Located 1,540 meters above sea level in the mountains of Benguet, Baguio is one of the highest cities in the Philippines. That altitude and the inland location of the city gives Baguio unique characteristics; it is one of the few places in the Philippines where pines, orchids, and other exotic flora flourish. Most notably, however, Baguio is noted for its chilly climate, which is way unexpected considering that the Philippines is a hot, tropical country.
No wonder Baguio is called the Summer Capital of the Philippines; tourists flock over to the high-altitude city to escape the lowland heat during the summer. For us, climbers, who have struggled to reach the top of ice-cold Mt. Pulag, touring Baguio was a fitting reward for a memorable climb. For Sweetie and I, going around the city constitutes our post-Valentines date.
We already booked a room prior to our Mt. Pulag climb, so all we needed to do was to check in. After freshening up and changing into clean, dry clothes, we went to the city center to have a proper dinner after 3 days in the wilderness.
Being the food adventurers that we are, we ordered some delicious viands— grilled ito fillet, Bicol express, dinakdakan, and more. Our mouth watered as we sniffed in the delicious scents.
Those dishes look really mouthwatering, aren’t they? We finished them all with audible gusto. Surprisingly, this feast for six people was quite affordable; everything costs us less than 500.
A short walk from the food establishment where we ate was Baguio City’s famous night market where the night owls of Baguio congregate. The kilometer-long market occupies an entire street where vendors hawk all kinds of items—apparel, decorations, electronics, and more. You name it, they have it. If you’re a compulsive shopper, then the Baguio night market is the right place for you
Sweetie bought nice shoes for Alexa and head bonnets for our future travels. I was also able to find a very nice North Face hard shell, waterproof jacket which I bought for just P 700! Now that’s a great bargain!
The best part of the night market is their street food. For less than a hundred pesos, you can have a full meal right at the sidewalk! And the variety is staggering—squid balls, fish balls, barbecues, batchoy, kwek-kwek, and more.
One of the strangest and most exotic street food we encountered are sticks of barbecued chicks! They’re crunchy, and they taste—just like chicken!
We have already planned separate itineraries for our side trips. Thus, before parting with the rest of the team the morning after our late-night shopping spree, we had a home-cooked (make it room-cooked as the room we booked in has a kitchen) breakfast of spicy noodles, scrambled eggs, and cold cuts right in our hotel’s tree-rich yard.
Isn’t that amazing? An outdoor breakfast with the city of Baguio in full view!
After saying goodbye to our companions, we headed out to Burnham Park, one of Baguio’s biggest and most famous landmarks. Named after Daniel Burnham, an American urban planner and architect who made plans for the city.
Having an area of 32.84 hectares, Burnham Park is one of the largest parks in the country. With brick-paved pathways, colorful flowers, lofty trees, and more, it is beautifully and meticulously landscaped and maintained by the local government. It is a great place for families and friends to hang out.
The park has plenty of open spaces where organizers can hold concerts, sports events, and performance shows.
These colorful playhouses will surely delight children and kids at heart.
This group serenaded and gave roses to random couples who spent post-Valentines dates in Burnham Park. Buskers, vendors, and street entertainers mill around the park any time of the day.
A large area of the park is occupied by Burnham Lake, a man-made lake where visitors can enjoy paddling and lazily riding boats. That’s a great way to relax at the center of a busy city.
Different operators have different styles of boats. Check out those nice swan-shaped boats. If we recall correctly, you can ride these boats for a hundred pesos or less for half an hour.
Get an encompassing view of the lake on this platform. You can also dress up in Ifugaonon garments and have your souvenir photo taken here.
This intricate sculpture depicts the 5 main Igorot tribes of the region—the Ibalois, Kalingas, Bontocs, Kankanaeys, and Ifugaos. Many local chess enthusiasts gather here to compete one another.
An entire street that originally divided Burnham Park into two sections is now closed and made into a bicycle rink. Kids and adults can rent bikes and pedal to their hearts’ content.
At the southern end of Burnham Park is a covered skating rink, children’s playground, and arcade.
A little tired after walking around, Sweetie and I headed out to one of the large open spaces in the park where we snacked on some fresh, sweet strawberries that we bought from a hawker a bit earlier. A taho vendor passed by, so we ordered two cups of delicious strawberry-flavored taho (warm, fresh curdled soy milk flavored with strawberry syrup and garnished with soft tapioca pearls).
Strawberry is Baguio’s most popular agricultural product. The cool temperature and lack of soil acidity in the region make Baguio an ideal place for growing the fruit
Is there an airport in downtown Baguio? No, it’s just a two-seater airplane brought there by a local aviation school.
These cool police officers are super helpful. They showed us how to get to our planned destinations, public transportation fares, and more. They even insisted that we take the only city map that they have in their possession! Of course, we politely declined.
Local law enforcement are some of the best people to approach to for assistance whenever you are traveling in a new place.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Atonement
Just a ten-minute walk away from the Burnham Park, we found an alley with a long flight of stairs. We wondered why there were plenty of people walking up these steps. Oh, I didn’t have cramps this time.
The 100-plus staircase led to the majestic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Atonement, locally known as Baguio Cathedral. It is quite distinctive with its light beige interior and twin spires that are adorned with stained glass.
The interior of the church is just as beautiful as the outside. Check out that gracefully arched ceiling of the long nave. Also take note of the domed altar, which is lined with gold coating.
We didn’t stay long in the church because we felt we were intruding in a mass. We headed downtown to find this particular pizza place that is reputed to be the best in Baguio.
Along the way, we witnessed a group performing a classic Ifugao thanksgiving dance. The sound of gongs and drums along with the rhythmic movements gave us a faint glimpse of Ifugaonon culture.
Pizza Volante is a humble downtown restaurant. But their affordable menu is anything but humble! Their food items are truly beyond amazing, and we have to say that we got treated to one of the best pizzas we’ve ever tasted.
We ordered their topping-rich Kenny George Pizza, mouth-tingling Pesto on Pasta with Shrimp, and sinfully delicious Choco Vanilla Affair.
Excited for lunch, Sweetie? We also ordered their house specialty iced tea and kalamansi juice to wash down our meals.
We also ate some of the sweet and delicate macarons that we earlier bought from Le Jardin Oublie. The sweet meringue-based dessert was totally addictive and pleasant to the mouth.
Mines View Park
Following the tourist police instructions, we rode a jeepney to Mines View Park, which is located on top of the northeastern hills of Baguio City. All around the park are souvenir shops, restaurants, and service shops that all offer convenience to the happy tourist.
Mines View Park is actually a viewing point much like Tops in our own Cebu City. The park treats visitors to a spectacular view of Baguio’s verdant mountain ranges.
Inside the park are vendors who sell all kinds of beautiful ornamental plants. Check out the brick paver that line up the pathway.
Many of the flowers are made into beautiful arrangements. This ball of everlastings look particularly interesting.
Are you a gardening enthusiast? Then you will enjoy haggling with the flower vendors in Mines View Park. Also, for a small fee, tourists can dress up as native Ifugaos; scarves, skirts, and headdresses are made of authentic woven textiles.
Don’t forget to check out a group of young handlers with their gigantic and cuddly Saint Bernards.
Following the brick-paved pathway, we came to the viewing deck, which is located below street level. A round gazebo provides shelter from the searing sun.
We were treated to a remarkable view of the verdant mountains surrounding Amburayan Valley. Mines View Park is named so because it overlooks the old mining town of Itogon. As far as our eyes can see are the massive peaks that make up the Mountain Province.
After we had our fill of Mines View Park (after restraining ourselves not to touch those cuddly St. Bernards), we took a jeep and had a short ride to Wright Park, another one of Baguio’s prominent attraction.
The main park is actually on top of that hill.
Right at the base of the park is a row of magnificent ponies and stallions that are owned and operated by the Wright Park Pony Boy Association. They offer an hourly rate, so the longer your ride or the farther you go, the bigger the amount you will pay. Rate is P300 per hour and P200 per half an hour.
We have seen malnourished and abused horses in Cebu and Manila, but the ones in Wright Park are well fed, muscled, and strong. Kudos to their caretakers.
For starters, one can ride a horse around an established track at one part of the park. No need to fret if you don’t know how to ride a horse; a guide can make horseback riding an easy and pleasant experience for you.
It was time to go to the park proper. But first, we had to climb these stone steps; yes, it’s a long way up! But we enjoyed the scenery and the fresh air as we ascended the stairs.
At the top of the stairs is this nice roofless gazebo, which is made of pine tree logs. It’s sort of the nucleus of Wright Park.
Just look at those huge, tall pine trees and beautiful blossoms! No wonder Wright Park is hailed as a great place for those who want leisurely walks and pleasant chats. This is a perfect lover’s lane as well!
The highlight of Wright Park is this long, shallow reflecting pool with pine trees and flower boxes lining on both sides of it. We’re assuming that this a great place for those who want to warm up for their runs.
The white building in the background is The Mansion, the official summer residence of the Philippine President. It is also a venue of many important international functions.
Just check out that stunning scenery! Carefully manicured gardens, constantly swept pathways, sweet scents of pine, cool and fresh air, and an atmosphere of peace and quiet all make Wright Park a perfect place to unwind and relax.
Check out for Part 2 of our Baguio City tour.