Our Nth-time in Baguio

With The Philippines being in a tropical climate, it’s fascinating that we can also experience the cold breeze and chilly weather here all year long.

Nestled in the vast mountains of Benguet, Baguio City upholds its picturesque mountain sceneries and breath-taking destinations up to this day. Filipinos often call it the Summer Capital of the Philippines since it is a perfect place to escape the summer heat. With Baguio now more accessible from Manila, it has grown from a hill station into a bustling city and one of the most visited destinations in the country.

Though we’ve been to Baguio for several times, still, felt the need to go back again and again because we realized that we haven’t been yet to other places and some of the many nice restaurants around the city.

A Sidetrip to Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag

A side trip to the popular miraculous Catholic Church is always on top of our itinerary. We would always make sure that we hear a mass at Our Lady of Manaoag whenever we go to Baguio.

Some of the miracles attributed to Our Lady of Manaoag are depicted in murals inside the church’s transepts and nave. The Paschal Chapel beside the south flank of the church has icons of the Black Nazarene similar to that of the Quiapo Church, the Santo Entierro (Dead Christ), and other statues of the Virgin Mary. The sanctuary on the left side of the main entrance has a large image of the Crucified Christ.

The Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag is located approximately 200 kilometers (120 mi) north of Manila.

From Metro Manila, Manaoag is accessible via North Luzon ExpresswayMacArthur Highway and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway through to Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, then heading northwest via the Urdaneta-Manaoag Road. The basilica is four to five hours by bus from CubaoQuezon City.

From Manaoag to Baguio, it takes about two hours  (73.5 km) via Agoo – Baguio Road/Aspiras – Palispis Hwy/Ben Palispis Hwy. There are direct buses  or vans terminal nearby the church. 

Where We Stayed

The Manor at Camp John Hay

You’ll never go wrong with staying at The Manor Hotel. Apart from its ‘best’ location – as it is inside Camp John Hay – one of the top tourist spot of Baguio City, it has a great ambiance, charming grounds, spacious and cozy rooms with forest view. Not to mention a continental breakfast and great pastries. There are other dining options available within a walking distance.

The Manor at Camp John Hay is 2.6 km from Mines View Park and 2.8 km from Burnham Park,  Lourdes Grotto is 4 km from The Manor at Camp John Hay and Bencab Museum is a 30-minute drive away. 

Things We Do

A Spa worth traveling…

A visit to the Spa is one of the first things that we wanted to do after a long day and we have to have the best spa in town! Based on reviews, North Haven Spa is one of the most outstanding spa centers in the city of pines. They offer great services that highlight Cordilleran culture and tradition. Even the design of the spa is Cordillera inspired.

We tried North Haven Spa Signature Massage (2 hours) which uses long strokes and gentle stretches. Designed to ease the body into a deep state of relaxation.

North Haven Spa at Casa Vallejo is located along Upper Session Rd near to SM Baguio. The Spa is just beside Hill Station, part of Casa Vallejo complex, with parking spaces available either along the street or behind the complex. Opens daily from 09:00 – 22:00.

Awesome nightlife attraction called “The Camp “.

The Camp consists of 2 establishments: “Just Another Damn Good Sick Joint” and “Sala”.  The moment you enter its wooden saloon doors, it’s not hard to miss the obvious inspiration, with passages from the well-loved and much-quoted Bro Code from the hit show are adorned on its walls, the couches that resemble the How I Met Your Mother fivesome’s iconic booth, and wooden accents make up the interior of this hangout. Not one to root for just the boys, portions of the so-called “Sis Code” and “Chick Code” are also sprawled on a portion of the bar’s walls, as a female counterpart to the Stinson Bible.

It’s located in front of Teacher’s Camp in Baguio City just along Leonard Wood Road. Opens Daily from 15:00 to 1:00.

Visit at La Trinidad – Strawberry Farm

Always visit on its season. The Strawberry Farm is a site to behold. You’ll see several strawberry plots. We went there in September and there were no strawberries to be seen but I saw some crunchy looking lettuce.

There were stalls selling strawberry wine, strawberry jam, strawberry juice and a pack of tiny red strawberries. The strawberry juice is yummy. The wine is good too, but I enjoyed it more when the strawberry wine is mixed with a little bit of strawberry juice. But what I enjoyed the most was strawberry ice cream. If you want to truly enjoy the strawberry farm and enjoy picking strawberries it is best to visit during its peak season (December – March according to the vendors there).

Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad Valley, Benguet, is less than 10km from the center of Baguio City. By car: From Session Road, turn right to Magsaysay Road and turn left at the stop light (to your right will be Baguio Center Mall). The road you will be on is still Magsaysay Road and this connects Baguio City to La Trinidad. Just keep going straight, passing a vehicle flyover at one point, until you see the welcome arch of La Trinidad.

Breakfast at Choco-late De Batirol

When you are in Baguio never miss  the opportunity to stop by  and grab a cup of hot tsokolate to warm you up on hand-carved wooden chairs amidst the fragrant trees. Choco-late de Batirol is an unconventional cafe where you can enjoy delightful hot drinks and meals while basking in the cozy and relaxing ambiance of nature.

They offer delectable food but my favorites are the local desserts like suman and bibingka and best to pair up with chocolate. It is concocted using cacao, peanuts and carabao’s milk while briskly stirring with a special wooden spoon made for batirol only.

With the cold climate in Baguio, this is definitely worth the indulgence!

Just so perfect on a cold-breezy rainy day… hot, thick and bittersweet taste…

Choco-late de Batirol is a small and cozy nook hidden among the trees at the Igorot Park area near Gate 2 of Camp John Hay beside Baguio Country Club. Opens Daily from 8:00 to 22:00.

Everything is ‘really’ Nice, Cake Shop and Cafe

When in Baguio, skip the coffee chains and try the local cafes! This stylish and healthy restaurant called “Everything Nice” has really proven that they have everything nice to offer to their customers. This cafe, being in the business for almost 15 years now, has been known for the best cakes and pastries in Baguio City. More than just sweets, they also serve the sumptuous healthy meals for a very reasonable price. Of course, grab a cup of happiness – coffee or tsokolate to complete your meal. Must try cassava cake too!

Everything Nice is located at the primary spot of Ayala Technohub of the famous Camp John Hay. Opens daily from 7:00 to 22:00. Parking is available nearby or across the street by Convergys.

Indulge in Le Chef ‘s Mediterranean Food

Le Chef is the main dining of The Manor Hotel and its executive chef, Billy King, a well known celebrity Chef in Philippine gastronomy and is regarded as the BEST fine-dining restaurant in Baguio. People would go up to Baguio just to indulge in Chef Billy King’s food with the classic Baguio log cabin ambiance. The menu is a mix of classic Mediterranean dishes. Prices are comparable to Manila standards but relatively better value for money because of the overall quality of food, ambiance and service.

Blueberry cheesecake is my favorite and the only cake I eat. Their raisin bread and ube bread are the best-sellers. They also have delicious muffins and carrot bread. Highly recommended for those pastries and breads lovers. Great pasalubong.

It brightens my day!

Opens daily from 6AM to 11PM. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Unwind in Hill Station at Casa Vallejo

I love everything about Hill Station! Apart from great service and ambience, food is exceptional!

Over the years, Hill Station has established itself as one of the top restaurants in Baguio. Awarded as one of Asia’s Finest Restaurants, too. Hill Station is popular for its eclectic array of Asian and Continental cuisine.

Dinner commenced with a free basket of bread and a combo dip of olive oil and Egyptian Dukka, a fancy name for a gritty mix of local seeds, peanuts and spices. The Dukka alone makes for a great meal, and if you feel short, the waiters are always happy to bring another basket for free. We were also served a bowl each of thick asparagus soup – complimentary, too. The warm, smooth and viscous texture and clean taste of greens is something to appreciate in Baguio’s cold weather.

Hill Station is located in Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Rd. Opens Daily: Monday to Friday from 7:00 to 23:00 and Saturday-Sunday from 6:30 to 23:00.

Lunch at Cafe by the Ruins

Someone says, “If you haven’t eaten in Cafe by the Ruins, you haven’t actually been to Baguio”. The cafe first opened in 1988 by famous artists and writers.  The location was formerly the house of Hubert “Phelps” Whitmarsh, a British correspondent for the American magazine Outlook who settled in Baguio. After the artists took over, Cafe by the Ruins eventually became famous, not only for its food, but also art exhibits, film showings, and book launches. It was a favorite of many, including celebrities and personalities.

After a fire hit the iconic restaurant, the next generation of owners decided to make a comeback. While the signature facade remains intact, Cafe by the Ruins has been totally revamped, offering a fresher and more modern look but still providing the same old favorites from their menu.

A typical Ilocano meal called Bagnet is something that visitors should come here for, a double fried pork belly – first it is tenderized in lard, then re-fried to a crisp. Condiments are Podas bagoong and tomato relish. If you’re craving for strawberry shortcake you can get that in Cafe by the Ruins along with other great dishes.

Cafe by the Ruins is located along Shuntug Road across the City Hall. Parking is available on the side in front of the house. Opens Daily from 7:00 to 21:00.

Indeed, it was a worthy return after few years to Baguio. Yet I have to fully explore the city of pines. There is still so much more to explore and experience in the “Summer Capital” for me. I knew that every trip was unique and have created memories that would forever be treasured in our hearts.

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