We were in Baguio over the weekend (February 24-26) in celebration of my mom’s birthday last February 22. To be honest, we didn’t think we’d be there just in time for the culmination parades of the Panagbenga Festival. We felt lucky for the chance to witness the highlight of this month-long festivity. Although, at the back of our heads, we knew we were getting into probably the city’s busiest time of the year. A lot of people, especially those coming from Manila, make it their yearly tradition to drive up to Baguio to attend the festival. Towards the end of the month of February, Baguio holds the most anticipated activities of the said festival – the Grand Street Parade and the Grand Float Parade.
About a month ago, we decided we wanted to celebrate mom’s birthday out of town. Apart from the usual birthday dinners we do, we opted for something different. And so the idea of traveling to Baguio was born. We carefully arranged our travel to and from Baguio, our accommodation and the itinerary. It sure was tedious enough coming up with a decent itinerary for a 3-day stay that it took me almost a month to draft a plan. Allow me to walk you through our Baguio experience. I’ve included tips, a little bit of history of the places we’ve been and short reviews of the restaurants we’ve tried.
How we got there:
Several bus lines service the Manila-Baguio route. We personally decided to go with Victory Liner, because of their online booking facility. Just a few clicks on their website and we found ourselves booked for the trip! As easy as 1-2-3. 😊 Although, don’t get me wrong, there are also other bus companies that travel up north to Baguio (a little research won’t hurt 😉).
Going back, we booked the regular aircon fare for Php 445 each from Cubao to Baguio. On top of that, there was an additional 50 Php fee for probably booking seat reservations online. From what I know, they also offer the deluxe, first class fare for Php 750. The only difference is, the deluxe buses have a built-in restroom. Not to worry though, even if you take the regular aircon buses, there are certain stopover points. In our case, this was the Sison Bus Stop in Tarlac. They have restrooms you can use for a small price. Aside from that, the place houses a number of food stalls that has everything from breakfast buffet to munchies on-the-go.
We booked the 4 am trip out of Manila. It took roughly 10-15 minutes for all the passengers to board the bus and before we knew it, we had left the terminal and were on our way. The whole travel time, including the stopover, took approximately 4-5 hours as we reached Baguio 10 minutes to 9 am.
Tip: On the average, Baguio is 8 hours’ worth of travel time. To get there faster, you may want to try traveling during the wee hours of the night. It sure will save you a good 2-3 hours. 😉
Day 1: First Day High
As soon as we got off the bus, we went ahead to book our return trip. Sadly, we weren’t able to do this online because there were only limited trips on the website. Either Victory Liner does this purposely, or they forgot to update their site. Anyway, we were able to secure a trip back to Manila on the 26th at 1:25pm. So far, so good. At least, we didn’t have to worry about our way back. We can fully enjoy Baguio, as we were supposed to. 😊
Right outside the bus terminal, we were greeted by a taho vendor. For those of you who don’t know, taho is silken tofu, topped with thick brown syrup (arnibal) and sago pearls. But because we were in Baguio, it wasn’t just ordinary taho – it was strawberry taho. In place of arnibal, they use strawberry syrup with strawberry preserves. Yum. 😋
After getting our taho, we hailed a cab and went to 50’s Diner for breakfast. Known for its pink facade and American-inspired set-up, there was no way we were going to miss it. We had Bacon Omelet, Spam with Egg, and Corned Beef Hash. Servings were hefty and filling. Prices, cheap enough. However, food was of poor quality and taste. Immediately I could tell that the luncheon meat they used wasn’t Spam. Too bad, because I’m such a Spam lover. 😓 I guess people have overrated this place in their reviews. Though if you’re someone who’s working within a budget and is after heavy-duty meal servings, then this will suit you just right. 😉
Interesting Fact: Cab flag-down rate in Baguio is Php 30, as opposed to the Php 40 in Metro Manila. Part of the reason why I think it’s cheaper is because cabs don’t need to turn on their ACs. The cool breeze does the trick! What’s more, cabbies are genuinely honest. They give you your change down to the last peso!
Next thing we did was head to Lucia’s Bed and Breakfast to leave the rest of our things. I’ll be posting a separate review about Lucia’s so watch out for it. We met Cathy, who showed us around. She was so warm and welcoming. Well, all the staff were. A little chit-chat and we were on our feet to begin our itinerary.
First Stop: Baguio Cathedral, also known as Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral
As I came up with the itinerary, I wanted to start off our tour with a visit to a church. Luckily, I came across Baguio Cathedral on the Internet. The chuch is located in Mount Mary, Cathedral Loop, merely adjacent to Session Road. Since we were not familiar with the ins and outs of Baguio yet, we took another cab from Lucia’s (which is in Navy Base Ext.) to the cathedral. I already forgot how much we paid for our ride, but I can assure you it was less than a hundred bucks. Just like any cathedral, it looked majestic from the outside and even more on the inside. A total sight to behold. From what I’ve read, the church was constructed in 1920. Apart from that, it survived the carpet bombing of Baguio in 1945. To think that it has lived for nearly a century now, the cathedral has sure been well-kept.
Next Stop: Burnham Park
A few blocks from the Cathedral and SM Baguio is Burnham Park. With a lot area of 32.84 hectares, this park is accessible from Harrison, Kisad, Governor Pack and Magsaysay Roads. It is named after the American architect, Daniel Hudson Burnham, who laid the groundwork for the design of Baguio City.
We weren’t able to cover the whole park, given its vastness. But we were able to visit the man-made lake, where we rented a boat and struggled with the paddling. 😂 Boat rentals cost 150 Php per boat for half an hour and a single boat is good for a maximum of 5 people. We also rented a go kart and a chopper for 50 and 75 Php, respectively, which is 30 minutes worth of cycling around the track. The funny thing was, even if it poured, none of the people stopped biking, including us! That’s why I ended up wearing a bandana! 😂
While walking around the park, we came across the Panagbenga Landscaping Competition and took snaps without hesitation. A few feet away, sunflowers were on sight. Guess what’s my favorite flower? 😍
A little past 5 pm, we were starved. From Burnham, we headed to Hill Station Tapas Bar and Restaurant for an early dinner. This is located in Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road. The ambience was very inviting. Rustic with huge windows overlooking the back part of the casa. We ordered Caesar Salad with Smoked Beef Carpaccio, Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes, Pan Fried Fish Fillet (I actually forgot the name of the dish😶), Death by Chocolate and Deep Dark Chocolate Cake.
What I liked about this place was their value for food presentation. Taste was also good. Service was commendable. Though, it was kind of pricey. Nevertheless, if you find yourself in Baguio, I’d urge you to give this a try.
Afterwards, we snuck to the quaint, next-door book shop – the Mt Cloud Bookshop. The shop is home to a large collection of local books from hard-bound history digests to children’s illustrated books.
We had left the book shop, only to find out that it was still raining. 😖 We then decided to call it a day and return to Lucia’s. It was the first time we had difficulty finding a cab ride. Fortunately, as we walked frantically, we passed by a tourist assistance tent. They told us to wait while they looked for a cab. In no time, there was one! Yet another thing amazed me about the people of Baguio – as soon as we got into a cab, we called the guy who helped us and held out something as a thank you token. I was taken aback when he refused and said he was just doing his job. I wish I could’ve gotten his name. Kudos to you, sir! 😉
The cab ride back to Lucia’s concluded our first day in Baguio. Tune in for Day 2 on my succeeding blog post. 😊
With lots of love,