About two months ago, we made a sudden decision to visit Baguio overnight. This time, we went back with friends for a planned trip to welcome the summer. We went to the usual suspects: Pizza Volante, Vizco's Strawberry shortcake, Baguio Craft Brewery, Lourdes Grotto, Cafe by the Ruins, BenCab Museum, Camp John Hay, Mines View, Good Shepherd, O'Mai Khan, and 50's Diner. A safe, fun for all, deliciously-filled trip to the country's summer capital.
If you're just like a lot of 90's kids, you probably went to Baguio at least once a year until you were about 12 years old. And if you've been planning to go back after all these years, a lot of things have changed. Aside from the grueling traffic, sidewalk and canal cleanliness is questionable especially if you're the type who likes to experience the city by walking. The city is also very crowded with vendors, tourists and residents alike. So no, it's not the same dreamy vacation spot you thought your childhood is about.
To save you the trouble, here are some of the things I suggest you do and don't do to make the most of your visit back to Baguio.
If you're in it for your faith and a little bit of work-out, go dude go! There is a new wooden-chapel at the peak that will be perfect for your quiet prayers. But if you want to go there to get a good view of the city, don't, just don't. You can have a better view from your hotel balcony.
Camp John Hay
Search online if there are specific activities in the area and ask around the camp for other new activities. There's more to it than Manor and picnic grounds.
Don't go for the view, go for tourist-typical pasalubong. Not only is the cliff for viewing crowded, the view isn't much to see anymore - you'll see more houses compared to before. But do find time to visit the horses and the St. Bernard dogs. It's nice to take pictures with them but try not to ride the horses anymore, they seem worn out, and the decorations on them are unnecessary. Pet them instead and see if they get right treatment.
Worth the visit of course. Not only are the collection and original artwork true treasures of our country, the backyard eco view gives you a glimpse of what Baguio felt like decades ago.
Affordable, filling, delicious, generous ingredients. Milk shake! Strawberry shake! Shrimp pizza! Carbonara! If you're in Session Road, it is a sin not to have dinner. Be patient though, kitchen finds it quite difficult to cope with the number of orders for weekend dinners.
Mongolian cuisine isn't something you'll look for when you're in Baguio but this place is a must try especially their hot pot. A great place for family gatherings and hungry dinners.
We go here for their Strawberry shortcake, a slice is good for dessert but the whole cake is enough for a meal. As much as it is a pretty and delectable pasaslubong, I suggest you don't bring it home back to the city because it finds it difficult to maintain the chilled cream's consistency.
Cafe by the Ruins
No argument here man - go for breakfast and lunch. Pig out, no judgement.
This tourist destination was on the brink of closing forever, but much to our delight it didn't. I don't particularly like going here for the food - I wouldn't say it is spectacular, but it's authenticity to the idea of an American old school diner is spot on. It gives you the feel of being elsewhere while you're already on vacation.
Baguio Craft Brewery
What better way to share the experience of your Baguio trip to colleagues back in Manila but with beer. They have their own 6-pack that you can buy for about PhP 990 as well as branded shirts. While you're there, of course enjoy Lagum - Strawberry flavored beer and they also have some mean buffalo wings!
Looooooong lines... If you absolutely love their ubeng halaya, I suggest you buy them from their branch in Tagaytay - closer to the city and the lines are not that long. But if you're buying chocolate crinkles, chocolate coated cereals or whatever they call them, better go to the market where you can get them more quickly.
Cookies by the Pink Sisters
Along Brent Road, a few blocks away from 50's diner, is the convent of the Pink Sisters. There is a chapel there for your peaceful prayers and you're lucky if you can have mass with the sisters. No, you can't bring them home but what you can bring home are their cookies!!! Their unique cookies are at a pricey rate of Php200 per jar but I promise you, this is worth buying. Buy more for yourself please. Getting them is tricky. There's another door along the driveway after the chapel door. Enter that door and there's a light bulb on the upper right side of the middle door. If it's NOT lit, you can ring the doorbell underneath it and a sister will open a little window to ask how many of the cookies you'd like. Just give her a few minutes and she'll place it on a compartment on the left side where you can pick it up. Don't forget to pay sister of course. :D
On the way home, just before you enter TPLEX, there's an area along the highway for corn vendors. Buy, just buy! It looks weird I know but just buy it. I forgot what the lady said they're called but boy was I happy I bought them anyway. The source is quite questionable but each cob is as filling as sweet corn, chewy like white corn but with a tad bit of sweetness. A great snack on your long ride back to Manila.
There are a lot of new destinations in Baguio and on the way to Baguio that you can explore. You can search them online prior to your trip or ask the locals for their new go-to places. Just make sure you ask about the accessibility if you're bringing a car or how frequent cabs pass by those places.
Despite these changes, by all means, go back. See how things you held on to have changed and how you can explore a familiar place through new destinations.
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