We will spend our Christmas in Baguio City and for our fifth time, we decided to skip visiting places we frequented in the past, except at PMA for some nostalgic feel and at Camp John Hay for coffee moment in the quaint old American bungalow of Starbucks Coffee. Guess where are we heading this time? It’s in Mount Costa! The newest attraction in the foggy land and the first stroll around garden of the North.
When we say it is Christmas time, we mean “family time”. Families tend to celebrate the most awaited season of the year in various ways. For this year, we opted to go to Baguio City to relax from the lowland heat and see how colorful and well-lighted the Summer Capital during this festive season.
This is the last workday in our office before Christmas and thank God we were granted a half day off to give way to those employees who are excited to be with their loved ones in their provinces. My family fetched me as early as 12 noon to skip the expected heavy traffic in EDSA and in North Luzon Expressway in the afternoon.
After eight hours of journey and several stop-overs, we reached the city. We initially felt the cool breeze so we ordered chicken mami in Mamita’s Cafe and Restaurant along Central Bakekang Marcos Highway to heat up our tummies. Later we head off to La Trinidad. We will be staying again in Noel’s appartelle (my very kind brother-in-law) for four days. We were welcomed by his nephew Jojo and wife MayLane who manage the apartelle. Though they were tired coming from work, they cordially welcomed us by offering a snack and a warm conversation.
Tired from a long journey, everyone wearily went off for a much-needed sleep. It was so cold and so delightful to lie down in bed. Good night Benguet!
Mornings in Benguet
As expected, we awoke rather late. We failed to see the foggy beauty of the farm below us because the sun had already risen. The weather was good and it was nice to take a morning walk and some invigorating exercise. We took our SLR for picture taking of the surrounding pine trees and lovely flowers.
Then we went back and had our breakfast of our special request of fried rice, scrambled eggs and fried tuyo with sliced tomatoes. Then we complimented it with simmering hot coffee and milo for Shen. It was a delicious breakfast Maylane had prepared for us.
It’s good that Wi-fi connection was slow so we savored our vacation of watching movies, reading pocketbooks, taking naps or simply dawdling the hours away by looking at the pines trees on the window while lying on bed. It was so lazy to go around but we can’t stay the whole day in the house so by afternoon we set off to visit PMA for some nostalgic feel.
Philippine Military Academy (PMA)
Named after the young hero of the battle of Tirad Pass, General Gregorio del Pilar, Philippine Military Academy is a must-visit tourist area in Baguio City. Visitors are free to explore in its 373-sprawling grounds to watch the cadets doing the drill commands, visit the museum and see the vintage tanks, helicopters and airplanes.
We visited PMA twice in the past during the time when my son Paolo was still a little boy and dreaming of becoming a soldier. But now that his mind was veered to other “he wanted to be” doesn’t mean that we will not go back. We missed roaming around and this time we spice up our picture taking by doing again some of our poses we did seven years ago.
Entrance Fee: Free
Location: Fort del Pilar, Baguio City Philippines 2600
Telephone No.: 447-3690 local 6620
We were about to go to Paskuhan Village but the parking area was full. We tried to find a vacant space outside but what we got were almost one kilometer away from the entrance. We were getting famished so we headed back to the apartalle and ate dinner.
Though we missed out visiting Paskuhan Village, the evening in the balcony was worthy to spend. The quietude is almost embraceable for the main road is far from the house. It was cold and the only sound that intrudes is our happy conversation. There was no moon in the sky but the stars were shining brilliantly. Enough to whisk off the stress brought by the chaos of Manila.
Good night Benguet!
Our Third Day
Camp John Hay
With its beautiful landscape adorned by pine trees and charming cottages, Camp John Hay which was opened in 1903 was another worthy to visit in Baguio City. It was named after President Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of State.
But there’s more when you visit this resort. It has a shopping center called Mile-Hi Center with restaurants and stores, a convention center, vacation houses and the popular hotels, The Manor and the Forest Lodge. It offers various activities too which includes Paintball, Rappelling, Horseback riding and the exciting Tree Top Adventure. It has exciting spots to explore like the Bell House, Bell Amphitheater and the Cemetery of Negativism. Indeed, it’s fun and enjoyable to spend one whole day inside the resort.
We were so delighted to be back in Camp John Hay, one of our favorite tourist areas in Baguio City. It was nearing dark and we did not go there to walk on forest trails with towering pine trees but to see the colorful and well-lighted hotels like The Manor and the Forest Lodge. The latter had the Tree of hope and just across it were rows of white roses led lights.
We are about to cup up the cool night sipping frappes and coffees at Starbucks Coffee in Mile-Hi Center; unfortunately we were told it will be closed early to give way to the Noche Buena eve.
Entrance fee: Free
Location: Loakan Road, Baguio City
SM City Baguio
Whenever we are in Baguio we always drop by at SM City to stroll and mingle with the people. It’s not surprising to see the huge crowd since a lot of people is still buying gifts for their loved ones for the Christmas Day. Restaurants and food-chain stores were packed. Since it is a holiday, a “cheat day” indeed, we ordered hamburgers and French fries at McDonald’s while wiling away the time. Then we ordered 2 family size pizzas, fried chicken with mojos and carbonara at Shakey’s Pizza for our Noche Buena.
It was something peculiar to spend the holiday in a very quiet place in a quiet night. There were no sounds of videoke tunes belted out by rowdy neighbors who were inspired of beers, no loud conversations or passing of cars. But despite of it, we were happy.
It is a gladness beyond description to be together in this holiday season. And it felt so good to share this wonderful night with Jo and Maylane whom we only met a day ago. They were so kind and accommodating.
By 12 midnight, my hubby and I gave our Christmas gifts to our children and to Mama dear. Then it came the eminent part of this season, the salo-salo together on the table which is among the many Filipino customs still being observed by many families today. It may not be a grand feast; any food that will satiate the entire family is enough to celebrate the holiday.
Merry Christmas Benguet!
Our Fourth Day
We skipped visiting famous spots around the city for the day but we wanted to try the newest Mounta Costa or the so-called “The Green Living Room” which is located in a mountain of Lamtang in Puguis, La Trinidad, Benguet. This 6-hectare garden was once a strawberry farm but was stopped due to pest infestation. Sometime in 2015, the land was developed and later was opened to the public on February 4, 2017. It is now a tourism landscape frequented by visitors who wanted to see something new.
What so special about this place is that it boasts of 12 uniquely designed themed gardens and 11 discoverable spots with paved or graveled walking trails, playground, park benches, ponds and lawns. The gardens are surrounded by clean, fresh mountain smell and tranquil ambiance.
Click my full story here.
Adults: P 350.00
Students (with Valid ID): P 250.00
Senior Citizens & PWDs: P 250.00)
Children below 3: Free
Location: 24 Naguilian Road, Baguio City 2600
firstname.lastname@example.org / 09177028292
Operating Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
After trekking the entire ground of Mount Costa, we head off again to Camp John Hay upon my hubby’s insistent request. He is a coffee lover and he was told by a friend that Starbucks Coffee in Mile-Hi Center offers a unique coffee experience.
What first caught our attention is its American-bungalow style structure surrounded by pine trees which provides a refreshing natural backdrop. It has no air-conditioned unit and the interiors have an American homey feel.
And as expected, it was packed by people. This is our first time to see a long queue line of customers waiting to make an order. But we patiently waited and later we got our desired table at the porch. I thank my hubby for bringing us here. It felt so good sipping our favorite frappes and coffees inside this unique coffee shop
The coziness and the unique stillness of this coffee shop are few of the reasons why you will want to get back.
Dinner at Dencio’s Bar and Grill
It’s getting late and it’s time to settle for dinner. There are numerous restaurants in Mile-Hi Center in Camp John Hay but almost full. We stumbled at Dencio’s Bar and Grill. Since we were famished and we did not want to think what to eat, we scoured the Group Meals (good for five): Simpleng Salo-Salo (P1,350), Pang Pamilya (P1,900) and Pang Barkada (P2,600).
We ordered Simpleng Salo-salo which includes Dencio’s Krispy Sisig, Molo Soup, Lumpiang Shanghai, Pancit Dencio’s, Toron de Sorbetes, Plain Rice. The first time we ate at Dencio’s in Star City Manila, the food was really flavorful. But today, it’s not as tasty as before, maybe because it was Christmas today and they had to rush their cooking to accommodate lots of visitors inside the resort. Anyway, we left the restaurant with full tummies.
Location: Baguio City Mile Hi Center, Camp John Hay, Baguio, Benguet
One of the exciting things to do when visiting Baguio City is to buy affordable items in Night Market. There are about hundred stalls where you can buy clothes, hats, digital accessories, shoes, socks, souvenir goodies, kitchenware in an affordable price. But be patient and be mindful of your bags and wallets because it was so crowded. By the time we went there, it was so hard to squeeze in the middle so we only walked on the sides and bought hat and souvenir items.
Location: Harrison Road (near Burnham Park)
24 Naguilian Road, Baguio City 2600
Opening hours: 9:00 pm till 2:00 am
Our Last Day
La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post
We were told by Maylane that we can buy affordable and fresh vegetables and fruits at La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post which was said to be established in July 1984. They were the prime suppliers of highland vegetables to Metro Manila, Cordillera Administrative Region, other areas in Luzon and some parts in Southern Philippines including the Visayas provinces.
If you have your private car it’s best to buy in bulk. Prices are a bit lower than the public market and you can buy varieties of vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Benguet beans, Chinese cabbage, potato, sayote, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, onion leeks, celery, romaine lettuce, onions and a lot more. Aside from vegetables we also bought lemons.
The peak season of vegetable trading starts from September until December.
Location: Bado Dangwa Street, Baguio, 2600 Benguet (near La Trinidad Public Market)
We chose the fastest route in getting back to Manila through Kennon Road, a major highway in Luzon. But as soon as we head on, the traffic was initially building up. It was surprising to see more vehicles going up. Still a lot of visitors will spend a worthy vacation in the foggy land. Later we stopped at the Lion’s Head for the last hurray!
We will never leave the city without a photo with this statue which measures 40 ft (12 m) in height and was conceptualized by the Lions Club member of Baguio.
The gigantic head was painted new. It was now light yellow. For me, it was better than the previous grayish black as it looked fresh and young. Hehehe! We had our fast photo ops and later said good-bye to the iconic symbol of Baguio City.
Location: Kennon Rd, Baguio, Benguet 2600
The final leg was over.
This is our fifth day in the foggy land. We went there for the holiday to spend more time to relax and revel in the cool breeze. Though we did not stroll more in the city, this vacation is still fulfilling. The view by the window and in balcony where we can see the farms and pine trees refreshed our minds and souls. So perfect to spend the holiday away from the busy and noisy city. For a stress-out office people like me and my hubby, we were certainly rejuvenated.
Thank you Lord for this wonderful vacation with my family. I want to do this kind of vacation again with them.
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In haste to reach Benguet in 5-hour trip only, we left Pasay City around 5:00AM. My hubby and my son were on alternate drive. Thanks to NLEX, SLEX and TPLEX for making our trip fast.
The view of the grassy hill and the start of cool temperature served an appetizer for a fresh meal of amazing scenery ahead of us as we were approaching Baguio City. But as we moved on I was surprised to see that it was now highly urbanized with houses made of modern architecture and with less pine trees. And there was a heavy traffic along the way.
I was used to Baguio City’s provincial appeal way back several years ago and these changes somewhat bothered me. But this should not dampen my mood. We’re here to chill, relax and be invigorated as we will visit again the city’s famous tourist spots.
For our third time in Baguio, I really see to it that we can now step to Strawberry Farm which we never chance to visit because of limited time. We left Manila by 2 pm. We were caught in a traffic jam as we were heading to North Edsa. Whew! We passed by at Sta. Rita, Bulacan for a meryenda. We had a pit stop in Petron Gas Station along Marcos Highway at 9 pm for a coffee break and did some stretching.
When we arrived in Burnham Park, my brother-in law Noel was waiting just across the entrance. He graciously accommodated us in his house in La Trinidad, Benguet. Like our first stay in his house, we immediately felt “at home” as we stepped inside.
We had a dinner while exchanging stories, watched tv and later stayed in the balcony to feel the chilly atmosphere. It was really delightful to savor the evening breeze. Hope we could spend a one-week vacation when we come back. After breakfast and kulitan the next morning, we headed first to Strawberry Farm. Finally! Of course, my sunrise photo was included in our itinerary.
The Strawberry Farm
The road going to the farm was well-paved but we were greeted by zig zag trails. It’s good that my hubby was a keen driver so there’s nothing to be afraid of the route. Parking space was so wide but it was dusky. It was flickering hot as we headed to the main farm. We chose to pick strawberry fruits by our bare hands so we paid P300 for two boxes. Every one of us was so excited in this activity. It was so nice seeing strawberry fruits sprawling on the garden.
We also bought cauliflowers which was so affordable (P35) and strawberry wines (P26). There were strawberry ice cream vendors near the entrance but because we were so busy in picture taking we forgot to buy and taste this cold delight.
We headed to SM Baguio for a lunch. The mall was packed by people. Restaurants and food chains were full. We ended eating at Mang Inasal which was outside the mall.
Laperal White House. As we went along to our next destination, Noel gave us some creeps. He told us the story behind the Laperal White House at Leonard Wood Road which was noted as haunted house. As what he told us, the house which was refurbished with white paint color was owned by the Laperal family. It was occupied by the Japanese soldiers during World War II. What was so scary was the killing of the family members.
When we stopped in front of the white house, I was expecting that I would feel that hair-raising experience while looking at it intently. But nothing unusual happens. There was a boy busy cleaning the roof. He didn’t care what we were doing in front of the gate. Since visitors are not allowed to go inside, we spent our time taking pictures with funny scary shots.
The Mansion. We were so lucky because The Mansion is now open for visitors as what President Noy-noy Aquino mandated. Visitors can now take a closer view to it.
Mines View Park. As always, the park was jam-packed by people so we didn’t went to the gazebo anymore. We had a hard time looking for a parking space. We kept on moving until we reached the Good Shepherd Convent. I went to souvenir store to buy display items for my Baguio collection.
Good Shepherd Convent. This store was located at 15 Gibraltar Road, few walks away from the famous Mines View Park. Consumers flocked to buy the delicious pasalubong like ube jam, mango jam, blueberry jams, surprisingly they had pili nut (famous from Bicol). What I love was ube jam (P140) which is not so sweet but delicious. It’s a bit pricey compared to other stores here in Baguio, but I assure you, their products are guaranteed more delicious. Do not go home without buying this yummy pasalubong for your loved ones back home.
Philippine Military Academy. We were so lucky that we were able to watch an actual military drill of the cadets while sitting in a picnic table. Not only that, we also had photos with some of them roaming in the area. Our visit was again completed because of our photos with military tanks and war planes. There were lots of beautiful flowers which I was tempted to pick.
Still full of energy, we ended our day at Burnham Park for biking and strolling around.
This is another wonderful moment for us in the City of Pines. Our next day activity is in Barrio Pagudpud in La Union for a refreshing swim.
On our fourth visit, we will indulge ourselves for a thrilling activity at Camp John Hay. Good night Baguio, till we meet again.
Baguio City is still the undisputed Summer Capital of the Philippines because of its cool mountain weather and pines trees. Situated in Northern Luzon, this is a popular destination especially during the stifling season in our country.
There are three main roads in getting there. One is through Kennon Road, the fastest way but dangerous because of landslides during rainy season. The other two are Marcos Highway and Naguillian Highway which are safer though travel time will take a bit longer.
When my sister Ghie came home from work abroad, she enjoined us to visit Noel’s house (her fiancé) in La Trinidad, Benguet. Noel was left as he had a late reservation in his flight booking. Everyone was excited of going back to the foggy land and visit Baguio City’s tourist attractions.
We left Manila by 3:00 pm, my hubby behind the wheels. It was almost 10:00 pm when we reached our destination. Noel’s house was a three-story apartelle. We stayed on the third floor where it has three rooms and two bathrooms. We had a light snack. While everybody was busy, I went awhile in the balcony to star gaze. It was an amazing night where I had enough solitude and time to contemplate on many things.
We slept with all the windows closed and no fan at all. We wore jackets, pajamas, socks and to complete our sleeping gears, we also wore bonnets in our heads.hahaha! Good night Benguet!
I woke up early to catch the morning sunrise. With my cam, I headed to the balcony again. Farms and pine trees in lowlands were huddling defensively by fogs. When the sun slowly emerges into the horizon, the rays dramatically spilled into the milky white mists. And suddenly the coat of brightness invaded the beautiful view. I blew an air into the wind and there I saw white mist emitted from my mouth. What a childlike delight I was doing anyway.
We prepared for our breakfast. I was fascinated to see the wonderful rays of the sun streaming into the living room. Our little Shen had a photo with it while crawling on the floor.
Our first destination was in Wright Park located just across The Mansion which is still not open for visitors. Beautiful horses were lined up in one corner and souvenir stores in another corner. I was lazy to indulge myself into horseback riding as I already tried it in our first visit here. Instead I bought key-chains while my hubby and Pao tried it again (P250) with a horse owner walking alongside and holding the rope. Choy and Isha tried it also and so with Miko and Rose.
After their activity we went up to the rectangular pool through the concrete stairways. It was good to explore the place again as there were lots of beautiful plants and flowers in the area. It was nearing 12:00 noon so we headed down to settle for lunch. But there were no food-chain stores or restaurant there. What we got was an eatery just outside the park. Food was good and affordable.
Mines View Park located at the northeast side of the city. We were surprised to see souvenir stores that sprouted like mushrooms in the vicinity. There were lots of plants and flowers for sale. There’s no need to go to Baguio City Market for there were varieties of souvenir items to choose from. And there were the yummy treats too like strawberry fruits, jams and peanut brittle.
The gazebo, which is the most photographed spot, was packed by visitors. It’s good to see again the magnificent view of Benguet’s gold and copper mines and the Cordillera Mountain. We had the place all by ourselves in our first visit. There was no serene moment to enjoy that day so after few minutes we headed to the Burnham Park.
Choy and family will go back to Manila this afternoon so we have no time to explore more. We stayed the rest of the day in Burnham Park, a well-loved park in the country. This was named after its designer, an American architect Daniel Hudson Burnham. It is located at the center of the city where various activities will surely make visitors enjoy, including the most-loved boat rowing in the Burnham Lagoon.
What we enjoyed most in the afternoon was biking. There were single bikes (for kids and for adults), tandem bikes and bikes with side cars. There were lots of vendors in the park so there’s no need to go far just to fill one’s stomach for a snack. There were taho vendors roaming everywhere.
One whole day isn’t enough to explore all Baguio’s beautiful tourist attractions. Quite bitin. We packed up the next morning then said good-bye to the farmland below, wishing to go back again in the future. We headed to Baguio City Market and bought pasalubong. To complete our Baguio getaway, we took the Kennon Road for a photo shoot in Lion’s Head. It’s like going to Albay with picture perfect of Mayon Volcano or the Twin Towers in Malaysia. Hoping we could go to Strawberry Farm for our next visit.