Smile. You’re in Baguio.

22 Mar

It was around four in the afternoon when fog started to cover the streets of Baguio City. I was walking along the pavements of Barangay Engineer’s Hill when visibility turned zero, making it difficult for me to see where I was heading to. This is an enchanted paradise, I thought.

Baguio City is among the top travel destinations in the country. It has established itself as the Summer Capital of the Philippines for it offers a cold temperature compared to Metro Manila. People also come to Baguio to experience the culture of the North – from the native food and tapuey (rice wine) to the betel nut chewing which is done by Igorots to keep their teeth strong. Sadly, Baguio is not as green as it used to be. Trees were cut so buildings can be built.

Truly, Baguio offers a lot of things to visitors—the ambiance, the climate, the people. Even a week would not be enough for one to experience what the City of Pines has to offer to visitors. First-timers may even be overwhelmed by the number of places that they can find in their guidebooks and travel leaflets. However, for one to experience the life in Baguio, there is nothing better but to go with the flow and immerse yourself with people who actually live there just like what I did. I lived in Baguio for a year as a college freshman and I really learned a lot about the place more than its face value.

Session road is the busiest place in the cold city. It is the main street in Baguio. Here, you can find restaurants such as Gecko’s Café, Zola, Oh! My Gulay, Don Henrico’s and Jack’s Diner. There are also vendors of Japanese moon cakes and other pastries along the streets. The place is fully developed, so to speak. Even fast food restaurants were visible in the area. As a matter of fact, there were more than three 7-Eleven convenient stores along the street.

I savored every step I took with a thought that it would take me several months to be here again. The shops and restaurants that I used to ignore in Session Road suddenly caught my attention. I even noticed the number of Koreans who were walking along the street. They have grown in number so fast that you can see them in almost every corner of the City of Pines. Most of them were in Baguio to learn how to speak in English—a proof that Baguio is not just a place for vacation but also a place for learning.

I finished the long stretch of sidewalk in Session Road and ended up in Burnham Park, a place popular for its lake where people can ride a boat. The park also has a cycling area where visitors can rent a bicycle.  It is a perfect place for people who just want to chill out, relax, and feel the climate of Baguio. For food lovers who visit Burnham, binatog or corn mixed with milk and sugar is a good way to experience the taste of highlanders. Adventurous street food lovers can also try the one-day old chick sold along the sidewalks.

Little details that people forget when they visit Baguio are actually the things that make this place special. Mines View Park, Botanical Garden, Camp John Hay, and The Mansion are classic tourist spots in the city. You go to that places yet you still feel that there is something more about Baguio than just horseback riding and public market shopping. There is something more profound than these things like the very simple yet sweet smiles of the natives who sell fresh vegetables in the market, the warmness of the people you meet in famous ukay-ukay or hand-me-down shops, and even the way you try to speak Ilocano with the locals when all you can really say is wen (yes) and naimbag nga bigat (good morning!).

And among those simple things that I appreciate the most is walking along the pavements of Session Road in the cold afternoon while holding a cone of ice cream. Simple yet the fact that I get to fall in line with a lot of people for the 25-peso Double Dutch ice cream and get to see people pass by me with a smile, it is self-fulfilling. It was as if I am not a visitor but part of their community.

As I head my way back to Manila, there was only one thing in my mind – I will be back in this place that I used to call home.

 

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