Baguio / Benguet

7,000 TIMES MORE MEMORABLE
Towards the turn of the 20th century, the American city planner Daniel Burnham carved on a valley in the upland Cordillera region of northern Luzon a summer recreational center, the city of Baguio. With its nippy climate and pleasant mountain scenery, Baguio is a favored destination among artists, honeymooners and others looking for a cool retreat. It is also a faith healing haven and a university town.

Also nestled within the Central Cordillera mountain range is the postcard-pretty town of Banaue. Banaue’s claim to fame are the rice terraces - part of the 20,000 hectares of engineering marvel that also span the towns of Hungduan, Mayoyao and Kiangan. The terraces were built more than 2,000 years ago by the Ifugao tribe, using only their bare hands and crude implements. Inscribed in the World Heritage List, this "8th Wonder of the World" serves as a living testament to man’s genius at turning a rugged and forbidding terrain into a continuing source of sustenance. Baguio and Banaue are anchor tourist destinations and part of the 7,000 times more islands that make up the Philippine archipelago.


BAGUIO OF LEISURELY PURSUITS

One of the cleanest and greenest cities in the country, Baguio is made for sightseeing. And for strolls and boat rides and gentle trots around the park. And for golf. Kennon Road, completed in 1905, opened Baguio to tourism. The zigzagging path previews the scenic highlights of the city. Along the 32-kilometer highway are the Bridal Veil and Colorado waterfalls. Synonymous with Baguio is Burnham Park. Located in the heart of the city, the park’s features include a man-made lagoon ideal for boat rides, a skating rink, an athletic field and stadium, basketball and tennis courts, a biking zone, tree-and-flower lined promenades, and a plant market.

A popular golfing destination, the city takes pride in its Baguio Country Club and Camp John Hay. What used to be the rest-and-recreation base of American military personnel, the Camp is being transformed into a world-class resort and is also Baguio’s biggest pine tree conservation area. Its newly refurbished 18-hole golf course rivals that of the Country Club which has pretty garden-patched cottages surrounding its fairways. Ornate iron gates open to the Mansion House, the official summer residence of Philippine presidents. It offers tourists with great photo opportunities with its rectangular reflecting pool along a tree-lined walkway. It also houses a museum of presidential memorabilia. Near the Mansion House is Wright Park where neophyte riders can trot around an oval track guided by trainers who lead horses with a hand-held leash. At the Mines View Park, tourists can have a panoramic view of the old mines of Benguet. At the park entrance is a flea market for souvenir items.

Sitting on top of a hill in Upper Session Road is the twin-spire Baguio Cathedral, a city landmark. Another pilgrimage site is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes which sits on top of Dominican Hill. Devotees prefer to climb the 252-step ascent than drive through a winding road to reach the shrine. Bell Church holds a religious service of mixed Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and Christian dogmas but tourists come here to have their fortunes told. Located on an elevated pine-forested ground is the Philippine Military Academy, the country’s foremost military learning institution. Its Saturday morning Parade in Review by cadets in full regalia never fails to attract visitors. Also within campus is a Military Museum. A cultural haven established by noted Baguio artist BenCab, Tam-awan Village recreates a typical ethnic village in the Cordilleras with authentic tribal homes uprooted from their original locations and re-set on similar terrain. There is also an art gallery-cum-coffee shop.


BANAUE OF PAINTERLY DREAMS

Because of its high altitude, Banaue is often described as "where land merges with the clouds to meet the heavens" with the rice terraces as "the stairway to the sky."
Banaue is a place for nature adventures and cultural immersion. Days are for indulging in such activities as strolling, biking, and trekking. Evenings are for campfire chats at a village or warm indoor cosseting at the lodges and inns.

A leading tourism destination in Asia, the Banaue rice terraces start from the base of the Cordilleras and reach up to several thousand feet high. Its length, if stretched from end to end, could encircle half of the globe. The rice paddies are fed by mountain springs and streams that are channeled into an irrigation canal that runs downhill through the terraces. In the village of Batad, the terraces take the shape of an amphitheater and can be reached by a 12-kilometer ride from Banaue Hotel and a 2-hour hike through mountain trails.

After trekking through the terraces, cool retreats indeed are the spring-fed stream of Guihob and the magnificent Tappiya Waterfalls which has an enormous basin for swimming. Shopping takes a different twist in Banaue. While souvenir items are offered by curio stores, the more exciting way to shop, however, is to go on a village visit, watch a family demonstrate their native craft and then haggle for a better price on their product.


ISLAND FLAVORS

It has been said that there is only one kind of lucrative business in Baguio, and that is dining. This, of course, is overly exaggerated but then who can question this wisdom with the proliferation of food places offering all kinds of eats in this tiny city!

Star Caf้ along Lower Session Road is noted for its excellent breads and pies and fine Chinese cuisine while the adjoining Dainty Restaurant has the best coffee in town and good noodles, too. For really great old-fashioned breakfasts, check out Casa Vallejo at the Upper Session Road. New Bonuan at the Happy Glen Loop, Jade Restaurant along Marcos Highway and Barrio Fiesta at the Upper Session Road are where you can partake of home-cooked native cooking. Kalapaw Restaurant in Chuntug Street specializes in grilled squids and tuna jaws. Inn Rocio in Kisad Road dishes out Continental food, Mario’s Restaurant in Upper Session Road has good steaks, great Caesar’s Salad, and decadent cakes. And the artsy Caf้ by the Ruins in Chuntug Street serves eclectic, seasonal dishes. At the Hotel Monticello in Kennon Road, Hakuun Sanso Restaurant serves authentic Japanese cuisine while 50’s Diner specializes in traditional American staples. Rose Bowl Steak House and Restaurant in Harrison Road offers an international fare of Chinese, American and Filipino dishes. The local food chain Don Henrico’s has its beginnings at the Upper Session Road and serves yummy pastas and pizzas.

While Baguio bursts at the seams with restaurants, one has a limited choice in Banaue where most dining outlets are found in the mountain inns and lodges. Banaue Hotel has theme restaurants and offers catering services for picnic meals.

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  Information provided by Department of Tourism. Government of Philippines.

 

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