City of pines. Summer capital of the Philippines. Pink sisters. Peanut brittle. Ube jam. Strawberries. Panagbenga festival. These are just a few of what people remember of Baguio City – that chilly and charming city located 1,500 meters above sea level and enclosed by the Benguet mountains.
The first time I went to Baguio was in December 2005. I remember walking the sidewalks of Session Road, riding on rented boats in Burnham Park as the sun fell, sifting through ukay-ukay, oggling the St. Bernard dogs at Mines View Park, dining at Camp John Hay, ad making a quick stop at the Mansion House while wondering if the diminutive lady with the fake breasts will make a sudden apparition. But I wasn’t enamored by the place. I thought it was boring. Overrated. And freezing cold.
I vowed never to return again. But return I did when a former teammate, who was visiting the country for two weeks, was going to Baguio to attend the Baguio-Benguet trail run. It was on this second visit that Baguio’s charm worked its magic on me.
I dig the city. I liked walking the empty sidewalks of Session Road with only the moon and the stars and the sodium streetlights illuminating the streets. I liked how this central district slowly teems with locals and tourists and vendors and FX taxis as the day progresses. I liked sipping hot Starbucks coffee at Camp John Hay. I liked hunting for great ukay-ukay finds (I was unsuccessful) on all three (or was it four?) floors along Session Road. I liked walking from Bloomfield Hotel, where we stayed located right across SM Baguio, to the Baguio City Market and back while munching on Indian mangoes. I liked dining at Oh My Gulay, which looked like it was going to fall apart any minute, and taking photos of the place including a carved wood which I call the masturbator. I liked walking up the 100+ steps from Session Road to the Baguio Cathedral.
As I left Baguio on a rainy Sunday afternoon I thought this was a city I could go back on my own when I want to be by myself, when I want to think, when I want to have some peace, and maybe even to mend a broken heart. It’s a place that I could get lost in. A stranger in a strangely charming place.