North Luzon Day 1: Towards the latter end of our trip, Stace had the urge to push through with our initial plans of visiting Northern Luzon that were altered due to typhoon Ondoy that devastated the Philippines. At this point, I was exhausted and tired from our countless hours spent hopping on taxis, buses, and planes but she brought up a great point that we would be leaving this beautiful country soon to go back home and so we had to relish in all of its wonders as much as we could.
After being gone from Manila for more than a month from non-stop traveling and being back for only a few days, we packed our bags yet again and jumped into a cab to catch a Victory Liner bus headed for Baguio at 12:45 on the morning of December 7th. The trip was approximately 5 hours but it didn’t seem long as we slept comfortably the entire way with our extra leg room, reclining seats, AirCon, and smooth ride. They even give you a complimentary bottle of water. We awoke on our arrival at 5:30am and upon exiting the bus, the cold and steady breeze of the Cordillera mountain range surrounding Baguio surprised us since we had become acclimated to hot weather.
We were unprepared for the lower drop in temperature and after grabbing our bags we jumped into the first available cab to take us to our hotel in order to seek refuge. Unfortunately, we were very early for our check-in time but we were able to drop off our bags. My focus immediately shifted to finding a warmer set of clothes since I had not packed properly. We hopped into another cab that took us to Session road, of the main strips in the city. Many stores were not yet open at the time and so we walked into one of the local restaurants to grab some breakfast and get out of the cold. When we were finished, vendors began to open up shop. I found a used sweater down the street and after some quick bargaining, I was happy to finally have a decent barrier of protection against the cold.
Finally, we were ready to set out and explore what Baguio had to offer. The first location we went to see was the Tam-Awan village – a small compound of huts and trails that are set into the hills and preserves the culture and history of the Igorot people who had initially settled in Baguio. Admission is only P50 and the village has multiple terrace levels, each of them complimented by a few huts. Within one of the huts is an art gallery that houses the work of local artists including the nationally known Ben Cabrera. Other huts are open to tourists who wish to stay for the night and experience what the living quarters were like for the local ancestors. I managed to hop into a hut and lay on a mattress for a few minutes to rest after rising up so early in the morning. Eventually, we continued to ascend to the high point of the historical site where you can get a decent view of the surrounding hills. The outlook of the day looked great as the sun was shining bright.
Eventually, we descended down and made our exit to go back towards central Baguio. We had trouble finding a cab but eventually came across a jeepney that charged a flat rate of only P7 regardless of your travel distance. We had the driver drop us off near our next Burnham park which is located at the center of the city. By that time it was nearing lunch and we were both hungry and so we dipped into a Korean restaurant. After a mediocre meal that was pricey and lacked an abundance of meat that I was craving, we trekked out towards the park which was right down the road. Paddle boats were available for rental and although I initially refused to pay for a ride through the murky green water, Stacey wanted to try it out. We paid our P20, hopped on, and I began rowing us towards the center of the lake. I was a bit groggy still from the early morning but the rowing woke me up. There was a good amount of people on the small lake and its a nice leisurely activity to partake in if you ever visit Baguio city. After taking turns rowing, both of us eventually headed back to shore and we continued our walk through the park where we enjoyed an Ube ice cream sandwich. The park had a great setting with many families and couples enjoying the beautiful weather.
We exited the park on the other end and decided to visit yet again one of the many SM malls that are sprawled throughout the Philippines only this one was an open air facility where you can see great views from some of the upper levels. After peeking in some of the shops and sampling some delicious pastries, we eventually made it back to our hotel to check-in and take a quick nap in order to revive us for the next stop on our itinerary later that evening – Camp John Hays. To be continued…