Baguio may be the summer capital of the Philippines, but whatever the season, this city never fails to disappoint.
Written by PATRICIA MAE TAN
Photographed by CEDRIC SOLIDON
Baguio was once the country’s go-to destination during the summer. Many people have happy memories of its cool mountain breeze and abundance of flora and fauna. Despite the mushrooming of shopping malls here and the gradual, inevitable transformation of Baguio from a quiet mountain city to a highly modernized busy tourist destination, there is still much to see and experience here.
The Road to Good Eats
The best way to start a morning in Baguio City is to enjoy a hearty breakfast at the well-loved Café by the Ruins. Located along busy Shuntug Road, Café by the Ruins is a restaurant known for its Cordillera-inspired Filipino dishes. Local favorites include the Filipino “Lon-Si-Log” (marinated pork cubes, garlic rice and sunny side up egg) and Farmer’s Morning Feast (thick slices of home-cured bacon, one egg and rice or hot pan de sal), paired with either a cup of steaming hot Black Ruins Coffee (70% Robusta and 30% Arabica beans, freshly ground and brewed to perfection) or Chocolate de Agua (a drink made from bittersweet chocolate tablea, with a hint of sugar). With their hearty meals and delicious freshly baked bread, Café by the Ruins offers a memorable Baguio dining experience.
Trip to the famous Session Road would not be complete without stopping by Pizza Volante for a quick bite. Do not let the simple interiors of Pizza Volante fool you. The restaurant—one of the few in Baguio that is open 24/7—is packed day and night because of their menu of simple but elegantly executed Italian staples. Must-trys include their Smoked Salmon Pizza (smothered with mouth-watering smoked salmon and onions), Pizza Hanna (topped with sausage patties), and Pesto on Pasta (made with fresh basil, garlic, roasted nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese).
Another well-loved restaurant on Session Road is Oh My Gulay. Foodies will enjoy their menu of healthy and delicious vegetarian food, and artists will feel at home in the Victor Oteyza Community Artspace (VOCAS)—a gallery dedicated to Victor Oteyza, a Baguio artist . The restaurant, owned by Filipino artist Kidlat Tahimik, is home to Victor Oteyza’s gallery, one of 13 Baguio artists who pioneered Philippine Modern Art. Start with the OMG Salad, their trademark salad of assorted greens with honey-mustard and herb dressing, and the Anak ng Puttanesca, their version of puttanesca with a kick of cayenne pepper. Wash down your meal with a cold glass of their Dayap Iced Tea, made with lime-infused brewed tea, or with a hot cup of Tsokolate.
The Best of Baguio
When people think of Baguio, places such as Burnham and Mines View Park, Lourdes Grotto, Camp John Hay and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) almost always come to mind. But a different adventure awaits at the BenCab Museum, on Km. 6 Asin Road, 15 minutes from the Baguio city center. Benedicto Reyes Cabrera—more popularly known as BenCab—is a master of contemporary Philippine art. Widely known as a painter and printmaker not just in the Philippines but also in Asia, Europe and the United States, he has won several major art awards including the prestigious title of National Artist in 2006. The BenCab Museum is home to many of the artist’s original masterpieces, as well as the artworks of renowned Filipino artists and rising contemporary artists. The space also has a sprawling garden and a café named after BenCab’s muse, Café Sabel, which serves fresh organic food sourced from BenCab’s organic farm.
Picking strawberries in the strawberry fields of La Trinidad Valley is one of the best experiences you wouldn’t want to miss when in Benguet, just 30 minutes from the Baguio city center. Prices are higher—than can be found in the market, but the experience is more than worth it. Strawberry picking season is from November to May.
Mother’s Garden is Baguio’s best-kept secret. Owned by Baguio resident Therese Jison and conceptualized in 2009, Mother’s Garden is a sanctuary in the middle of the city, where you can walk through gardens of organically grown herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers, and pet and feed farm animals. You can also explore the Ifugao terrace and the different traditional dwellings of the tribes, and try your hand at planting, woodcarving, pottery, weaving and painting. There’s also a quaint café called Panorama Café where guests can enjoy fresh organic salad, tapas and wine.
The Suite Life
When it comes to accommodations, The Manor at Camp John Hay sets the standard for first-class hospitality in Baguio. Nestled in 246 hectares of some of the primest land in Baguio, the four-storey structure was designed to blend seamlessly with towering pine trees and the majestic Cordillera mountain range. Since it opened in December 2001, guests have traveled all the way to Baguio just to stay at The Manor’s comfortable rooms, and to savor meals prepared by Chef Billy King at the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Le Chef. The Manor at Camp John Hay is distinguished not just by its impressive architecture but by its cozy interiors— paneled walls and wooden furniture evoke a Filipino-colonial feel and reflect the rich history of the old Baguio. It’s no surprise that, after all these years, the allure of The Manor hasn’t faded.
Another, slightly more pocket-friendly option in Baguio is The Forest Lodge—also a property of Camp John Hay. Located just a few steps from The Manor, The Forest Lodge offers the best of both worlds: living spaces that are big on comfort, and a surrounding tranquil environment that offers numerous fun activities.
Whether you want to escape the sweltering heat or the deafening hustle and bustle of the city, there is always a reason for you to make that exciting climb to Baguio. Indeed, Baguio is a place to enjoy, explore and experience, whether you’re visiting it for the first time or you’re coming back—after years of fond memories—for more.
Where to Eat
Café by the Ruins
23 Chuntug Street, Baguio City
(+63 74) 442 4010
Session Theater Building, 82 Session Road, Baguio City
(+63 74) 445 0777
Oh My Gulay (OMG) Artist Café
La Azotea Building, 108 Session Road, Baguio City
(+63 74) 446 0108
Where to Go
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM to 6 PM
Km. 6 Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet
(+63 74) 442 7165
Upper Fairview Road, Quezon Hill Proper, Baguio City
(+63 74) 424 3702
Benguet State University, La Trinidad, Benguet