Baguio City — A gift from America to the Philippines that keeps on giving

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Baguio City
Wright Park – looking trough the front gate of “The Mansion”

Baguio City – the City of Pines and Summer Capital of the Philippines – is a cool place to visit… in both senses of the word.

Governor-General William Taft (later US President from 1909 to 1913) came to Baguio in 1901, the words he uttered ring true today: “The air as as bracing as the Adirondacks or Murray Bay. Temperature this hottest month in the Philippines on my cottage porch at three in the afternoon – sixty-eight.”

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Though William Taft saw the bare bones of Baguio’s beginning, he simply saw what Daniel Burnham did – a village that was about to be transformed into one of the most beautiful cities in the Philippines.

Beginning in 1903, numerous Chinese, Japanese and Filipino workers were hired to build one of the easiest roads to Baguio today, Kennon Road. Kennon Road is the first road to connect the lowlands to one of the highest elevated cities in the Philippines. Prior to this road the only way to Baguio was by Naguilian Road which ended at the top in a rough and difficult path.

Baguio City
Baguio City at night – looking down on Burnham Park

A Chicago architect by the name of Daniel Hudson Burnham incorporated Baguio in 1909, creating a city from a village that once was known as Kafagway Village. Kafagway Village took its name originally from the Ibaloi word for ‘bagiw’ which translates to ‘moss.’ Today the indigenous language that is still spoken in the hills of the Cordillera Mountain Range is noted as being ‘Ibaloi.’

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Baguio City rests just over 5,000 feet above sea level, giving it the perfect temperatures for visitors seeking a place where you may need to put a jacket on at night!

This and the beauty left behind by Daniel Burnham gives Baguio City a unique aspect for foreigners wanting to live in the Philippines. Daniel Burnham knew of the cool temperatures of the area and its sloping landscape, making it easy for him to lay out such this city in the high mountain regions of Luzon.

Burnham created beautiful parks and urbanized the region piece by piece – little by little, and today a dedication to his effort lies in a park named after him, Burnham Park.

Baguio City
The boating lake in Burnham Park. Image by Expatch.org

The 32.9 hectare area of Burnham Park encases a total of 12 clusters which make up the entire city region – they include:

  • Burnham Lagoon – The man-made lake where many go to hire a rowboat and enjoy the expansive views of the park
  • Children’s Playground – This unique part of Burnham Park has been rehabilitated by the assistance of SM Holdings Inc.
  • Ice Skating Rink – The rink lies on the southern end of the Burnham Park and is open daily
  • The Rose Garden – The rose garden is dedicated to Daniel Burnham as a monumental bust is stationed here telling everyone about his life in Baguio City
  • The Orchidarium – A small but unique garden dedicated to unique, rare and beautiful orchids
  • Igorot Gardens – The gardens is a favorite amongst the locals to play chess. On the grounds rest 5 dominating statues, all dedicated to the 5 main Igorot Tribes who live in the regions of the Cordillera Mountain Ranges
  • Melvin Jones Grandstand – A Soccer Field and Stadium just off Harrison Rd – Most Notable was the visit of Pope John Paul II in the 1980s to this part of the park
  • The Athletic Bowl – Though this region has been slightly in decay for a long period of time, the city is planning a modern make-over of this park. Since 2012 an ongoing rehab project has turned this part of Burnham Park back to its glory
  • Picnic Grove – A simple yet fitting region that in the near future will include water features and unique modern aspects that the entire park is receiving
  • The Japanese Peace Tower – A small but fitting memorial erected to the many Japanese that live and lived throughout the regions of Baguio
  • Pine Trees of the World – an ecological and camping center, “Pine Trees of the World” was intended to preserve the many unique trees from around the world to enhance the beauty of this great city
  • Sunshine Park

Burnham Park was intended as a modern-day nature/green park from long ago. Though numerous additions have changed the basis of some parts of Burnham Park, the beauty that is installed here is simply inspiring in so many ways.

Burnham Park is just one park out of many that he built throughout the cityscape. From unique amphitheaters to private gardens and lush manicured forests, the city of Baguio is a haven for those into nature while living up-close and personal in a modernized city.

Baguio City is officially designated as “The Summer Capital of the Philippines.” That designation comes from the Presidential mansion that sits just outside the city limits. The Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion is a focal point across from a stunning park known as Wright Park. This park and many others are well kept and laid out in the manner of English parks with central waterways, paths and unique features that you do not see in modern day Philippines.

Not far from the Presidential Mansion is one of the most spectacular views you can see in any park in Baguio, Mines View Park. This particular area is situated on a steep overview that gives way to a panoramic view of the mining regions of the Cordillera Mountains.

Baguio City
The mountainous landscapes surrounding the city are stunning.

Mines View Park houses local artisans and shops from tribes-people who sell their wares. It is even a unique photo opportunity to dress as one of the Ibaloi tribesmen and take a little remembrance home with you.

Other interesting places throughout Baguio City are as follows:

Camp John Hay – Known as “Little America” from years ago, Camp John Hay is an ex-military compound turned into an amazing resort. The Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, to the modern day shopping centers, hotels and convention centre is just some of what you will see on your trip to Camp John Hay. This is a must-see spot when visiting Baguio.

Botanical Gardens – Recently renamed ‘Centennial Park’ rests just inside the ornate wall of Botanical Gardens. Inside the Centennial Park stands a bronze dedicated to Daniel Burnham. The rest of the park is home a beautiful Art Gallery, the Igorot Village and is an open-air facility for rituals, concerts and other important meetings in the city of Pines.

Mount St. Thomas – This is by far the tallest peak in Baguio City. The Site offers panoramic views of the entire region including areas of La Union Province and even sites as far as the South China Sea.

Sessions Road – The lower Sessions Road is the hot-spot of Baguio City with numerous entertainment, shopping and ‘all things grand’ run down both sides of Sessions Road. The food, fun and atmosphere of Sessions Road is alive and kicking and includes a thumping nightlife atmosphere as well.

Philippines Military Academy – a 373 hectare compound in Loakan, Fort Gregorio del Pilar about 10 kilometres outside of the city of Baguio.

Bell Church – This well-kept area of La Trinidad in Benguet (Baguio City) which has intricately designed arches and buildings adorned in traditional Chinese design. The grounds are simply beautiful, a massive pagoda, landscape gardens and building adorned with flags, bells and dragons rest in various degrees around the compound.

Other places to visit in and around Baguio city include the Asin Hot Springs, though this is outside of the city, it is an undeveloped region with numerous hot springs. Wood Carver’s Village, which is near Asin Hot Springs, and is a three kilometre region of indigenous wood carvers that carve anything from miniatures to massive carvings.

Visit the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary for art exhibits, as well as Balatoc Mines and Crosby Park where you can become a gold miner for the day. Find your way to the Baguio Strawberry Farms where you can pick your own.

Lourdes Grotto and Baguio Cathedral are just two of the beautiful churches that adorn the city as well.

Baguio City
Manor Hotel at Camp John Hay

Be sure to drive the famous Kennon Road where waterfalls, canyons and beautiful scenery abound. During the sunflower season Kennon Road and other regions of Baguio City are filled with the beauty of these majestic flowers. Oddly enough, these flowers are considered sacred and it is against the law to pick them or harm them in any way.

Simply said, Baguio City has it all.

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