Travel Guide: Christmas in the City of Pines, Baguio City

        Cold weather, hot cocoa, juicy strawberries, and the fragrance of pine are just some of the things that make Baguio a choice to consider for the Christmas season. And with Baguio now more accessible thanks to the TPLEX, travel time has been cut by a couple of hours at the least.

View approaching Baguio City
A few years ago, my family and I spent Christmas in Baguio, our first Christmas in the City of Pines. Tired and hungry, we arrived late in the evening and decided to grab a quick bite in Andok’s along Session road. A short stroll followed before resting in our Airbnb accommodation for a much needed slumber.


Session Road at Night (Photo by Peter Paul Ayson and Irene Alibadbad)

Day 1 Itinerary 

Backyard Restaurant
(permanently closed)

Strawberry Farm 

Km 5 Baguio, La Trinidad - Bontoc Road, Benguet

Minesview Park 
Outlook Drive, Baguio City 

Wright Park 
Baguio-Bua-Ilogon Road, Baguio, Benguet

Ketchup Food Community 
Romulo Drive, Baguio City 

Our first day in Baguio started with a brunch at Backyard Restaurant. Since we were early, we were the only customers for most of the stay. The interiors of the place felt like what I imagine a log cabin would feel. Christmas lights adorned the area; a Christmas tree covered in ornaments and figurines which caught anyone’s eye; and a makeshift fireplace complete with hanging socks waiting to be stuffed. It was like one of those Christmas mornings I’d see in the movies. But the place wasn’t just about looks because the food was delicious, as well. Unfortunately, it is now permanently closed. 

Backyard Restaurant

Backyard Restaurant 


Backyard Restaurant 

Backyard Restaurant (with my brother, Saul)

The Bar at Backyard Restaurant

After brunch, we headed toward Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad. This is a few minutes ride outside Baguio. During the ride, I was humming to the tune of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by the Beatles. Before even reaching the farm, we were stuffing ourselves with strawberry ice cream after buying plump oranges and fresh produce. The weather when we arrived was sunny but the Baguio chill lingered. After spending about an hour taking pictures and buying more strawberries, we got ready for our next destination.

Strawberry Farm, La Trinidad 


Strawberry Farm, La Trinidad 


Fresh produce at Strawberry Farm, La Trinidad


Fresh produce, Strawberry Farm, La Trinidad

We headed to Minesview park after where we hoped to get a good glimpse of Baguio’s beautiful scenery and a view of Benguet’s mountain ranges. There was heavy traffic going to the park because of the volume of tourists and cars. We wandered within the park along with other tourists. There were plenty of people then, taking pictures of the mountain scenery and the St. Bernards (which I felt a bit sad for). We bought strawberry taho and stayed for around an hour before heading to the last destination for the day. On our way down, we were able to buy a few bottles of the famous Good Shepherd products, ube and strawberry jam, in Mountain Maid Training Center. 

Our last stop for the day was Wright Park. It was in a way, nostalgic. I’ve never been there before but the eldest of my three younger brothers wanted to ride one of the horses to recreate a childhood memory. He went ahead and the youngest brother tagged along. I could see the exhilaration on their faces as their horses tread and galloped around the range, but the youngest’s went beyond the area and continued into the street. We needed the help of the horse trainers to stop it which put an abrupt end to the eldest’s childhood visit. We were there until around six in the evening before we decided to eat dinner at one of the restaurants near the park. We got a table quickly before other people started arriving. The restaurant we ate at was called Happy Tummy, a Thai restaurant, and although the food wasn’t anything grand, it was satisfying. 

A short walk followed after dinner before returning to the Airbnb. 

Horseback riding at Wright Park


The Ketchup Food Community across Wright Park

Day 2 Itinerary 

Camp John Hay 

Choco-late de Batirol 
Camp John Hay, Baguio

Starbucks 
Camp John Hay, Baguio

50’s Diner 
Leonard Wood Road, Baguio

Burnham Park 
Jose Abad Santos Drive, Baguio 

On the second day, we went to Camp John Hay and ate breakfast at Choco-Late  de Batirol. The hot chocolate was good but the food didn’t live up to the same expectation. The decor of the area was beautiful—outdoor on Art-Nouveau tables and chairs placed near a landscaped garden under the tall evergreen trees.

Camp John Hay
Chocolate de Batirol


Chocolate de Batirol 



The Famous Hot Chocolate

We went for a short coffee-break at Starbucks after breakfast. The branch was decorated like Backyard Restaurant, with a log-cabin theme. Apparently, it’s popular in Baguio.

For lunch, we had a picnic at Camp John Hay, also often known as Little Baguio. We brought the produce and fruits we bought the day before along with fruitcake that the eldest brother bought from the Supermarket. Christmas is never Christmas to him without fruitcake. We spent the entire afternoon there breathing in the cool, fresh air laced with the scent of pine while exploring the different parts of the park.

Camp John Hay
Camp John Hay

Camp John Hay
After considering a number of restaurants, we decided on the classic 50’s diner, a well-known restaurant in Baguio, for dinner. It followed an American theme, from the decor and ambiance to the selection of food items and large serving sizes. 

50's Diner 

Our last stop for the day was Burnham Park. This is the big park situated right in the middle of Baguio City near the city Hall. We went rollerblading in Burnham Park, the moment the feeling of being stuffed faded, but my parents didn’t allow me (and just me) for fear of me falling on the rink. One last stroll around the park afterwards, and we returned to the Airbnb. 

Inside Burnham Park

The Christmas Parols at Burnham Park
We left Baguio early in the morning on the 27th because of a flight I had to catch. The traffic hadn’t congested too much when we arrived in Metro Manila, allowing me to board the plane.

The view on our way back to Manila


Goodbye, City of Pines! 'til we meet again!  

The trip to Baguio is one I miss, especially during the summer heat. It’s as close to winter as one can get here in the Philippines, as well as the experience of spending Christmas in log cabins while sipping hot cocoa. I’ll come back, but I’m not sure when just yet. There are a lot of places on my list that I haven’t crossed out yet. I guess a Baguio return will just have to wait.

Tips:

Stay for at least three nights to maximize your trip. 

Plan your itineraries early on during the day because Baguio faces heavy traffic during the Christmas season.

Go to the Strawberry farm early in the morning to avoid the crowd and to make the most out of your visit. 

Eat earlier than usual to avoid long queues. 

Skip Minesview park if possible; this is the destination where traffic is the worst. There came a point where it was on a standstill.

Waze helps during your stay there.

Leave early on your return to Manila.
            

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