell of Bell Church

We did similar visits to the Good Shepherds Convent where my wife purchased Peanut Brittles, Chocolate Brittles, Ube and Strawberry Jams and some other pasalubong. Driving along Session Road has always been a highlight of our daily commute and traffic jam was always a factor to contend with.


We omitted our itinerary to Tam-awan Village and the Philippine Military Academy because the weather condition begun to deteriorate. The following days were marked by midnoon and afternoon showers and it was no longer viable to continue. 

We wrapped-up our Baguio City vacation on December 28. My wife needs to prepare for the New Year and my son needs to report back for work. 

Before traveling back to Manila, we stopped by Barrio Fiesta just adjacent to SM Baguio to have lunch. Barrio Fiesta or Bakahan at Manukan with its unique attraction called "Igorot Stair" was a totally cool and wacky concept. 

Check this out....

"Hindi Ka Nag-iisa, Anim Kasi Tayo"

POPOY: Pipoy Powey... Labhan... Labhan... Labhan...

Happi, Hippee, Wihwih Si Popoy!

Dito sa Barrio, Tupada Ang Panalo!

Go... Go, Go... Go, Go, Go...

Dyaryo, Bote, Bata...

No ID, No Entry

Sa Itim - Adobo, Sa Puti - Tinola

My NagTxt... AnG BuMaSa Ni2 Ay OgaG!

Tulog Sa Pancitan

Hello, Garci..... Malaki Pa Ba Ang A-Lamang?

"Ninoy, Hindi Ka Nag IIsa, Dala Ko Ang Tropa!"

Olrayt.... May Yosi Ka Ba Dyan 'Tol?
Barrio Fiesta Dining Hall

Barrio Fiesta in Baguio grabs attention through its outer ambience, vibrant statues welcome the visitors from the entrance. The fa├žade of the restaurant is full of colorful decorations that portray Baguio's heritage as it proudly displays the culture of the Igorots. Along the entrance are statues of famous Filipino political and historical figures and how they are often portrayed by the modern society.

Another unique attraction of Barrio Fiesta, Bakahan at Manukan in Baguio City is the courtesy and hospitality of the staff and owner. They deal with their customer in a very cordial way ensuring that everyone is fully satisfied with the food and services. All praises go to the owner who even went out of his way, greeted, entertained and thanked us personally after the hearty meal. The food came in fresh from the kitchen, prepared in the traditonal home-cook style and the servings were obviously generous. We had Sinigang Na Sugpo, Lumpiang Sariwa and Crispy Pata which incidentally came with another serving absolutely free-of-charge.

Because of the restaurant's wild and colorful decorations, visitors cannot resist the chance for a photo-op to take home a souvenir of their unique dining experience.

We arrived in Manila at past 9:00 p.m. It was a relaxing Christmas break and we will be looking forward to our next Baguio City trip.

Our Journey Back To Manila

Inside The Cockpit And Over The Tunnel

My Co-Pilot
Cool and Captivating

City Of Pines

Some helpful tips for readers and would-be travellers to Baguio City:
  • Cozy & Cheap Accommodation - there are plenty of accommodation types.
  • Weather & Climate - don't leave without your winter jackets, temperature ranges from 15°C to 23°C. Bring along your rain protection garments as well. The weather condition is very unpredictable.
  • Shopping - souvenir shops abound the parks, try Baguio City Public Market, SM Mall boast its presence in the City of Pines with its cluster of signature shops.
  • Traffic - just avoid the major thoroughfares, be cautious always, parking slots are quite difficult to find during tour rush, public transport is readily available, cab drivers are very honest and friendly.
  • Restaurants - plenty of good restaurants but for me; Barrio Fiesta stands-out.
  • Local Residents - very friendly, honest and civil.
  • Pinebreeze Cottages - Simply outstanding......        
Ciao.... catch you in our next encounter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice writeup and you do make visits to Baguio interesting. See you soon in Baguio, and make it a gateway to the Cordilleras.


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