Baguio, a city in the Cordillera Region of the Philippines, is a popular destination among locals during the summer season. With its mountainous terrain and cool weather, it is considered the perfect retreat from the scorching heat of the low-lying areas in Northern Luzon. Meanwhile, for foreign travellers, this highly urbanized city serves as the “Gateway to the Cordilleras”, opening many new doors for a peek of the colorful Cordilleran life, culture, and arts.
If ever you find yourself craving a meaningful vacation in the northern part of the Philippines, Baguio is worthy of a visit. Here are some of the coolest things you can do in The Summer Capital of the Philippines:
1. BenCab Museum
Many Filipino artists have found a home in Baguio, not just because of the cool weather but because of the thriving art scene on this side of the country. One of the best places to go for a dose of Cordilleran art is the BenCab Museum at Asin Road. It houses the works of Benedicto Cabrera, a Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts, including his award-winning paintings and sculptures. The museum has also become a venue for art shows and local exhibits. Outside the museum, you will find a beautiful garden, a farm, and a mini-forest.
2. Tam-Awan Village
With the aim of preserving the Cordilleran arts and culture, the Chanum Foundation built Tam-Awan Village in 1998. This “artist colony” is set in the outskirts of Baguio, where Ifugao and Kalinga huts are spread throughout the village. These native shelters serve as venues for workshops and exhibits of indigenous art, as well as festivities like the Tam-Awan International Arts Festival. If you wish to bring home a piece of authentic Cordilleran art, this is the best place to purchase it.
3. Camp John Hay
Camp John Hay, named after the 37th United States Secretary of State, was once an exclusive recreational area for the employees and military personnel of the United States of America. Today, it has several areas open to the public, including a picnic place, a butterfly sanctuary, and a commercial center, among others. Camp John Hay is also popular for its world-class Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, which is believed to be the only one in the country to have bentgrass greens. If you are into upscale hotels, there are several of them inside the complex, like John Hay Manor and The Suites.
4. Baguio City Public Market
A trip to Baguio wouldn’t be complete without visiting the local public market. Located at the lower end of Session Road, the Baguio City Market has hundreds of shops selling the freshest vegetables and fruits harvested in nearby areas of Benguet and Ifugao. It is also the go-to place for local specialty food, including strawberry jam and peanut brittle, as well as native products and handicrafts ranging from baskets and bags to wood carvings and jewelry. For a taste of local food, there are “carinderias” or small food stores at the upper part of the market that offer inexpensive native food choices.
5. Ili Likha Artist Village
An art gallery and a food hub in one, the Ili Likha Artist Village is owned by the multi-awarded Filipino filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik. It features paintings and sculptures from various indigenous tribes, but the building itself, seemingly wrapped around an old tree, is already a wonderful piece of art itself. It might not look like one if you stare at the building from the outside, but once you enter Ili Likha, it will be as though you have been transported to a whole new world. After feasting your eyes on quirky art pieces, you can also feast on healthy and delicious meals offered by their in-house food establishments.
6. Mount Santo Tomas
Mount Santo Tomas is the highest point in Baguio City, just a few minutes away from the city proper and reachable by both private and public vehicles. It offers a view of the surrounding towns like La Union and Lingayen Gulf. If the weather permits, you might even get to see a beautiful sea of clouds from the viewing deck. Aside from the views, another reason why both local and foreign tourists love Mount Santo Tomas is the Cafe in the Sky. This popular dining place on top of a mountain serves delicious meals made from locally harvested ingredients.
7. Burnham Park, Mines View Park, and Botanical Garden
Baguio has several public parks you can visit, whether you love taking long walks or you’re simply looking for a budget-friendly activity. There’s Burnham Park for instance, named after the American urban designer Daniel Burnham. It features a man-made lake in the middle of the park and it is a venue for various recreational activities like boating, biking, and football games. Another must-see is the Botanical Garden, formerly known as the Ifugao Village, which has pathways lined with different species of plants and trees. If you want a glimpse of Benguet’s gold and copper mines, head over to Mines View Park with a viewing deck and binocular rentals.
8. Laperal White House and Diplomat Hotel
Since time immemorial, local tales have been going around regarding the existence of supernatural elements in the old buildings of Baguio. Recently, a local tour company turned these hair-raising legends into an attraction by establishing ghost hunting tours in the city. Called the Pine City Fright Tours, they take guests to the most popular haunted houses in Baguio including the Laperal White House, a mansion once occupied by the Japanese military, and the Diplomat Hotel, a 33-bedroom hotel that ceased operations in 1987. If this sounds exciting to you, go and give it a try!
9. Cafe by the Ruins
Cafe by the Ruins has long been a local favorite for its fresh pastries and authentic Filipino food. Despite being in the heart of the city, its forest-like ambience stands out, complemented by wooden furniture and local art pieces. The restaurant can be pretty jampacked especially during weekends, so reserving a seat in advance is recommended. Some of their best-sellers include the Baguio Bagnet, a twice fried pork belly dish, and strawberry shortcake, which is only available during the harvest season.
10. The Mansion
Although the main building is not open to the public, The Mansion still remains one of the top tourist destinations in the city of Baguio. It is the official summer residence of the President of the Philippines, with a mini-museum filled with memorabilia from the country’s former presidents. Its main gate is said to be a replica of that at London’s Buckingham Palace, while its well-manicured gardens are perfect for sightseeing and picture-taking.
More reasons to love Baguio
See Baguio come to life during the Panagbenga Festival, a flower festival celebrated by the locals every February. Included in the festivities are street parades and colorful floats, as well as exhibits and concerts. If you wish to visit during this season, be sure to book your hotels and tours as early as three months before your trip. Accommodations and tour providers easily get fully booked at this time of the year!
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