10 ways to enjoy and appreciate Baguio City sans the SM City-Baguio

Baguio has its innate charm and definitely, it is not SM Mall (no matter how it sits grandiosely on Luneta Hill).

I would still like to believe that:

  • People go to Baguio not because of SM City Baguio but because of the parks and the greenery and the mild weather.
  • People go to Baguio not simply because they want to try out new food at SM City but more but because they want to meet old friends and enjoying some time with family and relatives.
  • People go to Baguio because they can still enjoy walking and enjoying every bit of it. (So there should be little use for cars and, much less, parking lots!)

Having schooled and lived in Baguio between the mid-80s and early '90s, I still had the chance to experience the old-world feel of Baguio. I would say, having SM mall in Baguio is a superfluous idea in itself. In other words, having used to Baguio's natural charm, I practically avoid SM whenever I have the chance to go up to the City of Pines. Had it not for meeting old friends and buying some personal stuff like medicines or a cellphone load, I would not go inside SM.

It is because SM Baguio does not sit well with the Baguio City that I used to know. It's not being averse to the development and inability to embrace change. Sure you can find almost anything under one roof without having to hop from one store to another just to buy a shirt. But that is exactly the beauty and exciting thing about Baguio--you have to know it by heart so that you can truly appreciate it.

I have always known Baguio to be a quiet and peaceful place, which is oftentimes interrupted by the rustling pine needles as the cold air blows on the treetops, and of course, that old familiar pine scent--are just the simple things that define Baguio City.

Never in my entire life have I associated Baguio City with SM Malls. The truth is, going inside SM City Baguio for me is even more stressful than walking to Wright Park.

So, how can you enjoy Baguio sans the SM Mall?
  • Stop and Smell the flowers. Baguio City has a lot of parks with flowering plants! Learn, literally, to stop and smell the flowers. You begin with Burnham Park and Baguio Botanical Garden have interesting flower gardens. I haven't seen the newly renovated rose garden in Burnham Park yet, so it is a must place to go to. While away your time in the park or ride the colored horses in Wright Park, then climb the stone stairs up to the Glorieta, then the Mansion park. A jeepney ride will take you to Mines View Park. If you have more stamina, let your feet lead you to Outlook Drive and enjoy looking at the old beautiful houses and enjoy the sound of the rustling of pine needles along the way. 

  • Buy Pasalubong/ Goodies in local stores. Just more than a hundred meters away from Mines View Park is the Good Shepherd Convent where the famous strawberry preserves are sold. There are also curio shops in Mines view park where you can find cheap souvenirs. If you are a cheapskate, haggle it out at the Baguio Public Market where you get your money's worth. Not only can you buy more at a cheap price but you help Benguet farmers and vendors earn a decent living.
Sundot Kulangot

  • Experience dining. Baguio City offers the best dining experience. There are one too many home-grown restaurants along Session road. Examples of these include the old Sizzling plate, Star Cafe, Swiss Baker along Session Road and Solibao restaurant in Burnham Park, Narda's, and Oh, My Gulay. By patronizing them, you help preserve the heritage of Baguio City.
Oh My Gulay!

  • Relax. Have a Picnic. You can go a little more adventurous and be different from the rest. Buy your packed lunch and just spread a mat at the picnic area in Burnham Park. You can also have it in Baguio Botanical Garden. 
  • Take that spiritual Journey. If you are a Catholic, Baguio City is the place for spiritual retreats. The Baguio Cathedral is usually quiet in-between masses. Pray and thank God for the pine trees of Baguio that makes it cooler. You can ride a cab to Lourdes grotto and sweat out those stubborn lipids by climbing up the stairs while praying the rosary. Visit The Pink Sisters Convent for a more quiet communing with God or simply go to Maryknoll Ecological Center where you can both commune with your God and His creation.
Baguio | Pink Sisters Convent

  • Roll on dried pine needles. Enjoy the treks at Club John Hay.  There are still open spaces accessible to the public where you can gather and make a bed of dried pine needles and just lie on your back after a long walk and enjoying the cool air and humming of the wind.
Beyond the fence
  • Master the art of loafing. Secure a bench in one of the parks while munching roasted corn and watching people pass by, or just enjoy being yourself even just for a few minutes. There is nothing more rewarding than just sitting or walking to while away time. It is your vacation. Keep away from stressful mall scenes.
Life is...

  • Take long walks. I have tried this many times in the past and it was both physically and aesthetically rewarding.   Baguio is such a small place that one can enjoy nature while walking, except for riding a cab or a jeepney to reach farther places. Walk from Session road to Leonard Wood Road to Pacdal Circle and up the stairs in the Wright park then the Mansion House. If you got more stamina, extend your walk through the Outlook Drive until you reach Mines View Park. By walking and enjoying every bit of your step, then you can truly say you have experienced Baguio City at its best. A more pleasant experience is doing it while drizzling. Feel the tiny drops or spray of rain on your face.
Red. Blue. Pink.

  • Enjoy Benguet Coffee Arabica. Look for local restaurants that offer freshly brewed Benguet coffee. You help not only the Benguet coffee growers, but you will also realize they are better tasting and have better aroma than those being sold by popular coffee shops. 
  • Of course, do not forget to take your souvenir photos!
This summer, enjoy Baguio like you never did before. Go out and explore!

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Aside from my day job, I love photography and storytelling. Going places--be it a cliche destination or the far side of the road--stoke and free my soul. I dig deeper into the people’s psyche, culture and ethnicity, and heritage. I love to observe how they thrive and build social institutions, preserve their culture and traditions.


benz said...

Nostalgic post!

btw, on dining, i've seen a Dainty at lower Mabini, just after McDo.

Miss loafing around Baguio though... I now can feel the hustle and bustle of the city everytime I go home...

Edmar Guquib said...

Nice feature! I always have the urge to go to Baguio and one reason is marami pa akong hindi napupuntahan dito.. There are a lot of things na gusto ko pang i-blog in this charming city. Never tried the Sundot Kulangot yet and the Pink sister is waiting for me ,hehe.

Admin/Author said...

Benz, I thought Dainty has already closed! Yey! I miss their delicious pancit!

Edmar, Baguio is Home! Thanks!

Christian | Lakad Pilipinas said...

"People go to Baguio because they can still enjoy walking and enjoying every bit of it. (So there should be little use for cars and, much less, parking lots!)"

I totally agree Ding!

Ang ganda pala ng chapel ng pink sisters! makabisita nga rin :)

Anonymous said...

Baguio CITY (not the outskirts but the city itself) is a mountain city slum masquerading itself as a picturesque mountain resort/quaint settlement. there's so much traffic, pollution, congestion and the perimeter is littered with tin-roofed shanties... it is FAR from the beauty of Sagada / Trinidad to how it was portrayed here. don't let these selected artsy and charming shots blind you for what Baguio city really looks like. There is only a couple of good mountain laid back ambiance like Camp John Hay BUT it's only accessible to the rich. No hiking paths and trails unless you venture to the outskirts going futher North like La Union, Ifugao & Bontoc.

nocturne said...

Baguio is a hopeless case. Let's face it, it's already been long ruined and there's little on what can be improved/rehabilitated. There is no single group to blame either from the corrupt politicians to the big businessmen to the average citizen throwing their trash on the ground and driving their smoke belching cars to the parents that don't teach their children the importance of environmental preservation, it's pretty much everyone. Imagine a city designed for 30k people that now has 450k and is still growing. The local government should have incorporated a decent land zoning and protection act a long time ago because it's all but impossible to do anything about it now.

Admin/Author said...

@nocturne: I agree with you, there is so much environmental problem that Baguio faces now—which, apparently, you have already mentioned. There is no question about your observations, but honestly, I do not subscribe to your judgment that Baguio is a hopeless case. I still believe that the residents of Baguio still love the city, much as we, transients, love it. As long as a pine tree or sunflowers on the road continue to grow, then Baguio will be resurrected.

Rather than sowing hopelessness, why don’t you be part of the solution? I do not know if you are from Baguio. If you are, then I would feel sorry for you because of the negativism and pessimism you have. If you continue to have it, then better get our of Baguio at once before it kills you. If you are not from Baguio, I would understand. Only those who lived in Baguio would understand what I mean.

If you are not from Baguio and showing your disgust here in this blog, does not bring the solution at all.

Thank you for taking some time visiting and reading this blog.

Admin/Author said...

@Anonymous, With all due respect, it is not the objective of this blog entry to portray Baguio as picture perfect. I think you utterly missed the point—it is avoiding SM Baguio by engaging in other activities other than those inside SM. It is clear in the title that there are 10 ways to appreciate Baguio. Baguio, like any other tourist destinations have its flaws and imperfections. It was never the intention of this blog and this blogger to “blind” and lure readers about any place I have been to—and this time, Baguio City.

I have gone over and over the text of the blog entry and never did I picture Baguio in totality as perfect. What makes it perfect—again, with all its imperfections—is the experience. Have you tried walking in the rain in Baguio or rested your back on a bed of pine needles? If you did, then you know what I mean. Or perhaps, iba lang ang trip mo sa trip ko. I can get easily entertained and satisfied. The caramay soaked in vinegar being sold outside Tiong-san bazaar is enough treat for me. Yeah, perhaps, you just have a different perspective of what travelling is. But then I would ask you to respect my experience, too.

You call my photography “flimsy”. It is never intended to represent the whole of Baguio. They may be representations, but they are intended to go well with the story. I never intend to deceive readers. With your comment, I could sense that you have not fully appreciated Baguio well. True there are—in your words—shanties all over, but they do not represent the entirety of Baguio as well. Perspective lang yan—you see the UGLY PART and I see the BEAUTIFUL AND THE MUNDANE. I think we will never meet in that regard.

I suggest you take photos of the UGLY part of Baguio and blog about it too, so you can rant with all your glory and might. By then, we have something different to see, too.

And anonymous, you seem to be very passionate about your comments, wouldn't it be more brave on your part had you put your real name under your comment?

Anonymous said...

uncle ding, only those who have "truly" experienced Baguio could see the quaint and the mundane. I have lived in this city for so long, it is my second home... there's so much yet to experience in the city other than where the typical tourists go to. you and I, and a few others out there know these wonderful places. I've toured a lot of my friends to these "unkowns", to truly experience Baguio. it's like experiencing Baguio from the backside, literally. =) and they loved every minute of it. just got off from a 10-day hiatus up there --- missing it already :( brugie

Admin/Author said...

I agree with you Brugie! I don't know what has got into this reader why he hates Baguio so much?!

Denise said...

Hmmm i think that's part of publishing something online to welcome both sides. We have to face it if people love Baguio there would also be people who would hate it right? Keeps a sense of balance. Just don't get too affected by it, it's just an opinion after all. In the end, we choose what we want to believe and live by our own rules and principles and not based on how other people want us to be. Good luck!

Admin/Author said...

I agree denise, but there is also a point when you have to believe in what you say and write about. Right? I just think his comments are beyond what this article talks about. I am not affected at all. I just need to put him or any reader, for that matter, in the perspective where I am coming from.

Unknown said...

I share the views and sentiments of my fellow "highlanders". We may not be igorots or natives of the land but it's undeniable that the love for Baguio in its entirety is embedded deep in our heart. I know almost every streets and corners of that city. I frequented almost all the bars & shows & bands and even the folkhouses in the dark alleys of General Luna. I owe my college degree to the ever leafy and fruitful sayote in our boardinghouse in Lower QM. and the cheaply priced vegetables in Kayang and Hangar Market. Reaching BGH from Kennon Rd is the same feeling as my flight touching ground in NAIA. Lots of changes happened, traffic is bad, the old shops and cinemas are gone, but I don't mind coz I guess Love is really blind.

ian said...

Spent almost a month in Baguio this Feb-Mar for work ; wish i had this blog post to guide me then! but two things i would travel 8 hours for just to reach baguio: a meal at Cafe By The Ruins and another romp through the BenCab Musuem just off Baguio =] aaaaaaaahh #missingbaguioterribly

Admin/Author said...

Thanks, Jonard for the support!yes, Love is blind!

Admin/Author said...

Doc Ian. indeed, Baguio is still captivating despite of...Actually I envy for staying in Baguio that long! I wish I have more time in Baguio for a work-related stuff...thanks!

Jao said...

They always say why Baguio eh pangit na daw dyan , i personally do not believe that just go near the eastern part of the city puro puno pa. Besides Baguio brings me lots of good memories, memories of a happy childhood with the family. Kaya now i have a family of my home i go to Baguio yearly and hope my wife and my son could build memories of their own, and yes i do avoid SM as much as possible in Baguio

Admin/Author said...

Jao, the memories of Baguio will always keep it alive in our hearts. Thanks!

Micole l PhilippineTraveler said...

Oh my God! Irresistible talaga ang Baguio! No wonder it is the Summer capital of the Philippines. With the many times I have visited, it always feels like the first time. I especially like the walks in Burnham park. I have also visited the renovated Rose garden, you will never see a more colorful and romantic spot! And I'm so glad check po ako sa lahat ng na mention nyo na gawin sa Baguio to really experience it ! This post brings back memories. Now, I'm thinking of visiting again!

htprcp said...

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and Baguio is beautiful only from a person's perspective. If you only see the ugliness it says a lot about you and where you're coming from. Baguio is still beautiful no matter how many abuses it has endured over the years, and how many so-called improvements have ruined many of its natural traits. It takes a true resident of Baguio to still see what makes walking around an adventure and a totally heartfelt individualized experience.

Anonymous said...

Wow !! Thanks for posting some pictures, i want to go there in Baguio but i dont know how, i visit some travel blog but this blog is the most helpful blog i ever visited, i can only know some info about travel here in

thanks for the help,

Unknown said...

i love ur passion for including and encouraging tourist to try local goods and independent establishments. no point in making ''pasyal '' any where if you do not experience local culture, which is best found by exploring outside ur comfort zone. good work. i'm sold!

Jayson Park said...

Every place has a good side and the bad side, it just depends on what do you want to see. But for me, I'd rather see the good side of Baguio. Strolling and having a picnic in a park there, or just plain relaxation. I know Baguio will deliver.

Admin/Author said...

Thank you!