Last weekend was my fifth visit to Baguio City, and the third one for 2010. My friend Hazel, my travel companion for this trip, was a first timer in Baguio, so I brought her to the usual haunts: Session Road, Camp John Hay, Mines View Park. We also went to places that I’ve never visited before: the Good Shepherd Convent and the Bell Church.
On our first day, we stopped by The Manor inside Camp John Hay en route to Session Road. Like me, Hazel fell in love with the place, vowing to stay there next time she goes back to Baguio. We had the taxi driver drop us right smack in the middle of Session Road, checking out the shops and walking up the hill towards the Baguio Cathedral (if you don’t want to walk up the stairs, you can take the escalator inside the Porta Vaga Mall, which has an exit at the foot of the cathedral).
We needed to buy some groceries, so we figured it’d be best to have an early dinner at SM Baguio. It turned out to be a great choice for us: the mall’s free Wi-Fi saved my ass when I needed to be online for work and we were still stuck waiting at the taxi stand. Tip for getting a cab in SM Baguio: line up at the lobby (upper ground floor) instead of the one in the supermarket since most taxis avoid the supermarket stand.
Early morning of our 2nd day, we trooped to Mines View Park to see the… well, view, sans the crowd. True enough, there were only a handful of people at the viewdeck that early. Mines View have been quite disappointing. The view isn’t so great anymore, and to get in and out of the palace, you’d have to pass through several dozen shops selling pretty much the same thing. We had breakfast in one of the restaurants, then walked down the road towards the Good Shepherd Convent.
The convent is known for its Ube Jam and other native delicacies. I received strict orders to buy some Snowballs, so I figured it’s the best time to finally visit the convent. The convent is serene (as expected), and the shop has the system for ordering and paying for the goods already down pat. Also, since it was still relatively early, there were hardly any lines.
We went back to the house where we’re staying for some much needed sleep (I worked until 6am, hence the very early morning trip), and were back on the streets by 3 o’clock. We had the taxi driver drop us off at the La Azotea building, where the elusive Oh My Gulay cafe is (we failed to find the restaurant back in February). All I can say is that it was lucky that we finally found it, and that we went in the afternoon. OMG is an artist cafe and it shows. It’s like a Baguio version of the Ponce Suites in Davao. There is art everywhere you look, and it even has a gorgeous views from the balcony. Oh My Gulay serves an all vegetable menu, which is pretty apt since most of the produce in Luzon are sourced from Benguet.
Oh My Gulay is the kind of place that makes you just want to sit back and enjoy your coffee (or tea. Or hot chocolate.) It’s a place where you don’t feel the need to hurry — just take in the view, enjoy your book or savor the company of friends. As much as we would like to stay on, we needed to leave as soon as we finished eating. It was lucky that we left when we did, because we were just able to get inside Bell Church as it was about to close for the day.
I’ve only come across Bell Church in the forums, and I was intrigued about this temple that I haven’t visited before. It was a Taoist temple, similar to the one in Cebu. Again, it was lucky that we got there when we did: since it was already late, there were never more than 50 visitors in the temple grounds. Unfortunately, it also meant that the gate going up to the other temples was already closed. The place was serene, a great escape from the madness just 10 minutes from the city center (right on the border with La Trinidad).
Back to SM we go to kill time before we head to the perya. We caught a glimpse of the lights the night before, and we decided to check it out. It was at the grounds of the Baguio Convention Center, just a short walk down the hill from SM. It was smaller than we thought and just after 30 minutes, we ran out of things to photograph. Dreading the walk back up the hill to SM, we decided to hail a cab and had the driver take us to Camp John Hay. We got off at the Filling Station, a commercial establishment housing several food kiosks. There was a Shakeys and a Hot Shots, but I took my chance on a Lamb Donner Kebab from Wrap n Roll (they also serve roti with curry dip, but it was out of stock). BEST DECISION EVER! The lamb was tender and oozing with flavor, the wrap was bursting with fresh veggies and the tzatziki was simply wonderful. Well worth the Php 230 price tag. It turns out that the decision to spend the evening at Filling Station was for the best as well: the place has free wi-fi and had a live band performing. It was also right across the Camp John Hay Art Park, where there was a pit and a bonfire where you can warm yourself if you get too cold. The only problem we had at CJH was that it wasn’t really a place where taxis come to look for passengers. We ended up having to walk all the way to the guard house.
On our last day, we only had the market for pasalubong shopping in our agenda. The transient house is very strict with the 12pm check out time, so we had to finish our brunch and shopping before noon. The Baguio City Market is the best place to get your favorite Baguio souvenirs: everything can be found there. Cellphone charms, keychain, strawberries in all form, walis tingting and the man in the barrel — they’re all there.
Shopping was done in no time, specially since we were both running low in funds. The rest of the morning went by in a blur, and before we knew it, we were back in the bus, this time headed down to Manila. It has been a great weekend, a perfect mix of relaxation and travel discoveries. Can’t wait to do this again!