You know them. You’ve been there. We’ve certainly been there at least once. But a trip to Baguio is never really complete without the obligatory tour to its famous landmarks. You know, kind of like coffee in the morning. Sometimes cliche’d, but still, the experience needs to be relived.
We hired a taxi to drop us off and keep the meter running at each destination until we finally reached Mines View Park. From there, we walked toward the Good Shepherd Convent, then took a different cab back to the hotel. We figured that’s a helluva lot cheaper than a half-day city tour, which costs between P1,000 and P1,200 (taxis charge P300 minimum per hour for tours). We paid only P100 going to (stops included), then P80 going back from Good Shepherd to the city proper.
Museum and photo taking aside, there’s not much to do at the Mansion unless you like marveling at intricate wrought iron, in which case, you’re in for a treat at the gate. Wikipedia brands it as the “official summer residence of the President of the Philippines”. I call it the place where two soldiers sold us a miniscule “commemorative” seal for P300.
Parked right across the street from The Mansion. A tranquil prominade with ponies for riding at the end of a long and shallow pool. Brimming with joggers and hikers, charming inns and cabins, and pines.
There are three or more ponies and St. Bernards there, and handlers charge P10 for each person for a photo (using your own cam). Often, the ones nearer the entrance get the most customers, which made me feel terrible for the ones at the viewing deck. And for the animals as well. I mean, if I had to sit for 10, 12 hours each day in one place to accommodate photos with strangers, I’d be pissed and bored out of my wits.
|Nearby Mines View Park Hotel
Stalls selling plants, jams, souvenirs, clothes – basically any merchandise imaginable – crowd the entire park. Back in the day, there was plenty of space to move around and appreciate the mountains even from afar. Now it’s mostly just makeshift stores, tarps, straw roofs, a flurry of things for sale, and a faint scent of sewage seeping from the grounds. Oh, the perils of commercialization.
Good Shepherd Convent
A little ways down the road from Mines View Park (head north from the entrance, toward Ibay’s; accessible on foot in 15 minutes) is a gold mine of yummy organic Baguio delicacies. Hands down, the best lengua, strawberry jam, ube halaya and angel cookies (a crunchy goodie that is surprisingly made from holy host),this side of the planet.
|Lengua (P150-ish), Ube Jam (P180), Strawberry Jam (P150-ish) and Angel Cookies (not in photo, P85 per small pack) from Good Shepherd. Those are real strawberries, yes. And it isn’t ultra sweet.
Be ready for emptied pockets. The products are leaning toward overpriced, but being that they’re concocted by nuns and sales go to charity will hopefully make you feel better about the purchase. I am not kiddin’ either when I say they are heavenly – orgasmic, even. The ube halaya is a lick-to-the-last-drop treat and I don’t even eat ube to begin with. No bull.
The cab driver dropped us off midway through the shrine/ replica of the Our Lady of Lourdes grotto in France (up a hill near Diplomat Road) where a parking lot and a steep paved road await (takes only about 20 minutes to cover with normal walking pace, but left me short of breath anyway). Otherwise, you can tread the 252 steps up from down below like pilgrims do on Holy Week . The road is serene as serene can be and affords a near-360 degree vista of Naguilian Road and some teensy parts of Pangasinan, too.
We visited around noon. Fog was beginning to take over the horizon. If you’re looking for picture-perfect clear skies, you might want to take the tour earlier in the morning.
Expect to be approached by vendors selling candles and flowers on the way up. If you’re arthritic, the vendors may light the candle and pray in your stead.
|Souvenir shop by the parking lot. Halfway along the trail, a native Ifugao woman offers photos (P10 each head) while you wear a native Ifugao hat.
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