Brrr… Baguio. The brewing fog even in broad daylight; the bracing breeze brought by the hills and mountains; and the breadth of brazen landscapes brimming with pine trees. Yes, that is Baguio: the City of Pines, Little America, and the Summer Capital of the Philippines.
There are many reasons why people take the Baguio escapade, not just during summer but all year round. For one, unlike the beaches and islands here in the country, there are very few vacation spots in the Philippines that can boast of a very chilly climate while indulging visitors with scenic views of verdant mountainous horizons, and the city of Baguio happens to be one, if not the best, of these few destinations.
Even after about four hours of travel from Manila, what the town has to offer are nothing short of captivating, thus rewarding. So if you’re planning to make the most of your stay in the City of Pines, here are seven places we recommend that see around town!
1. BenCab Museum
Immerse into art and nature.
The BenCab Museum is a stop-staple for Baguio visitors. Housing the works of National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto Reyes Cabrera or BenCab, this museum is a modern and peaceful place to just appreciate beauty, whether it is hung on the walls, displayed on plinths, or seen outside on the veranda; yes, I’m referring to the panoramic view of the lush mountain gradients seen behind the museum, which obviously, is one of the reasons that the National Artist decided to settle his creations on this place.
What you must not miss inside the museum is BenCab’s works concentrated to a certain Sabel. She is a recurring subject to his creations: a real-life scavenger whom he had sketched in 1965, and although he could not remember her face exactly, Sabel has become the artist’s interpretation of the Filipina woman. The 32 Variations on Sabel, perhaps his most iconic piece on the subject, features a deluge of abstract shapes and structures in black paint that forms the different figures of the scavenger-woman.
BenCab Museum also offers an Eco-trail tour, ultimately giving its visitors a complete respite from the busy days in Manila and immersing them into a soothing environment by mixing together art and nature in one place.
BenCab Museum is located at Km. 6 Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet. Entrance fees are priced P150 for general admission, P120 for students, and P100 for seniors and PWD. For more information, you can check out their website: bencabmuseum.org.
2. Old Diplomat Hotel
A site known for its hauntings.
The Old Diplomat Hotel has become a paranormal landmark in the country, having been the subject of a lot of ghost stories locally. This is not surprising, as the place bears a haunting past before it fell into the ruins that it is now. Here’s a brief history of the place:
The structure was designed by Fr. Roque Ruaño, O.P, the same architect behind the University of Sto. Tomas campus here in Manila. Starting off as a retreat and vacation house for Dominican priests and nuns in 1915, the hill on which the building has risen was then christened the ‘Dominican Hill.’
The tragedy came in during World War II. Since Baguio became a stronghold for the US Forces at the time, it put a target to the town. Fleeing people sought refuge within the walls of the building, but soon enough the Japanese invaded the property and made it their headquarters. Priests, nuns, and refugees were tortured, raped, and decapitated at the place, and when the Japanese soldiers were facing defeat, they took their lives inside it. In 1972, it reopened as the Diplomat Hotel Inc., but when its manager Tony Agpaoa died, it fell into abandonment before receiving damage during the 1990 Luzon earthquake. In 2004, the place has been declared a cultural property by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
If you’re planning for a thrilling tour of the old hotel, take note that you can only roam the place until 5PM. Even under the broad daylight though, you might find the place a bit creepy, especially when peering at the familiar fountains where voices of dead children are said to be heard. On the other hand, if you look past its scary stories, you’ll find a certain aesthetic in the Old Diplomat Hotel’s ruins, because after all, it is a piece of architecture that bears over a hundred years of history, no matter how daunting.
The Old Diplomat Hotel is located at Dominican Hill, Diplomat Road, Baguio, Benguet.
3. Baguio Museum
Discover Cordilleran history.
Did you know that Baguio takes its name from the word Bag-iw which means moss?
When visiting a place, there is always an opportunity to learn more about its people, culture, and history; and in the City of Pines, it is best discovered at the Baguio Museum. Taking inspiration from Ifugao architecture, the museum is a stone-and-wood structure with a pyramidal roof and a pair of stairs that leads to the museum’s elevated entrance, flanked by two huge poles that are connected to a balcony.
On the welcoming floor are the artifacts associated to the Cordillera region which include tools, musical instruments, furniture, clothing, and more from the people of the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, and Apayao. They have dioramas to depict the Kalinga peace-pact known as the Bodong, as well as the Ifugao ceremony called the Imbayah. The upper floor is dedicated to everything Baguio. Hanging on the walls are photographs, newspaper clippings, and documents that contain pieces of the city’s rich history and culture.
The main attraction of the museum is their real-life mummy, a female Igorot about 10,000 years dead. According to the museum’s curator, the difference between Igorot and Egyptian mummies is that the former’s internal organs are not removed in the process. Water and salt are instead ingested into the body before it is placed inside a chamber and smoked for several months. While it is an interesting piece, the museum prohibits visitors from taking photos of the mummy in respect of the dead.
4. Tam-Awan Village
An indigenous village close to home.
The Tam-Awan Village, also known as Baguio’s Garden in the Sky, cradles a Cordilleran village at the heart of the city, which is meant for people who do not have the time to visit the indigenous communities that are located far within the Cordillera mountains’ interior.
A steep stairway leads up to a cluster of huts surrounded by the tree-laden environment that the village has to offer. A number of activities and amenities are available here for visitors to experience and behold. Take a closer look at the Ifugao houses, which instead of nails, are put together by pegs on its hardwood frame, all chiseled by hand. Meanwhile, Kalinga huts are built with hand-hewn pinewood and allow more space for its inhabitants. You may also experience the Ifugao and Kalinga living firsthand by lodging on the said houses.
You can enjoy the Tam-Awan local gallery which houses art pieces that depict a deep understanding on the cultural heritage of the Cordillera people; take home a portrait of you drawn by their resident artists; have a hearty meal at the Tam-Awan Cafe; and witness live the different dances performed by the mountain folk throughout the region.
Tam-Awan Village is located at the 366-C Pinsao Proper, Baguio City, Benguet. Entrance fees are priced P60 for adults, P40 for students and senior citizens, and P30 for kids. For more information, you may visit their website tam-awanvillage.com.
5. Stobosa: the Valley of Colors
A must-see stopover.
What completes a Baguio visit is a trip to its neighboring town, La Trinidad in Benguet to chance upon its vast field of strawberry farms. On your way there from Baguio, a worthy stop over is the Stobosa, also known as the Valley of Colors. Making a canvas out of the houses huddled together on a hillside, the place is literally an artwork the size of three villages.
The houses bear vibrant colors and familiar figures that represent the locality including strawberries, rainbows, and sunflowers, which is the main motif of the artwork, as the flowers were said to have once occupied the hillside where the houses now stood.
Stobosa takes its name from the three villages that make up the mural: Stonehill, Botiwtiw, and Sadjap, which all in all are composed of about 200 houses, and consumed around 2,800 gallons of paint. It was made possible by the partnership between the Department of Tourism-Cordillera Administrative Region and the local administration of La Trinidad as part of the former’s REV-BLOOM Project which aims to “rev–up, revive, revisit and revitalize tourism destinations in the Cordillera region.” The painting was conceptualized by Tam-Awan Village artists Jordan Mang-osan, Clinton Aniversaryo, Ged Alangui, and Jenny Lorenzo, and was completed with the help of volunteering locals.
Visit Stobosa at the Bontoc Rd. between Baguio and La Trinidad, Benguet.
6. La Trinidad Strawberry Farm
The heart-shaped fruits await!
Strawberries is almost synonymous to Baguio, often mistaken as the city’s product when in fact it is from the neighboring town of La Trinidad. That’s why when visiting the City of Pines, it is also the best chance to check out the Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet and be able to buy fresh strawberries and its products.
The strawberries are cultivated in farms spanning for about 20-hectares of land in the Barangay Betag. Tourist activities here include strawberry picking, farm tours, and a pasalubong shopping spree. What must be kept in mind when planning to visit the Strawberry Farm is to get there within the picking season, which is from December to May, so that you’ll be able to see, pick, and eat these fruits bright-red heart-shaped forms. But if you’re not able to get there in time, you can still enjoy their ice cream, taho, jam, and other products that are made from real strawberries.
The Strawberry Farm is located at Km. 5 Baguio-La Trinidad-Bontoc Rd, Brgy. Betag, La Trinidad, Benguet.
7. Baguio Cathedral
A spot for spiritual respite.
Positioned within the bustling urban part of Baguio City is Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral, also known as the Baguio Cathedral. It stands as the episcopal see of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baguio and is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Besides being the center of Catholicism in the city, Baguio Cathedral is also popular among tourists for its stunning architecture with off-white facade, twin spires, and beautifully laden stained glass windows.
In 1902, a Catholic mission chapel was built in Baguio by Belgian missionaries of the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae. The chapel was then relocated to the spot where the Cathedral will rise in 1936, at a hill which was once called Kampo by the Ibaloi people, before it was renamed to Mount Mary by the church’s parish priest. During World War II, the Baguio Cathedral saved thousands of people when, as if by miracle, it was the only surviving building after American planes bombed the city in order to retake Baguio from the Japanese Imperial Army.
Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral is located at Mt. Mary Hill, Cathedral Loop, Baguio City, Benguet.
8. Azalea Hotels & Residences Baguio
Bonus: a recommended stay-place.
If you’re planning ahead for a trip, finding a place to stay will always be a concern. Azalea in Baguio is a four-star hotel that is the ideal place for groups seeking a comfortable stay in Baguio while getting the most from their budget. Azalea's published rates start from P5,357, which already avails guests a 30-square-meter room that can fit either three adults or two adults and two kids. Plus, each room is equipped with kitchenware and dinnerware, so you wouldn't have to worry too much about spending more on eating out. Know more about Azalea in this feature article.
Azalea Hotels & Residences Baguio is located at No. 7 Leonard Wood Loop, Brgy.
Manuel Roxas, Baguio City , Benguet.
Baguio City is definitely a rich pot of diverse wonders waiting for you to behold. So what are you waiting for? Make the calls, plan your holidays, and be sure to pack your warmest clothes because what’s Baguio without the chilly climate?