I recently returned to Baguio. After being away from this summer capital for more than three years mainly because of the pandemic, I finally got the chance to visit again.
Let’s admit it, Baguio remains to be the sentimental favorite travel destination to most of us. It was in Baguio where we went on our first family vacation, where we took our first overnight trip with our barkada, where we developed our thirst for adventure, and where we went on a first solo trip after our first break-up. There is always a memorable Baguio trip for every important period in our travel life.
We will never forget the first family trip to Baguio. On a rented van, the family braved the horrendous traffic of MacArthur Highway for a family vacation to the City of Pines. The overloaded van could hardly climb Kennon Road but somehow, we all managed to have our group picture taken at the Lion’s Head. Upon reaching Baguio, we went straight to the transient house. The adults prepared dinner – adobo cooked at home and rice – while us kids put on our sweaters as we enjoyed Baguio’s cold weather for the first time. After dinner, the adults made coffee for themselves, and hot Milo for us kids, and the adults started telling Baguio ghost stories, which brought us kids taking cover under our blankets until we fell asleep.
The next day was full day Baguio exploration: counting the steps at Lourdes Grotto, having a family photo at The Mansion, riding the horse at Wright Park and taking that customary solo shot at Mines View. The last day before going home was pasalubong shopping at the city market: peanut brittle, strawberry jam, brooms and giant wooden spoon and fork, which until this day remain hanging at grandma’s house in the province.
How can we forget the first overnight trip to Baguio by bus with the barkada? When your limited travel budget only allowed your group to sleep at a scary dormitory and eat at budget carinderias. When you still managed to save enough money to go to Camp John Hay and try the famous hamburger at the club house.
Then you discovered the world beyond Baguio. You still go to Baguio but as jump-off to explore the Cordilleras. You remember the first Mt. Pulag climb when you took your 30-kilo backpack to Baguio before hopping on to another bus that would take you to Ambangeg. As you discovered that many secrets of the highlands, Baguio simply became a transit point to more adventures.
As you climb up the corporate ladder, you return to Baguio not for a vacation but to simply fulfill what your job description requires you to do. You have to attend meetings, conferences, product launches in Baguio, and you have to stay in high-end hotels. You hardly got a chance to enjoy the city as you used to.
When I stepped down from corporate life last year, I wanted to return to Baguio so that I can enjoy the city the way I used to. But travel restrictions were in place due to pandemic.
So, when travel restrictions eased up several weeks ago, I planned a Baguio trip with my friends and their families. I wanted to see Baguio again and see how it healed during the two-year limited travel.
On the day of our Baguio trip, we left Manila early. Driving to Baguio is now easy with NLEX, SCTEX and TPLEX reducing travel time to less than five hours.
As soon as we arrived in Baguio, we started visiting new attractions like the Igorot Stone Kingdom and Mirador Eco-park which I felt were built to attract the younger, Instagram-hungry crowd.
We decided to check in at our transient house. It was located in Gibrartar Road, and a short drive from the city center. Same like my first time in Baguio, the adults hit the kitchen and prepared dinner – adobo, some extra viands from lunch and rice – while the kids put on their sweaters and started playing games on their mobile phones.
After dinner, I started preparing coffee for the adults. I asked the kids if they want Milo, they laughed then walked out to buy beer at the convenience store.
I smiled. Things may have changed, but the feeling of sharing the warmth of the company of family and friends to me is what Baguio is all about.