In the past few years the overall improvements to the roadways and other transport infrastructures in Central and Northern Luzon have made significant leaps and bounds. Slowly, albeit surely.
Baguio City used to be a far-off place that people would dash up to when they wanted to cool down. The mountainous 5,000 foot (1,540 meter) elevation provides a significant temperature drop when compared to low-lying areas, and that year round low to mid-70 degree average appeals to just about anyone. Combined with a massive abundance of trees and foliage, and less pavement and dust than other low-lying areas, you find that Baguio offers a weather retreat that Pampanga and the other surrounding provinces simply cannot provide.
Baguio City is now at your doorstep if you’re living anywhere near the SCTex – and the winding mountain roads and fresh air will do your head some good.
A few years back if you were traveling by car, you would be lucky to get there in about 5 hours, and by any other means of transport you’d arrive in 6. When you factor in the Baguio traffic, and there always seems to be a bit of congestion given that there are about 1 million people living in and around the area, a city built for a population of 300,000, you are going to be bumper to bumper at some point along those hilly roads. But still, you will enjoy the drive much better than you would around Olongapo, Angeles City, or NCR.
If you were to compare the traffic to Manila traffic, there is no comparison. Even with road works you have the opportunity to travel a greater distance on the way to Baguio than you would if you were lined up on EDSA jammed in with the rest of the gridlock on any given night. From Clark, Baguio City is 100 miles away (165 km) to Makati’s 66-mile (106 km) journey, and yet, the North Manila portion of that trip would likely take an hour plus out of your day easily – and on a bad day, it is even worse.
Thankfully, the overall trip to Baguio is now quite short. The SCTex highway north of Tarlac is connected directly to the TPlex, and the 65-mile (105 km) drive from Clark to Urdaneta City is now just an hour and change. The remaining drive from there to the Summer Capital of the Philippines is less than an hour and a half. So if you take off from Clark around 7 A.M. you could be eating breakfast in Baguio by 9:30 A.M., with the opportunity to make the most of a trip by stretching the whole day out, or checking in to a hotel for a quick and comfortable overnight stay.
That’s right, two and a half hours if you’re keeping up with traffic, 3 hours if you’re a slow poke. For my time I would rather be in Baguio than Manila. And just a word to the wise, it is sometimes better to park your car and just taxi around Baguio than it is to attempt to drive around the town itself. The city is notoriously difficult to drive through with its meandering roads, one-ways, and short cuts.
What To See & Do
Regardless of your plan, once you arrive in Baguio you’ll find plenty to do. For starters, you could stop off at the Baguio Public Market and get yourself some of the freshest produce available in the country. Large organic grown oranges, fresh strawberries, and bushels of greens are all way cheaper.
The number of outdoor activities provided in the area are fairly well known. You could check out Burnham Park Lake - a decent place to stroll around as an adult, but an absolute blast for kids. Here you can rent paddleboats or other little bicycles and scooters to just cruise around on. It’s centrally located and therefore an easy place to grab a taxi and head elsewhere. Next stop could be the Baguio Botanical Gardens or Camp John Hay, again – both places you can walk around and enjoy the outdoors.
Camp John Hay has a miniature golf park, as well as the Treetop Adventure Nature Park where you can take your family. The Treetop Adventure offers multiple packages ranging from P500 to P1000, or you can customize your outing with some of their a la carte features.
Where To Eat & Drink
For good eats, there are a number of places in the area that you’ll love. Café by the Ruins (25 Shuntug Street, telephone 074-422-9804) is perhaps the most popular restaurant in the area with its fresh baked breads and spreads, and well-trained staff, its no wonder they rank at the top of Trip Advisor for Baguio City. Everything on their menu is done with the stomach in mind. While you’re sitting there waiting for your food to arrive you’ll likely find yourself looking around at other tables, wondering what they ordered because it all looks good.
Another superb dining experience can be found at Red Rustikz (82 Upper General Luna Road, telephone 0977-086-1453). Brothers Michael and Christian have built out this space with an open kitchen so you can view the kitchen staff as they prepare your dish and the aroma swirling around from the food will subtly stir your appetite while you wait. The ambiance is comfortable enough to make you melt in your seat, and you’ll love the music they play on the vinyl LP over in the corner of the restaurant. Red Rustikz serves up one of the finest gourmet burgers you will find in the country – combined with home made chips, soups, and sauces, you should be a happy camper when you walk out.
To drink, well – Baguio is full of watering holes along every curve and bend. But for our taste, there’s nothing better than the Baguio Craft Brewery (BCB) on Ben Palispis Highway (baguiocraftbrewery.com). BCB has a 2nd floor taproom, and a 3rd floor open air, live music, and dining area with a view to boot. With 16 incredible flavors on tap, including my favorite, the Kabunyan – a golden light malt-wheat beer that tastes like dessert, you’ll fall in love with the place. BCB is becoming quite the popular destination location with people coming from all over Luzon to get their hands on their products.
In conclusion, I think you get the point. If your current location has you down, if you seem stagnant, bored, or just want to get away for a day – try Baguio City, it’s definitely worth the run. Bring me a Kabunyan on your way back!