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6 Ways to REALLY enjoy Baguio City
Baguio has always been a favorite summer destination especially among Metro Manila residents. The completion of the TPLEX and SCTEX made it even more accessible, so it’s now faster to go there even on weekends.
Aside from its nippy climate, the city’s charm lies in its many offerings—there always seems to be something new in every visit! So avoid the cliché touristy spots (ditch Burnham Park or Mines View, please!), and experience more than just sightseeing and selfies in the summer capital.
Eat your way around the city
Baguio is teeming with so many restaurants and eateries that a day or two might not be enough to try each.
Ketchup Community on Romulo Drive, for instance, is home to five restaurants: Canto is most famous for its barbecue ribs, so don’t be surprised to find a long waiting line. Happy Tummy offers delicious Thai fare. Rumah Sate serves filling Indonesian and Malaysian dishes. There’s also Rancho Norte if you’re craving for exotic food like tapang usa or tapang baboy ramo. Green Pepper is where you can readily find good ol’ pasta dishes and sandwiches.
For fresh Japanese cuisine, head to Chaya on Legarda Road. This resto is set in an old house, and can only seat a limited number of customers, so reservation is a must. For some yummy Greek grub, visit Lemon and Olives on Outlook Drive, and treat yourself to a generous plate of moussaka or souvlaki set against beautifully decorated interiors. Hike off to Oh My Gulay at the top floor of La Azotea Building on Session Road for some satisfying vegetarian dishes. If you want to dine away from the city center, drive to Ambuklao Road for Arca’s Yard, a quaint bed-and-breakfast that serves simple but filling meals (the camote pie is a must-try!).
Worth mentioning, of course, are the classic haunts: Le Chef’s (at The Manor) very satisfying dinner buffet; Café By The Ruins Dua’s mix of classic favorites and seasonal fares (sadly, the original iconic branch recently burned down); Hill Station’s selection of Asian and Continental dishes; Pizza Volante’s famous pizzas; and Vizco’s Restaurant’s desserts.
Go on a café crawl
Café Yagam on J. Felipe Street is set in a cozy, old house. Feel free to customize your cup according to brew (paper drip or French press), roast (light, medium, or dark), and strength (light, medium, or strong). The café also serves authentic Cordilleran cuisine like pinikpikan with etag (it’s like a creamy bowl tinola served with chunks of cured pork) and pinuneg (blood sausage).
For something different, head to The Coffee Library at Rex Hall on Upper Bonifacio Street. The place is home to Vietnamese coffee concoctions. Try a cup with yogurt and sticky rice or the eggnog coffee, and pair it with warm, crispy suman for good measure. The Coffee Library also serves Vietnamese dishes like pho.
For a no-fuss cup of joe, visit Patch Café on Leonard Wood Road. The place boasts Instagram-worthy interiors and a selection of delicious pastries to go with your macchiato.
Take a crash course on arts and culture
Baguio is home to many prolific artists like Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera, Kidlat Tahimik, Tommy Hafalla, and Ben Hur Villanueva. Next-generation artists, like Kawayan De Guia (son of Kidlat) and Bumbo Villanueva (son of Ben Hur), as well as a lot of young blood, keep the art scene in the city thriving.
Be part of this dynamic local industry by visiting galleries and museums that take pride in its homegrown artworks and vibrant culture. BenCab Museum on Asin Road, owned by national artist Benedicto Cabrera, boasts four floors of artworks and indigenous relics. The Victor Oteyza Community Art Space (VOCAS), which is owned by renowned filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, is an eclectic gallery that occasionally holds performances by local artists and musicians.
There’s also Ili-Likha Artist Village, also owned by Kidlat. It sports the same free-spirited vibe as VOCAS, but in a more unconventional setting: the place looks like a huge tree house, and the artworks make up the structure per se—mosaic tiles that form a pattern on the steps, carved tree limbs, and upcycled bottles used as art installations. A bonus: a handful of kiosks serve healthy and organic dishes.
If you’re a bibliophile, drop by Mt. Cloud Bookshop in Casa Vallejo on Upper Session Road. This tiny bookstore is brimming with good reads by Filipino authors. One corner is a haven for children’s books, while another houses adorable stationery and cute knickknacks. And just outside Mt. Cloud is the Cinematheque Baguio, where you can catch local indie films and Pinoy movies of old.
Shop for your home
Score export-quality wooden furniture and décor for a song from Sabado’s Handicrafts on Outlook Drive. More wooden pieces await on Asin Road, where a few meters away from BenCab is the Wood Carver’s Village. Or, if you happen to be at Camp John Hay, check out PNKY Vintage Collection at the Baguio Country Club. Here, you can find exquisite antiques that are great conversation pieces. And of course, the Baguio Public Market on Raja Soliman Street is a default destination when you want to hoard pasalubong—from fresh fruits and vegetables, to colorful walis tambo, silver jewelry, woven rugs, and woodenwares.
Take advantage of off-peak seasons
It may be counter-intuitive, but Baguio on off-peak seasons is more charming. Traffic in the already congested city (a sad fact) is bearable, there are no long waiting lines outside restaurants, and museums and shopping destinations are less packed, so you can freely roam around at a leisurely pace. Accommodation rates are also cheaper.
If you can, avoid heading up there on long weekends. Here’s a trick: those two or three weeks in between the annual Panagbenga Festival and the summer season is a perfect time to go as the city is practically empty of big tourist crowds.
Be a responsible traveler
Baguio has seen tourists come and go, but a major problem persists after the crowd has gone: trash. Let’s do our share in keeping the city clean and orderly, like how we would treat our own home. Avoid littering, bring a reusable water bottle so you don’t contribute to piles and piles of discarded plastic, and do enjoy the city by foot if you can. Doing so would help ensure that the City of Pines will always be as charming and welcoming to those of us who want to experience and enjoy its cool clime.
By Luthien Francisco