Baguio: What to see and do all-year round
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
In tropical countries like the Philippines, the temperature is normally warm whether it’s a wet or dry season. However, there is one city on a plateau in the northern Philippines that offers a cool respite to those seeking breathing space. Also called the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio City used to be a hill station of the Americans in the 1900s. The American influence, coupled with indigenous culture, gives Baguio a special character.
It is slowly earning a new moniker of being the weekend destination in the north. I’ve lived in the city from birth up until I went to college in Metro Manila. After college, I went back to Baguio because it is true what they say that nothing beats home. With that, I want to share with you things you can do and places you can see in Baguio all-year round. These make it the perfect destination for your solo, family, or friends group travel!
1. Brave the chilly mornings and nights in January and take a nature trip.
The coldest month in Baguio is January. While we start feeling the chills in December, in January, water from the faucet can make our bones ache! There are fewer tourists this month as compared to the jam-packed December and the heavily-crowded February. You can don your winter clothes and take a trip to the city’s nature parks: Botanical Garden, Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, Tam-Awan Village, and others. If you’re in, you can forest bathe in the Camp John Hay Eco trail, too!
2. Smell the flowers and watch them bloom in February.
Every February, the city holds the month-long Panagbenga (blooming of flowers) Festival. It’s so popular that people from other regions flock to Baguio to watch the street-dancing and float parades. Dancers of the former are clad in costumes made of colorful flowers and leaves. The floats are made of bright flowers, too, frequently promoted by artists from the entertainment industry. Aside from the parades, you can enjoy the Market Encounter all month, where handmade products, flowers, and specialty food are sold. There are similarly other city-led activities such as landscape competitions, Session Road in Bloom, Pony Boys’ Day, among others.
3. Enjoy the cool summer breeze from March to May.
Though February is the season of blooms, summer begins around mid-March. You can feel a change in temperature from cool to relatively warm, but not as warm and humid as in the lowlands. March to early May are the most temperate months of the year and are the best months to visit the city. All over the Philippines, these months are dog days, but in Baguio, you can enjoy the cool breeze!
Here are some attractions best visited during summer:
- Mines View Park for a greener view;
- Burnham Park to appreciate the yellow and orange tones of the sunset;
- Our Lady of Atonement Cathedral for architectural beauty;
- Good Shepherd Convent for the best purple yam jam; and
- Diplomat Hotel for an enigmatic heritage walking tour.
4. Have fun indoors at day and tour the streets at night from June to August.
The rainiest months are June to August. One of the finest ways to enjoy Baguio indoors is to visit museums. It is home to museums of diverse sorts: historical (Baguio-Mt. Province Museum, Emilio F. Aguinaldo Museum, Philippine Military Academy Museum, etc), artistic (BenCab Museum, owned and run by the National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto Cabrera), and anthropological (Museo Kordilyera, run by the University of the Philippines).
Another way is to go café-hopping. Since rainy days and hot drinks go together, you can enjoy Baguio through drinks. If you’re more of a foodie, you can do a resto-crawl along Session Road. It usually rains in the day, but you can do some night shopping and street food-tripping at the night market. If your schedule is tight, you can still do some thrift shopping in the day in “wagwagans,” or second-hand shops. I recommend trying it both day and night so you can appreciate the uniqueness of each experience!
5. Experience early Christmas in Baguio from September to December.
As in the whole Philippines, Christmas celebration starts as early as September in Baguio. Those from the lowlands prefer to spend Christmas in Baguio so they can experience its cool temperature that drops to even as low as 9 degrees Celsius. In addition, there are holiday events you can enjoy during the ber-months, on top of the usual food trip and sightseeing.
For Halloween on October 31, you can witness the Karkarna ti Rabii (held by a private university), a parade of fiends along the city’s most popular central business road. You may also opt to visit the Diplomat Hotel. It gained popularity as one of the allegedly haunted places in the city. The government has since taken over the property and developed it into the Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park. You can likewise find the giant Ten Commandments tablets there.
If you’re looking for the artistic vibes, you can catch the recently institutionalized Creative Art festival called “EntaCool” in November. Talents of local artists and musicians are showcased. Baguio was included in the 2018 UNESCO list of Creative Cities for its crafts and folk art. Entacool was one of its outcomes.
In December, you can choose among three main attractions: the Christmas Village operated by the Baguio Country Club, where you can loiter around an entire village with artificial snow for a minimal fee; the annual nightly Christmas Light Show presented by the Camp John Hay Manor (if you’re familiar with Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights, that’s the idea!); and the Rose Garden Christmas Village hosted by the City Government, where you can see the giant Christmas tree gratis!
Moreover, December 1 marks the yearly Lantern Parade in the city, facilitated by another private university. Session Road, the main thoroughfare, is closed for one whole day so that residents and visitors alike can enjoy the show.
That’s it for now. There are things you can do and places you can see on particular months of the year in Baguio City, but all-year round, everyone is welcome to experience the cultural wealth that the city offers!