It’s still a jolly Christmas in Baguio City

The country’s first Creative City has now opened its doors to 1,000 tourists daily

Photos courtesy of Zaldy Comanda

ARTIST TREE The giant Christmas Tree at the heart of the Summer Capital

At about 4,600 feet above sea level, 250 kilometers north of Manila, nestled within the Cordillera mountain, is the country’s first-ever creative city—Baguio City. 

With its vibrant culture, naturally cold weather, and breathtaking sceneries, around 1.7 million tourists are flocking to Baguio annually, especially in summer and the holidays. Here, families gather to celebrate special occasions or to simply take a breather from city life. 

Christmas in the mountains 

Every Christmas season, Baguio City turns into a fairy tale come to life as Session Road sparkles and dazzles with Christmas lights, beneath which locals and tourists take refreshing walks up and down the hilly terrain. At Burnham Park, various stalls are built where tourists stumble upon a wide array of surprising finds, from delicious delicacies, artisanal coffee to locally-made crafts, such as indigenous weaves. 

HOLY NIGHT Nativity display along the session road

Those who are into art will surely enjoy live art shows and exhibits along Session Road and at Burnham Park as Baguio’s finest artists do live acts, generously sharing their knowledge and skills and works. Throughout the day, tourists may enjoy jamming sessions as performing artists do busking shows, also at Burnham Park. 

At 9 p.m., the night market opens, rife with thrift finds and affordable eats. It’s also the perfect spot to enjoy cool late evenings while waiting for the Simbang Gabi. Baguio City has been undeniably one of the go-to-places for Filipinos every Christmas season, until the Covid-19 pandemic struck. 

Paskong Pinoy and the Covid-19

This deadly disease has changed the way we live to the point that it will even affect the way we will celebrate holidays this year. But Baguio City’s local government is doing its best to remind everyone that, despite the pandemic, we can still enjoy this Christmas, as we should. And Baguio is still a place we can all gather today. 

In a conversation with the Philippine Panorama, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong shares the programs the LGU has rolled to ensure that both tourists and residents will enjoy holiday festivities safely and meaningfully. 

WELCOME TO SESSION ROAD Baguio City’s infamous road has once again sparkle with lights and joy (Zaldy Comanda)

He openly admits that the pandemic directly affects this year’s Christmas celebration, but for him, it doesn’t mean we should allow it to steal our joys. “There’s a huge impact. It changes our lifestyle,” he says. “Family reunions are significantly reduced and limited only to households unlike in the past when the whole clan, the families coming from different provinces, goes up to Baguio City to celebrate. Now it is forbidden, celebrations are limited to households, to immediate family members living together in the quarantine.” 

‘This virus shouldn’t dampen our spirit to enjoy the Christmas season. We can always celebrate Christmas as long as we don’t compromise the health and safety of our residents and our visitors.’

The good mayor also says that everyone will surely miss attending Simbang Gabi since gathering is limited to only 50 individuals. Those who love drowning their feelings or toasting to life with alcohol, drinking at the many bars and watering holes along Session Road, will surely miss the way it used to be because excessive drinking is also prohibited. 

But despite all these restrictions, there are still many reasons we should celebrate and enjoy. And what’s the best way to remind everyone of that than lighting up the biggest Christmas tree at the heart of Baguio City, turning the Christmas lights on in many parts of the city and surrounding towns, and rolling out celebratory art sessions and programs? 

BAGUIO'S BEST Mayor Benjamin Magalong (Photo by JJ Landingin)

“We have lit up our Christmas tree, we will extend art exhibits, and we will allow Baguio Country Club to make its open area accessible to everyone,” announces Mayor Magalong. 

Since the LGU prohibits the selling of fireworks, the mayor says they have a big surprise for everyone who is yearning for the nostalgic feeling of watching fireworks displays. 

On top of all of this, Baguio has now opened its doors to 1,000 tourists daily, a significant jump from the limit of 200 arrivals a day in the previous months. For those who worry about public transportation, the mayor is proud to announce that point-to-point buses can now enter the City of Pines. 

“This virus shouldn’t dampen our spirit to enjoy the Christmas season. We can always celebrate Christmas as long as we don’t compromise the health and safety of our residents and our visitors,” says Mayor Magalong. “And the only way we can do that is if we strictly adhere to the health standards. It takes a lot of self-discipline. Each of us has a role to play, the government cannot do it alone. We need your cooperation. We need to work together for this is the only way we can heal together.”