From Banaue, we took a van ride through the Cordillera Mountains to another mountain town – Baguio. Along the way, we passed by what is a common site in the Philippines – rice drying on the road. The drivers do their best to avoid driving over the rice. This requires a constant switching of lanes because an ENTIRE lane will be filled with rice for stretches on end. And to think, people back home complain about sharing the road with cyclists.
Baguio is known as the “summer capital of the Philippines”. This is just one of the city’s three monikers. It’s known as the summer capital because its cooler temperatures provides respite from the tropical heat that the rest of the country endures in the summer months. Baguio sits at almost a mile above sea level and people flock here to escape the heat. The mild weather reminded us a lot of Colorado – lots of sun, not too hot, not too cold. In our opinion, the weather was the best thing about Baguio.
We stayed at a hotel near Burnham Park, which is named after the famous architect from Chicago, Daniel Hudson Burnham. At the turn of the 19th century, Burnham designed the land use patterns of Baguio, including this park. Since both of us had just recently read the book “The Devil in the White City” which describes some of Burnham’s work, we felt a particular connection in seeing the memorial to him for the lasting contribution he made to this city.
We were in Baguio on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. On both days, Burnham Park was flooded with people running, riding bikes, renting little boats, and most of all, just hanging out and having picnics.
Baguio has a large public market, where you can buy anything from meats & vegetables to clothes & souvenirs. I purchased some peanut brittle, which reminded me of the holidays back home. Although of course, it was not as good as the peanut brittle that my grandma makes.
We had a pretty laid back New Year’s Eve. It started with dinner on Session Road where we discussed our goals for 2014 (instead of resolutions, we like to set goals at the beginning of each year). After dinner, we went for walk at Burnham Park, then enjoyed a movie in our hotel room (we had HBO!).
We were up early the next morning. I enjoyed starting off the new year with a morning run. In a contrast of sorts, folks were still at the karaoke bars from the night before while at the same time, an early morning fitness class was being held at the park.
The second moniker for Baguio is “city of flowers”. On New Year’s Day, we visited the Baguio City Orchidarium. Orchids are my favorite flower, so I could not resist. Inside, there were various stalls of vendors selling orchids as well as other flowers and plants.
The third moniker for Baguio is “city of pines”. Before visiting the Philippines, I never would have guessed that they had forests of pine trees here. We visited Camp John Hay (CJH), which has preserved forests of pine trees right within the city. For most of the 20th century, CJH was a rest & recreation facility for American soldiers in Asia. During WWII, it was used by the Japanese as a concentration camp for American and British soldiers. Later in the war, it was used as Japanese military headquarters. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, CJH came back under the United States. Then, in 1991, the U.S. turned it over to the Philippines. It is now primarily a resort destination with privately developed hotels, restaurants, attractions, and even a Jack Nicklaus golf course. However, the Philippine government did retain a portion of the property and maintains the Historical Core which includes a museum, amphitheater, and a historical walking trail. That’s the part we explored.
And last but not least, when visiting a country that is 80% Catholic, the trip would not be complete without a visit to a cathedral. The Baguio Cathedral was consecrated in 1936. In 1945, it became an evacuation center during World War II, it withstood the carpet bombing of Baguio, saving thousands of lives.