Since I was little, we have been visiting Baguio City in order to escape from the heat of Metro Manila. It’s known as the summer capital of the Philippines. It was established as a hill station by the Americans in the 1900’s and is situated at an altitude of about 1,540 meters or 5,050 feet. Averege temperature ranges from 15 to 23 degrees Celsius with November to February being the coldest months.
This time, we stayed at the Regal Lexber Homes along Naguilian Road. It’s quite far from the city but it’s really quiet and serene. It’s actually owned by one of the Philippines’ popular movie producers, Mother Lily Monteverde. We decided to stay here so that we could make use of our time shares with RCI. It is actually a subdivision with several units for rent while others are residential. Depending on which unit to rent out, there can be a small kitchen which you can use to cook food if you don’t feel like dining out. There are some supermarkets a short drive away if you want to buy ingredients and other necessities.
It has a very nice view of the surrounding mountain range and we often walk around the subdivision early in the morning to take advantage of the fresh cool air. It was Sam’s first time and being very partial to cool weather, she sure looked like she was enjoying herself. Looking around however, I think it could really use some maintenance and repair. Although there were some people were there at the same time as us, I think they could have used a lot more customers.
The locals have started cultivating the surrounding area and some have been used to grow fresh vegetables which is quite abundant in Baguio City. If you are lucky, you can even buy some of their fresh harvest. The city is also well known for it’s fresh flowers and there is no other way to showcase that than the famous Panagbenga Festival held every February. It’s a month long annual flower festival which includes floats and a lot of street dancing.
Baguio is also well known in the Philippines for growing strawberries and I must say that compared to all the times I have visited, this was the one with the best harvest. Their strawberries were really big and fresh. Another favorite ‘pasalubong’ from the city is the Ube Jam and Strawberry Jam, as well as the Peanut Brittle from Good Shepherd. The Mikasan chocolate flakes is yet another popular purchase by visitors.
In my opinion, Baguio has become over-populated during the last decade or so and going downtime is always a challenge. Sometimes I thought it was better to just leave the car and take a cab because there were a lot of them going around the city. Bringing your car meant you had to find parking and that is starting to become a luxury in the downtown area. That meant walking long distances through steep streets carrying loads of packages before you got to your car. The only consolation is the cooler weather.
Because of this, we mostly spent our time away from downtown, particularly in the areas near Camp John Hay. This is the original site of the American Hill Station established in 1900. Today it is known as one of the popular tourist destinations in the city of Baguio.
One can also stay at The Manor at Camp John Hay or simply visit the camp and enjoy it’s lush lawns and dense pine trees. Visitors may have a picnic or dine at a number of restaurants within the camp. There are also some attractions like the Tree Top Adventure and the Butterfly Sanctuary (which I personally found to be too small and quite disappointing).
Despite the long distance, it’s approximately 244 Kilometers away from Manila, we enjoyed our vacation. It was something I enjoyed as a young child it was definitely something I wanted to share with my own daughter. It was a long drive but it was still worth it. Would I come back again? Yes.. but I may have to re-think driving there.
For those who need directions to Baguio, you can travel there from Manila via the North Luzon Expressway and on through the relatively new SCTEX. Travel time is roughly 5 hours and you will be passing through the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac and Pangasinan.