Baguio City, in the mountains of Northern Luzon, has a climate that is quite different from most other parts of the Philippines.
That’s because it sits at an altitude of around 5,000 feet.
I’ve woken up on a December morning to find ice on the car’s windscreen – not a common experience in the Philippines!
Even in the summer, Baguio has a very pleasant climate: low humidity and moderate temperatures.
Although it is located within the province of Benguet, it has its own government and operates independently of the provincial government.
Baguio is a vibrant city, with a famous university and a bustling economy. It boasts a number of resorts and hotels offering a welcome break from the heat and humidity that characterises the Philippines for most of the year.
Getting to Baguio from Manila is either a bus ride (these can be quite hairy) or a drive. The bus will take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours, but in a car you can do it in around 5.
I was staying with friends near San Manuel, in Pangasinan, and so for us it was just a couple of hours.
We headed north on the McArthur Highway (which is not a highway at all, it is a single carriageway road crawling with sugar cane lorries) and just before Rosario we turned right, onto Kennon Road.
There are two main routes from the McArthur highway to Baguio: Kennon Road and the Marcos Highway. I recommend the Kennon Road option because it’s a spectacular drive.
It’s not a busy route at all, and you need to be careful of rock falls, but the countryside is quite amazing.
The route up from Manila is pretty flat all the way, but turning onto Kennon Road takes you up into the mountains and the countryside soon changes dramatically.
This is the at the foothills:
The closer you get to Baguio the more spectacular the scenery, and the steeper the road becomes.
By this stage of the trip we rarely got out of second gear as we crawled up the hills behind jeepneys and other local traffic:
When we finally reached Baguio we headed for Camp John Hay, which has a special place in Philippines history.
Today it is a wonderful resort offering luxurious accommodations and all the amenities you would expect: Spas, golf, shopping, swimming pools, different restaurants and so on.
But it was once an American military base, set up in 1903 to provide sanatorium facilities for injured soldiers. It was also the base of the commander of American forces in the Philippines.
It’s where the Japanese General Yamashita surrendered in World War 2, bringing the Japanese occupation of the Philippines to an end.
After the Americans left, the right to develop it as a resort was auctioned off, and work began in 1996.
Here’s the entrance to the accommodations area:
The total area of the camp is 300 hectares (about 750 acres) – here we are walking through the pine forest, which is part of the camp, with the wonderful scent of pines in the air:
And here’s a view of the golf course:
Access to the accommodations area was restricted, and since we did not have reservations we were not able to see inside.
So we decided to move on to Mines View, which is a popular destination for Baguio residents and visitors alike.
There’s a colourful local market:
. . . and some spectacular wood carvings:
. . . and another:
And possibly one of the most spectacular views I’ve seen anywhere:
After pottering around the market for a bit, time was moving on so we started our trip back to San Manuel.
Because we were a bit late, we took the Marcos highway back down to the coastal plain. This route is quicker but it’s also busier.
In many parts it is dual carriageway, enabling us to get past lorries and busses more quickly, but it meets the McArthur Highway at Agoo, which is some way further North from Rosario, where we turned off on to Kennon Road earlier.
None-the-less, we made it back in time for the dinner that was planned for the evening – a great day out!
Have you been to Baguio? If not, I highly recommend it. In some ways it’s quite different from other parts of the Philippines.
Let us know what you think in the comments!
The Expat Traveller