My summer escape

Summer's heat would certainly make one want to escape to beautiful beaches, to bury one's feet in the sand, take a dip in the cool waters and have a relaxing massage by the beach.  In my case, summer brings to mind my memorable vacation in Baguio, which without doubt is one of the perfect places to be in during this hot season.  I traveled with the tourism officers of Iloilo and let me share with you our grand experience in the summer capital of the country as we toured the different tourist destinations that the city is proud of.

We arrived late in the afternoon so we had to go straight to Mile Hi Inn, a simple yet clean and functional hotel at Camp John Hay where we stayed overnight.  Just like in any other hotel in Baguio, our room has no air condition, yet we slept with our blankets wrapped tightly  around us since the night was so chilly.

The next day, we woke up early to experience the city’s foggy morning which is quite a marvel.  After a full breakfast, we were all full of energy and excitement as we headed out to start our tour.  On our way out of Camp John Hay, we were quite charmed by the pine tree-lined roads, beautiful landscaping and wide open spaces.  The place used to be the rest and recreation facility for American soldiers but it now features a world-class golf course, hotels, shopping centers and convention center.  It is one of the “must-see” places in the city.

Our first stop was the Lourdes Grotto, one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Baguio, and was constructed to commemorate the visions of the Virgin Mary by a French girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.  Located in Mirador Hill, we had to climb more than 250 steps to reach the grotto. It may be a place of prayer, but don’t expect to get some peace and quiet as many locals and tourists visit the place.  It was a bustling place but still we had to say our prayers for a safe trip.  Next came the challenge of the climb down.  God knows I need the exercise.

We visited The Mansion which is the official summer residence of the President of the Philippines.  Formerly called the Mansion House, this imposing white edifice is located along C.P. Romulo Drive, and is right across Wright Park, one of the leisure parks in the city.  It was built in 1908 as the summer house of American governor-generals and was destroyed during the battle for the liberation of the country in 1945.  It was later rebuilt and used by the different presidents of the Philippines from then on.  Today, it is one of Baguio’s famous and most photographed landmarks.

Located at Fort Gregorio del Pilar on Loakan Road is the Philippine Military Academy, the country’s best military school and training ground for future officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  We explored the beautifully landscaped grounds and saw vintage tanks and military weapons on display in the manicured lawns.  As we roamed around, we can’t help but admire the perfect posture of cadets who passed us by.  My friend, Conchita, was lucky enough to have her picture taken flanked by two cadets who looked very dashing in their uniforms.  We also went to see the museum where different military artifacts are on display, and souvenir items such as shirts, mugs and caps are sold.  After the tour, we had a rare chance of seeing cadets performing their drills as our bus headed out of the facility.

Conchita with two of the future defenders of our country.

Mines View Park is among the coolest parts of the City of Pines as it is located 1,500 above sea level.  From its view deck, we were awed by the breathtaking mountain ranges.  What made the place more interesting are the Igorot boys who effortlessly run up and down the steep wall of granite below the viewing deck, convincing the visitors to throw coins for them to catch.  We also had our picture taken with an Igorot for a fee.  There was a horse where one can sit on and have one's picture taken, also for a fee.  However, we decided to forgo it because, for starters, the horse looks so grungy, and secondly we were already excited to start our shopping spree as pasalubong centers are just a walking distance away.  Of course, I bought bottles and bottles of my favorite strawberry jam. Nobody should go home without this very sweet and yummy stuff.

At the Mines View Park

Notwithstanding the long travel by bus from Metro Manila (about 7 hours), I’ve been to Baguio three times as I love the city’s cool climate (and the strawberry jam!).  My piece of advice for the restless souls out there who want to escape the heat: pack your bags and zoom to Baguio for a cool summer getaway you will never forget!