The City of Baguio is perched on a plateau 1,500 meters above sea level in the southern end of the Cordillera Mountain Ranges in the Province of Benguet about 250 kilometers north of Manila. Its pine covered slopes; the colorful flowers in its parks and open spaces; and, the crisp mountain breeze easily fits the idyllic setting of a romantic novel. The fresh and delightful air that is eight degrees cooler on the average than any place in the islands makes the city a perfect retreat from the sweltering heat of the Luzon lowlands. From March to May, thousands of visitors crowd into this upland city to cool off and enjoy the refreshing pine-scented breeze blowing in from the misty mountains.
In the early days this area was known as Kafagway which was inhabited by the Ibaloi and Kankaney tribes of the Cordilleras who have constantly driven away the Spanish colonists who have long coveted their upland home for its gold deposits. In 1846, the Spaniards finally gained a foothold by setting up a “commandancia” on the valley below, which they called La Trinidad and which was later to become the capital of Benguet Province.
When the Americans occupied the Philippines in 1900, they made the place accessible to jumping points in Pangasinan province and the Ilocos regions by carving the now-famous Kennon Road out of the granite mountainside. The new colonists proceeded to develop the place into a mining town and a recreational facility for U.S. servicemen. By 1903, the Americans had built the 695-hectare Camp John Hay and the Mansion House, which served as the summer residence of the American Governor-General. The succeeding year, Burnham Park was completed and named after Daniel H. Burnham, who master planned the development of most of the surrounding areas.
In a session held on June 1, 1903 at the higher end of what is now the famous Session Road, the Philippine Commission declared Baguio as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines.” And, on September 9, 1909, it was incorporated as a city by the Philippine Assembly. Today, Baguio is one of the premier first class urbanized cities in Northern Luzon and is the seat of government of the Cordillera Administrative Region. The name of the city came from the Ibaloi word “bagiw,” which meant “moss,” for the mossy plants and orchids that grew in abundance in the pine forests.
What to See in Baguio
Baguio City will never disappoint the visitor as it has probably the largest number of attractions packed in its 4,900-hectare area than any tourist destination in the Philippines. The wonderful thing about it is that the most popular tourist attractions are located near each other making the city one of the easiest places to explore considering the availability of inexpensive public transportation.
Mines View Park: Located near the Mansion House and Wright Park at the extreme northeast side of the city, Mines View Park is known for its spectacular view of Benguet’s gold and copper mines with the Cordillera Mountains as a backdrop. Today, a lot of houses have been constructed over the old mine sites and souvenir and silverworks stores abound by the park.
Baguio Botanical Garden: Also known as the Igorot Village, it showcases the native huts typical of the architecture of the Cordilleras and captures the cultural legacy and the proud ethnic spirit of the Igorot tribemen dressed in their traditional colorful costumes. It is officially named as the Botanical Gardens because it grows the pine seedlings and other flora used in the never-ending greening projects of the city and its environs.
Burnham Park: This thickly wooded park is the oldest in Baguio where one can contemplate the beauty of nature amidst its colorful flowers, the laughter of children frolicking and biking on its grounds and the languid sound of paddles on the water as small boats glide on the man-made lake.
Mount Santo Tomas: If you love being close to Mother Nature, trek up to Baguio’s highest peak, which offers a 360 degree view of the entire city and as far as the eye could see up to La Union Province below and the shimmering waters of the South China Sea beyond the horizon.
These tourist spots and places of interest are just a prelude to all of Nature’s splendor and other historical places that lie beyond the city limits because Baguio is also considered as the gateway to the wonders of Northern Luzon: The centuries old “Stairway to the Sky,” otherwise known as the Banaue Rice Terraces in Kalinga-Ifugao; the Kabayan Mummy Caves of Benguet; the famous Hundred Islands of Pangasinan; the beautiful beaches of La Union; the heritage houses and cultural relics of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur; and, the colorful culture of the proud tribes of the Cordilleras.
Where to Eat in Baguio
Just like many cities in the country and across the world, Baguio did not escape the encroachment of malls which host the many different western and oriental style fast food chains that have sprouted all over the Philippines. Sure, you can snag a seat in any of these joints and grab a bite to eat. But why come all the way to Baguio to eat burgers and fries or noodles and dimsum out of Styropor packs when you can very well turn your summer vacation into a memorable culinary experience at the following places:
Bliss Café: For an average price of P300.00, this food joint along Leonard Wood Road offers splendid vegetarian meals that its patrons swear do not taste like vegetables at all.
Cafe by the Ruins: Along Otek Street, the hungry visitor can grab a chair in this eatery and enjoy ethnic cuisine like mountain rice, native chicken and strawberry wine at a cost of about P350.00.
Eve’s Garden: Looking for this eatery that is nestled along Lamtang Road is an adventure in itself. But finding it and sampling its organic freshly picked lettuce will definitely make your trip—and the P550.00 price of set meals quite worthwhile.
Where to Stay in Baguio
Baguio is just about the only place where most hotels do not have to provide for air conditioning. All you have to do is open the windows of your hotel room and let the cool mountain breeze rush in and fill your room and lungs with clean, fresh air as you enjoy the panorama of pine trees gently swaying in the wind.
The following are many different types of visitors to this “Vacation City” and their likely accommodation preferences: Honeymooners looking for a more private and intimate setting where service is more personalized may consider staying in an inn; businessmen and convention delegates who follow a strict itinerary and don’t mind buying in-house all their food and drinks are perfect in a hotel; a large group of friends and family who prefer to whip up their own meals and barbeque cook outs are more suitable in so-called transient houses; and, backpackers and budget travelers who would be out of their quarters touring the city most of the time and would not mind sharing common facilities with other guests will love to stay in a pension house.
Calalily Pension House: This pension house has very affordable rates starting at P960.00 with cable TV, hot and cold shower and 24 hour security. It is just walking distance to the Cathedral, Burnham Park, Downtown Baguio and the City Market.
Calalily Pension House
Baguio Transient Houses: These are separate housing units ideal for a group of 4 or more people. The house with a private toilet and bath, TV and Ref can be leased for P1,500.00 per day.
Microtel Inn & Suites: Staying in this Baguio Inn entitles you to the same international standard of cleanliness, safety, comfort and value provided by Microtel Inns all over the world. With rates starting at USD43.00, or P1,720.00 converted at current forex rates, guests will enjoy queen-sized beds, cable TV, air conditioning, IDD/ NDD telephone, Internet connectivity, built-in desk and furniture, full-sized bathrooms with hot and cold shower and radio clock.
Upper Session Road
Prince Plaza Hotel Baguio: Many conferences and meetings are held in the conference room of this hotel with the help of its friendly staff. All rooms have attached balconies that provide a panoramic view of the city. For a starting rate of USD60.00, or P2,400.00 converted at prevailing forex rates, guests will enjoy standard private bathroom with hot and cold shower, in-room movies, mini bar, radio, iron and iron board, writing desk and hair dryer.
17 Legarda Road
How to Get to Baguio
Manila to Baguio and Back: You can get to Baguio from Manila using either of the two modes depending on your budget and time:
1.Overland: If you are a budget traveler with more time in your hands and less money to spend, you can take the bus and enjoy the great scenery while making that overland trip. There are air conditioned buses that leave Manila for Baguio every hour seven days a week. The Philippine Rabbit, Dagupan Bus Lines and Victory Liner are just some of the popular transportation companies whose buses ply the Manila-Baguio route. A one-way ticket costs about P350.00 – 450.00 and travel time is six to seven hours.
2.By Air: If you are a busy businessman with less time and more money to spent, then by all means, take that plane trip to Baguio and save time. An Asian Spirit flight bound for Baguio leaves Manila daily at 9:45 AM. Approximate cost of the 50-minute flight is P2,100.00 – 2,300.00, one-way. You don’t have to worry about transport when you land at the Loakan Airport some 5 kilometers from Baguio City proper because there are a lot of taxi cabs waiting to pick up passengers right at the airport terminal. The taxi fare cost about P100.00 to P150.00.
Cebu to Baguio and Back: To reach Baguio from Cebu, you can either fly from Cebu to the Manila Domestic Airport in Pasay or sail from Cebu to Manila. The estimated cost of a round trip plane ticket is P6,000.00 – P7,000.00 while a round trip boat fare would cost about P3,000.00 – P4,000.00. Upon arrival, choose any of the two options above to get to Baguio from Manila.
Dumaguete to Baguio and Back: To reach Baguio from Dumaguete, you can fly from Dumaguete to the Manila Domestic Airport in Pasay City. Estimated cost of a round trip plane ticket is P4,000.00 – P5,000.00. Upon arrival, choose any of the two options mentioned above to get to Baguio from Manila.