For those who’d like to go on a road trip to the north to spend a few good days, the Philippines’ summer capital, Baguio, is a frequent name on everyone’s list of favorite destinations in Northern Luzon. Here are the top 10 things you should do.
Take a photo of Baguio’s landmark
Before you finally reach the heart of the City of Pines, you’ll be welcomed by this gigantic statue that resembles a lion’s head located in Kennon Road – a major highway that will lead you to Baguio City’s downtown area. The now gold-painted statue, measuring about 40 feet, has been a popular stopover among travelers who’d like some instant photo souvenirs. Constructed in the 1970s through the initiative of the Lions Club, the Lion’s Head has been restored after severe cracks and vandals have plagued its beauty. Like Chinese buildings with lion statues being considered as “guardians,” the Lion’s Head is said to play such a role – to guard the needs of its community.
When the city was still in its planning stage to be developed into a place of retreat for the US military, one of its central features was the Burnham Park. Being one of the landmarks and well-loved attractions, it’s no wonder every traveler has this place included in their itineraries. The park features a man-made lake with rowboats for hire, a children’s playground, skating rink, rose garden, an orchidarium, and an Igorot garden among its 12 clusters. You can opt to walk along the park’s paved walkways or rent a bike to enjoy the view and cool climate.
Visiting Camp John Hay will provide a glimpse of the former rest and recreation facility of past American soldiers. While it has undergone several changes since its establishment in the 1900s, Camp John Hay still fosters a relaxing and peaceful ambiance. Here, you’ll find historic buildings and structures such as The Bell House, which is a museum with a secret garden, an amphitheater and a library. There are also lush greens and gardens such as the Cemetery of Negativism. For those who’d like to feel the adrenaline rush of zip lines and cable cars, there’s the Tree Top Adventure!
When visiting Baguio City, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views and a cooler climate (compared to the rest of the provinces in Luzon). One of the most-visited tourist spots you should head to is Mines View Park. It’s a park overlooking the mining town of Itogon, as well as the abandoned gold and copper mines of the Benguet Corporation. Here, you’ll get unlimited panoramic views of the city and if you happen to be an early bird, never miss out this park that gives the best sunrise views. Nowadays, you also have the chance to dress like the people of Cordillera – bahag (loincloth), shield and spear for men and tapis (decorated cloth for covering) for women. Both also get to wear headdresses and vests to complete the look.
Apart from being a family-friendly destination and known as the country’s summer capital, Baguio City is also the strawberry capital of the Philippines. Because of its cool climate, strawberries are perfectly grown throughout the entire year. Within the city, you can enjoy a taste of the famous strawberry taho, strawberry ice cream, and other strawberry delicacies. But if you’d like to get a different experience, go strawberry picking at the Strawberry Farm located in La Trinidad, Benguet. From November until May every year, you can pick as many strawberries as you can and you’ll just have to pay for how much it weighs. The farm also sells other fruits and vegetables, and according to locals, this farm has the best sunset view in La Trinidad.
A trip to the City of Pines is incomplete without taking time to appreciate local art, especially the works of Filipino National Artist Ben Cabrera (also known as BenCab). The master of Philippine contemporary art has put up a four-level private museum called BenCab Museum which houses all his paintings, sculptures, and installations. The museum is also home to works of different artists and indigenous artefacts. With more than eight permanent galleries with different themes, guests are bound to enjoy themselves with a visual feast.
The City of Baguio also caters to thrift shoppers and you’ll find numerous thrift stores called ukay-ukay shops that sell shoes, clothes, bags, and more within the area. Almost every part of Baguio City has thrift stalls – you only need to brush up on those haggling skills to score the best deals and bargains. Best ukay-ukay spots are Baguio Night Market, Hilltop, Bayanihan Lodge Center and Skyworld Commercial Center. Just make sure to always check the item’s condition whenever you’re planning to buy items from the nearby ukay-ukay stall. Meanwhile, for those who’d like to buy cheap yet fresh local fruits, vegetables, and other dry goods, Baguio City’s Public Market is the best place to go!
Baguio’s cool climate is surely inviting (and tempting) for guests to grab drinks at a nearby bar. If you’d like to try different and unique flavors and a cozy ambiance, then head on over to Baguio Craft Brewery – the city’s first and only craft brewery. They serve freshly-brewed craft beers from 18 rotating taps and they’re known for their signature strawberry craft beer known as the “Lagud” – named after an element of the Ifugao mythology. The restobar and microbrewery do not only exhibit a Cordillera vibe but also has a passion for serving fresh ingredients sourced in the Cordillera Region.
Of course, it’s also a must for travelers to experience what nightlife in Baguio City feels and looks like by spending it in the city’s main entertainment hub – Session Road. Known to many as the central location that connects to major roads, Session Road is also called “campeo” or “kampaw,” which means social gathering. Bars, hotels, restaurants, and shops line up both sides of the road, making it the busiest part of Baguio City. Within these bars, there are live music performances you can catch. If you’d like to end the night with great music, check out PLANET, Rumours, or The Rabbit Hole.
A few minutes from the hustle and bustle of Baguio’s Central Business District, you can find a great place to unwind – the Baguio Botanical Garden. Filled with towering pine trees, lush vegetation and water elements, both tourists and locals can enjoy peace and quiet while appreciating the beauty of nature. This breathing space is open to everyone – it’s wheelchair accessible because of its stone paths and is pet-friendly. However, picking flowers is not allowed. Apart from its brimming trees and plants, the park commemorates the friendship between Baguio and foreign cities in South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. to name a few.