Baguio City, dubbed as the summer capital of the Philippines, is among the top holiday destinations in the country. This city of pines vastly surrounded by trees has one of the freshest air across the archipelago.
With the opening of TPLEX (Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway) in 2013 the average driving time from Manila has been reduced to 5 hours.
We left from Muntinlupa at 6 in the morning. After an hour we stopped over at Petron KM23 in Marilao, Bulacan for breakfast, the biggest gasoline station and commercial complex along northbound NLEX (North Luzon Expressway). Major food chains are available here like Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Pancake House, Jollibee, Army Navy, Shakey’s and many more. They also have air-conditioned restroom facilities exclusive for Petron cardholders.
We hit the road again at 8 and by noon we were at the Lion’s Head along Kennon Road, a 40 feet limestone statue. It’s a very popular landmark. An icon that marks your visit to Baguio. Previously black now painted as gold. Few snapshots later we continued towards Loakan Road and to our first major stop.
Choco-Late de Batirol
A secret garden hidden in Igorot Park, Camp John Hay. Charmingly surrounded by plants and covered by rainforest trees. The unique setting is made up of wooden and recycled materials, from walls to roof, to chairs and tables. Forget the malls and try something indigenous.
One of their specialties is the Chocolate de Batirol itself. Cooked from a cacao variety locally grown in the Cordillera region.
For lunch we ordered Beef Caldereta, a Filipino beef stew, Sarciadong Tilapia, tilapia fish simmered in tomatoes and eggs, and Suman Sa Lihia for dessert, a rice delicacy.
We also got acquainted with some new friends.
After lunch we checked in at Azalea Residences in Leonard Wood Loop. Located across Teacher’s Camp it is accessible to most attractions like Session Road, Burnham Park, Camp John Hay and Mines View Park. Just about 10 minute drive without traffic.
2 bedrooms with king and queen beds along with a sofa bed in the living room this suite can accommodate 6 persons. The unit also has 2 bathrooms. The cost, roughly P8,500 per night.
A good place for a leisurely walk is this stretch of commercial centers at the heart of the city. Stroll from the top down to Maharlika for some shopping and dining. Due to the heavy downpour we had to drive around instead.
Bistro by Hill Station
After the joyride we had some late night snacks at Bistro by Hill Station. Located at the Ayala Technohub in Camp John Hay. We had Caesar Salad, a slice of chocolate cake and coffee.
Baguio City has implemented a number coding scheme similar to that of Metro Manila. The information from the official government website is limited but according to the hotel front desk the scheme only applies to the central business district area which covers Session Road, Burnham Park and the encompassing vicinity.
As it turned out my car plate was included in the scheme the next day. But having grown up in the north I was able to navigate the outskirts and continue with our itinerary.
The official summer residence of the President of the Philippines. Located along Romulo Drive on the way to Mines View Park. We woke up at sunrise to avoid the crowd.
Mines View Park
An observation deck overlooking the mountains and mining town of Itogon. I remember when I was young there were a lot of kids waiting by the cliffs for tourists to throw coins. They would then catch them trying to outrun each other.
Good Shepherd Convent
A cluster of pastries stores located along Gibraltar Road just next to Mines View Park. Save a lot of space in your trunk to bring home jars and jars of ube halaya (sweet purple yam), strawberry jam, chocolate flakes and lengua de gato (far from being made from feline tongue, these cookies merely resemble the shape hence the name).
Laperal White House
A beautiful Victorian architecture once occupied by the Japanese. Some say this house is haunted. We checked out the place late at night but it was blind dark. Come morning we went back to find some ghosts. Or do they usually just show up at night?
252 steps of pilgrimage. This famed shrine is not for the faint-hearted. Luckily we have a senior citizen on board. The guards allowed us to drive through the steep and winding narrow road going up to the church and altar. Whew!