Baguio has always held the most vivid memories of childhood weekends and summers spent with cousins and friends. Back then, my cousins and I were more than thrilled and content with boat rides in Burnham Park, horseback rides in Wright Park, the 200-step climb up the Grotto, and strawberry picking in Trinidad Valley. Thus, driving to the summer capital for long weekends is a chance we grab every time.
It’s remarkable that my own teenaged children get all excited for these weekends. Unlike us though, my young, bold teenagers crave for more exciting exploits to do, including the zipline and paintball attractions in John Hay.
For the grown-ups though, adventure-filled weekends in Baguio have turned into long, lazy ones, where we find ourselves spending most afternoons tucked in bed and snuggled with a favorite book. Perhaps, as you get older and lead hectic lives, you crave for tranquil respites instead. And not being “sun and surf” fanatics, driving north to a much cooler climate is as good as it gets.
For many visitors, shopping in the city’s timeless public market is always a must-do. Baguio’s public market although bigger now, is the same as it has been for decades—busy, varied and colorful. Mines View Park, where the view is now completely obscured behind building facades, is still a good place to look for curios and anything stamped with “Baguio” on it.
Another must-do is to head over to Good Shepherd for its peanut brittle and ube jam. This former convent, which doesn’t look like one anymore, is now a very busy store with at least a hundred people buying jams, cookies, and all sorts of sweets off the shelves.
On a side trip, one might want to visit the Bencab museum or head off to PMA for some sightseeing.
The one thing though that Baguio now offers best is a myriad of dining choices. If one prefers the typical well-known chains, of course SM and Session Road have the usual places to dine in. But if you’re looking for something different, the city does have some very interesting choices.
First on our list is Hill Station in historic Casa Vallejo Hotel—a name taken from the pre-war concept of hill stations carved from mountainsides to serve as vacation cottages for Spanish and American soldiers. Known as a classic landmark in Baguio, just off Session Road, Casa Vallejo has been revitalized and renovated recently. With a fine dining menu that offers both Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired dishes like callos, salads, stews and steaks, families and couples will find this cozy restaurant a real treat and a tick-off item in their must-do list.
The other delightful surprise is a casual dining café called Everything Nice in John Hay. With wide glass windows overlooking pine trees, one can enjoy a quiet lunch of home-style sandwiches and pastas. Follow this up then with a cup of Affogatto at FIC Café just a few steps across. Then of course, you have the old and trusted Rose Bowl Restaurant for old-style Chinese dishes always served family-style. Our long-time favorites are their classic Sweet and Sour Pork and White Chicken. Yet, for those who have long-been used to cozy steak dinners, there are still Mario’s, Café by the Ruins, and Forest House. These restaurants which have been long-time favorites have distinct interiors that are uniquely their own.
Nonetheless, Baguio still has its traditional favorites—Raisin Bread at the Country Club, the Strawberry Shortcake at The Manor, and delectable Caesar Salad anywhere you go. I suppose it’s the fresh produce that makes a difference in all these traditional favorites. And so, if you’re planning to spend a long, lazy weekend in Baguio soon, savor every minute of a well-deserved breather and have a taste of the delectable offerings the city has to offer.