Baguio City famously known as The Summer Capital of the Philippines is located in the Province of Benguet. The name of the city was derived from bagiw, the Ibaloi word for “moss”. In 1900, the city was established by the Americans to be a hill station at the site of an Ibaloi village called Kafagway. Ibaloi is the indigenous language in the Benguet Region.
Being situated at an altitude of approximately 1,540 meters above sea level and being nestled within the Cordillera mountain range, the city has an average of 7 to 8°C lower temperate compared with places in the lowland area. And unlike other parts of the Philippines where temperature can be as high as 38 to 40 °C, it is seldom that Baguio City’s temperature exceeds 26°C even during the warmest period of the year. This makes the city a famous destination for local tourists during the summer season to escape the heat and during the year-end holidays to observe low temperatures rarely experienced in other provinces.
Aside from the natural and geographical features of Baguio City, there are several tourist spots and markets you can visit. It is also very convenient to go on a roadtrip as there are two major highways (Kennon Road and Marcos Highway) leading to the city. Hotels and restaurants ranging from budget to 5-star type are easily accessible and are located all around the city. As for the transportation, buses and shuttles are available to take you directly from Manila (or other provinces) to Baguio City. Taxis and jeepneys are also available upon arrival at the terminal and anywhere around the place.
To observe culture and the life of an indigenous group in the region, one must visit Tam-Awan Village. Other famous touristic destinations that you can add to your itinerary are: Burnham Park, Mines View Park, Good Shepherd Convent, The Mansion, Wright Park Riding Circle, Camp John Hay, Butterfly Sanctuary, Botanical Garden, Strawberry Farm, Baguio Museum, BenCab Museum (in Tuba). With the existence of the mentioned tourist spots and other amenities, Baguio City is considered as one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
Burnham Park, considered as the heart of Baguio City, is a 32-hectare tourist destination located at the center. It is called “mother of all parks” having almost the same level of familiarity to Filipinos as the Luneta Park of Manila.
The park is named after its American planner and designer, Daniel Hudson Burnham, one of the best architects in Chicago during his time. The original purpose of the park is to provide the city with a peaceful environment with a wide open green space. But then, as time goes under Filipino administration, Burnham Park was developed into a leisure park.
The main feature of Burnham Park is its man-made lake located at the center. Availing a boat ride is a must do when you visit. For an affordable price, you can rent a boat that is good for 2 – 6 persons, depending on the size. And you also have the option to hire someone to row the boat for you. There are a lot more activities for recreation and relaxation that are available at the park such as biking, skating, watching concerts and street performers, having picnic, watching football game, or just having a nice stroll around the park.
Mines View Park
The Mines View Park is one of the most visited sites in Baguio. It offers a perfect overlook of the mining town of Itogon; the abandoned gold and copper mines of Benguet Corporation and the stunning landscape of the Cordillera Mountains. The observation deck can be found upon entering the main entrance of park after a vast series of shops and food stalls.
Nowadays, visitors do not come to the park only for the view but also for the commercial activities around the area. Souvenirs, silverworks, woodworks, botanical shops are located there as well. And of course a visit to the Mines View Park would not be complete without a stop at the Good Shepherd Convent to avail the best quality of Baguio delicacies such as strawberry and ube jams, peanut and cashew brittle, and other goodies. Located just a few meters away from the Mines View Park, the convent also offer a nice view deck with the panorama of the Cordillera mountain range as a backdrop for photos.
The Mansion & Wright Park
The Mansion was built in 1908 to serve as the official summer residence of U.S. Governor – Generals to escape Manila’s heat. During World War II, on the battle for the liberation of the Philippines, the house was badly damaged and was rebuilt in 1947. The Mansion was eventually turned over to the Philippine President after the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth. Since then, it became the official summer residence; holiday home and working office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines.
It is one of the famous stops in Baguio City where visitors usually take photographs at the ornate Spanish-inspired main entrance; the most photographed section of the property. Presidential memorabilia are on public display at the The Mansion’s museum.
Across the road from The Mansion visitors can reach Wright Park, a park with classic style promenade, long reflecting pools lined with pine trees also known as Pool of Pines. The scenery at Wright Park is perfect to capture postcard type photographs. There are even spots where you can find Igorots dressed in their native costume and regalia who are willing to pose for a photograph for a very low fee. There are also paid photographers you can hire to take your shots anywhere around the park. Another tourist attraction found at the Park is Wright Park Riding Circle, the most popular horse riding venue for visitors and locals alike.
Philippine Military Academy
Philippine Military Academy (PMA) was established in 1936 as the official Philippine military school of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It is located at Fort Gregorio del Pilar, a sprawling 373-hectare compound in Loakan. PMA compound was named after Gen. Gregorio H. del Pilar in commemoration of his heroism in the historical battle of Tirad Pass. The academy boasts a long and respected history of molding and training highly qualified Filipino men and women for military service, living up to the academy’s motto – “Courage, Integrity, Loyalty”.
The gates are open for visitors who would like to explore the military grounds all year round. You can also visit PMA Museum, a home to some important historical military artifacts. Around the manicured grounds you can see and take pictures with vintage tanks and military weapons.
Military drills are conducted on a daily basis and are open for public viewing. However, if you are interested to witness some of their drill exhibitions, you must schedule your visit on a weekend. On the month of February, a series of events and celebrations take place including PMA’s highly regarded Alumni Homecoming. And by around 2nd or 3rd week of March, graduating ceremonies are conducted by the end of the school year – an event that is celebrated not only in Baguio but also nationwide.
If you are eager to watch a specific event, parade, or exhibition it is recommended that you contact PMA’s office administration to get the schedule of activities.
The Strawberry Farm, technically, is not part of Baguio City as it is located in La Trinidad, Benguet (a neighbouring town of Baguio City). Although it’s out of the city, it is still a nice and easy trip to include in your itinerary when you visit Baguio since it will only take you a few minutes drive to reach it.
Although it is called “Strawberry Farm”, the plantation is not exclusive to strawberries. The “Strawberry Farm” term was iconically coined by local tourist because it is famous for its strawberry plantation, something that is not abundant in the Philippines. Considering that Philippines has a tropical climate; not suitable for planting strawberries, Benguet is the biggest producer of strawberries in the country due to its cooler temperature.
Aside from a clearer view of the mountains and a vast plantation of different types of flowers, fruits and vegetables, visitors can pick fresh strawberries right from the plants. You can even have a free taste while you are at it! After the activity, you will have to pay for the total weight of your harvest. Prices may vary depending on the season. Usually, strawberry picking is open from November to May.
Aside from strawberry picking, visitors can take snapshots near the flower fields. One of the famous spots is the Sunflower field where visitors line up to have their photo taken near the towering Sunflower plants. Stalls are also located within walking distance selling fresh harvests from the farm and consumables made from strawberries such as Strawberry Wine, Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Taho, etc.
Located in the municipality of Tuba (6 kilometers away from Baguio City) lies BenCab – a place of harmonious fusion of Filipino art and cuisine, peaceful scenery of the mountains, marvelous landscape and modern architecture. The museum is owned by Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab) – awardee of the Order of National Artist for Visual Arts in Malacanang Palace by former-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was hailed as the best selling painter of his generation of Filipino artist as well.
The museum is the primary home of Ben Cab’s art collections. Aside from his personal works, the museum also houses his collections of indigenous Cordillera art and the works of Filipino masters and contemporary artists. BenCab Museum has four levels which are divided into the following areas: BenCab Gallery, Sepia Gallery, Cordillera Gallery, Erotica Gallery, Philippine Contemporary Art Galleries I & II, Print Gallery, Maestro Gallery, Patio Salvador and Larawan Hall.
At the farm and garden level, visitors can lounge at Café Sabel (named after Sabel – an interesting subject of some of BenCab’s artworks). The café offers rice meals, pasta, all-day-breakfast, desserts, hot/cold drinks, and other delicacies that are also available for takeaway. Outside the café you will see the lovely garden and farm with the theme of native-oriental. The garden has a man-made pond with a wooden bridge leading to the other side of the pond. Another nice feature of the garden is the gazebo in the middle of the pond where visitors can take a break from the tour and enjoy the beautiful view of the garden and mountains beyond.
If you are lucky enough, you might be in time to view other artists’ works as the museum is also being offered up as venue for art shows and exhibits.
If you are looking for a more culturally enriching experience, BenCab Museum is the right destination for you! It is one of Benguet’s most unique and interesting tourist attractions, indeed.