Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Choco-late De Batirol












Almost every Filipino vacationer has a memory of a Baguio City getaway. Whether distinct or faint, the details all point back to a tactile experience of the city of pines. Nights were biting cold. Coffee tasted nuttier. The fabric on one's sweater felt so warm and it was alright. Ask anyone who had been in this side of Benguet and you will certainly get a list of things to do, places to visit, and hotels to book. For that matter, let me indulge you with my own list of such recommendations which I can only base on previous visits up north. It may not be as extensive as most lists are online, but they're definitely as personal as anyone's.

I actually came to decide on having this compilation of recommendations after seeing my US-based auntie post on Facebook an old photo of my grandparents who looked like they were posing next to giant pine trees. She did confirm the venue of the photo to be Baguio City after I inquired about it in the comment thread. Heck, it could have been shot in Tagaytay but instant nostalgia always brings Baguio to mind.

As ode to my dad's old folks, this is my list of must-see sites, must-taste food, must-book inns and must-do side trips in the country's vacation capital:

Must-See Sites

Score Affordable Supplies At The Baguio City Public Market

Baguio City Public Market
Every city or town always has a reliable public market and Baguio has one such place as venue for affordable goods that you can buy as souvenirs to give to loved ones or as supplies back home. Remember that it's wiser to purchase where they are stocked in bulk which is in a marketplace rather than buying in haste at the bus terminal where prices are known to be higher.

Shop For Souvenirs At The Easter Weaving Room

Easter Weaving Room
The city's public market may have all the cheap finds that the province of Benguet has to offer, but it's at Easter Weaving where its ethnic culture is most palpable and you don't have to leave Baguio for it. The facility is a modern structure that started operation as early as 1908. On the ground floor, visitors can shop around for fabrics of various ethnic designs from Sinanbituin to Kinen-ew-inspired. At the basement is the actual weaving room where ladies are assigned in their respective textile-equipped weaving stations. Walk around the room to view how the products are made. You can even strike conversations with the weavers.

Patronize Locally Published Books At Mt. Cloud Bookshop

Mt. Cloud Bookshop
For book finds in the city, it's better to patronize the neighborhood bookstore called Mt. Cloud that's located next to Casa Vallejo along Upper Session Road. Bibliophile or not, any guest can consider a step into its charming space as a break from touring the streets of the city on foot. With a selection of about 80% Filipiniana, it's also a chance to shop for artisan books and contemporary reading materials about the Cordillera Region. Being just a little more than 5 years old, the independent bookshop is considered as a thought sanctuary in the city for hosting book launches of local authors.

Pass The Time At The Orchidarium and Mine's View Park

Orchidarium
Every destination has an enduring attraction and Baguio has two in the form of its Orchidarium and Mine's View Park. It's where most adults tend to kill time because of the relaxing scenery of lush greenery. The Orchidarium is right next to Burhham Park, so a visit of the latter can also be conveniently scheduled when you're in the area. As for Mine's View Park, mingling with the crowd there is charming enough an activity as it enhances one's personality as a random tourist.

Revisit Old Baguio Via Camp John Hay's The Bell House and Amphitheater 

The Bell House and Amphitheater
When visiting Camp John Hay, make sure to drop by the Bell Amphitheater, an outdoor attraction that was built in honor of General James Franklin Bell who served as Brigadier General in the Philippines in the early 1900s. Its terrace of flowers always leaves tourists satisfied as something like it is no longer available in congested cities outside of Baguio. Right next to it is the Bell House which was once a vacation quarters for General Bell and a few American ambassadors. The rustic but well-maintained house always looks regal from its location where one can view the distant Benguet mountain range and Mt. Pulag on its sprawling wooden veranda.

Must-Taste Food

Warm Up To Choco-late De Batirol

Choco-late De Batirol
Choco-late De Batirol in Camp John Hay is where you can have a soothing hot cup of strawberry chocolate in the city and feel like a hobbit at the same time. The charming dining destination is a garden of sorts that's been transformed into a cozy semi-al fresco nook for warm drinks and delicious snacks. Its turon with langka is highly recommended as a snack to pair with your flavored drink.

Relive The Delicious American Nostalgia At '50s Diner

'50s Diner
Tourists on a tight budget love dining at '50s Diner because aside from being served hefty orders, they get to fantasize dining over American-style treats of burgers, wings and milkshakes in a retro-designed venue. For example, its order of Grandma's Fried Chicken can set back a customer for less than two hundred pesos only. With four pieces of deep fried chicken in a set, it can easily satisfy two hungry customers!

Trace The City's Spanish Heritage Via Te Quiero

Te Quiero at Microtel By Wyndham
Feasting on Te Quiero's authentic Spanish dishes is a great way to look back in history when the early Spaniards established more than 20 settlements in the city a long time ago. There's no escaping the rich Spanish heritage there because Benguet province's coffee, for starters, was introduced in the area by Spanish colonizers. Also, La Trinidad, a municipality next to Baguio, was named after the wife of a Spanish commandant who was known to have conquered the place for Spain. This makes sense that a taste of Baguio City is also a taste of Spain.

Sample World Flavors At The Coffee Library

The Coffee Library
Operated by Baguio-native and professor Stephen Zarate, The Coffee Library is almost a year old only as of this writing and yet it has captured the attention, time, and money of many residents and tourists in the city when it comes to interesting brew options and reliable snacks that complement them. Should you be in Session Road or at the cathedral, walk a little further to where Rex Bookstore is and you'll find the restaurant as an essential stopover for world drinks and snacks. You'll be surprised to see new flavors from different parts of the globe as Zarate is known to be inventive when it comes to keeping the cafe's menu updated. Last I heard, he's now serving his version of the Vietnamese favorite Banh Mi.

Mix It Up At Masa Mexitalian Grub

Masa Mexitalian Grub
After a stint abroad and with a chance to start his own restaurant in the Philippines, Chef Geo realised that Mexican and Italian dishes have become a part of the Filipino diet so much so that some even have them both in a day. Since he grew up in Baguio City, he decided to come home and open Masa Mexitalian Grub in Trancoville. Highly recommended orders are its Beef Ribs, Artichoke Pizza, and Prawn Feta,

Taste The Institution That Is Sizzling Plate

Sizzling Plate
Given that the climate in the city is cold most of the time, locals and tourists have learned to love the charm that sizzling food can bring to their meals. This is why the enduring Sizzling Plate is considered as a dining institution in this side of Benguet. Proof of this is its Session Road branch having a long line of hungry customers on peak hours.

Have Street Food Dumpling Like A Korean Minority

Korean Dumplings
Koreans are starting to be the popular minority in Baguio and Korean food is the evidence of this phenomenon. The best way to prove this is through a street food crawl in the city which lets you see where most of them actually eat when they're on break from their English studies. Near Burnham Park is where they can be found -- a set of food stalls that sell varied tasty novelties that include affordable Korean dumplings for no more than Php10 per piece. The sizzling and crunchy Gimmari and Gun Mandu are a must-try because they are clearly being patronized by the foreign students with so much nostalgia. And, interestingly, Filipinos are the ones selling them.

Indulge In A Slice of Carrot Cake By Ebai's Cafe & Pastry

Ebai's Cafe & Pastry
You've probably heard of Carrot Man's rise to fame. He's that young vegetable farmer from Mountain Province who, with his cute looks, charmed social media until he landed modeling jobs in Metro Manila. Well, since fresh vegetables are abundant in this part of mainland Luzon, a taste of carrot cake is also an inevitable dessert to have in Baguio. And Ebai's Cafe & Pastry is an affordable venue to have a slice thereof. One branch of the restaurant can be found in Session Road near the city cathedral.

Eat Lechon Mami Like A Local Via Sab-atan Restaurant

Lechon Mami by Sab-atan Restaurant
What used to be only a tired traveler's quick meal before heading to Sagada is now a favorite local snack near the public market. Sab-atan is an eatery that's frequented by those en route for Mountain Province and it's where an affordable but delicious bowl of Lechon Mami can be ordered any time of the day for less than a hundred pesos.

Must-Book Inns

Save On Long Stays At Baguio GM Apartel

Baguio GM Apartel
With the reliable comfort of a modern home, Baguio GM Apartel is easily a better choice in Baguio City than rickety inns where I've encountered friends to have lost stuff from robbers in the past. It's also unlike standard hotels in the city proper where road noise is unbearable. The quiet neighborhood of old Scout Barrio (lower) where it's located is just a stroll away from Camp John Hay, so the highland vibe is not lost in the presence of lush pine trees. Most of all, its guestroom rates are affordable which makes long stays here truly worth one's money.

Experience Baguio Heritage Via The Peredo's Lodging House

Peredo's Lodging House
An iconic stay in Baguio is one that evokes the old highland charm of the city. You have not really experienced this side of Benguet if you've only managed to spend the night there inside a modern hotel that has a design issue with the terrain. After all, the place is historic and an American-style home like the Peredo's Lodging House is what fits this rumination. Having recently been declared as a national heritage site by the National Museum, it's considered to be both an important cultural property and treasure. Built in 1915 by Japanese craftsmen under the supervision of owner Roque Peredo with Mr. Hashiguchi as contractor, the century-old house has endured a lot of challenges. From a global depression to a couple of world wars, it came out unscathed. It also survived the destructive 1990 earthquake that damaged more than 30 establishments in the city, making it an expedient sanctuary for the owners' friends and relatives whose homes were destroyed.

Stay At The Institution That Is Mountain Lodge

Mountain Lodge
For its classic highland aesthetic that's still surrounded by pine trees, Mountain Lodge is highly recommended. Its standard room can fetch for as low as Php1,700 on peak season which is affordable given that a lot of hotels and inns in the city are nowhere near any set of pine trees anymore. This lodge is like a home away from home because of its fireplace-decked lobby and attractive garden.

Be At The Center of Everything Via Microtel By Wyndham-Baguio

Microtel By Wyndham-Baguio
Aside from its unlimited serving of coffee and well-appointed rooms, Microtel By Wyndham is located next to the popular Victory Liner bus terminal. There is even a fancy walk deck that connects both properties for the convenience of commuting guests. Session Road is just a stroll away and it's highly accessible from any point in the city.

Must-Do Side Trips

Enjoy A Day Hike of Mount Ulap In Itogon

At the Gungal Rock Formation (Mount Ulap day hike)
A good 40-minute jeepney ride away from Baguio City is Itogon where a day hike of Mount Ulap is possible. The best time to start one's hike is at 9:00am which means leaving the comforts of your booked Baguio hotel or inn at around 6:00am. In between, you're taking a chance seated inside an Itogon-bound jeepney ride that needs to be full before it leaves for its destination. By 4:00pm, you will have finished the traverse and you can arrive back at your booked hotel or inn before 6:00pm just in time for dinner.

For more details about this side trip, read more about Mount Ulap.

Linger At The Strawberry Farm In La Trinidad

Strawberry Farm
A visit of La Trinidad's Strawberry Farm is considered to be the most popular side trip among typical Baguio City tourists because it's accessible via one jeepney ride. At the site, you can take a gander at the vastness of the farm where strawberries are being grown and sold in abundance, including other vegetable products.

Check Out The Country's Source of Flowers Via The Bahong Rose Farm

Bahong Rose Farm
La Trinidad's village of Bahong is nestled on a valley and is generously surrounded by Benguet’s mountain peaks, making it a perfect venue to grow roses and other types of flowers. To reach it from Baguio City, you will need to board a La Trinidad-bound jeepney and get off near the junction of the town hall where the van terminal for Bahong is located. In case there's no passenger van available, you can board another jeepney that will let you get off at the corner of the street descent to the village. From there, you can reach the flower farm in 15-20 minutes on foot, depending on your pace.

For more details about this side trip, read more about the Bahong Rose Farm.

Enjoy your next Baguio City vacation! Every memory counts.

Eager for more travel recommendations? Check out the following posts:

• 10 Resorts and Hotels With Attractive Swimming Pool Views
• 7 Charming Resorts and Hotels For Pre-Nuptial Photo Shoots
• 10 Luxury Hotels and Resorts To Book For Pampered Vacations
• 8 Less Explored Attractions In The Philippines
• 10 Extraordinary Resorts and Hotels To Book In The Philippines
• 3 Essential Events Place In Metro Manila For Weddings, Birthdays, and More

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