Mention Baguio to a Filipino, and they will excitedly talk about the strawberries to be found there. Mention it to a foreign backpacker, and they will probably be a little less enthusiastic. For foreigners this city is just more of a transportation hub. I was on my way to Vigan further North, and there’s no way to get there without backtracking to Baguio. There are some sights here, so I wanted to make the most of my visit.
Getting to Baguio from Sagada is normally a straightforward bus ride. The way buses work in the Philippines is you just show up at the station an hour before you want to go. There are no advance reservations. When I showed up, there was a huge queue of Filipinos waiting to go home after the papal visit public holiday. There is only one bus an hour, so I waited in line for more than an hour. At that point some Filipinos had hired a jeepney, and were looking for one more person. I volunteered, and soon was on the road. It was a six hour ride, which wasn’t very comfortable in a crowded jeepney.
Baguio’s claim to fame is that it’s a cool city in the mountains. It was founded by the Americans as a place for soldiers to go and cool down from the hot temperatures in the lowlands. Today it’s a big, noisy, polluted, chaotic, spread-out city. The jeepney dropped me in the bus station, and I had no idea where to go. I hate to follow Lonely Planet, but its recommendation of a cheap guest house did come in handy here.
With lodging secured, I set out to explore. The city is so spread out it’s impossible to walk everywhere, but there are a lot of shops and restaurants on Sessions Road. The public market was interesting. There’s also a cathedral, which was full of people. Lonely Planet’s recommendation of the little museum in Saint Louise University was good. This used to be the land of headhunters, but there is no evidence of that today. This free museum had traditional clothes, weapons, tools, and instruments. I got to play some of the instruments, including a nose flute.
There are a couple more sites here, but everything is far away and requires a taxi ride. I rode all the way out to the BenCab museum, which is supposed to be good. He’s a famous local artist. Unfortunately, it was Monday, and most museums in the Philippines are closed on Monday. Every time I went to a museum, it was always a Monday. The only museum I was able to see in the Philippines was the Saint Louis University one.
Plan B was to go the the little artist’s village BenCab created called Tam-awan Village, which was very far away. It had a few traditional huts that you can stay in and a short walk to a viewpoint, and not much else.
I was struggling to find things to fill the day. I took a taxi to Camp John Hay, which is also far. This was the original US army base founded for R&R purposes. It’s now run by the Filipinos as a tourist attraction. It’s all greenspace, and I killed a few hours walking the trails here. Getting back to town was a pain, and it took a long time to find a taxi.
I thought Baguio was worth a wonder while passing through on the way to Vigan.