Thursday, September 19, 2013

A rainy, cool Baguio

Known as “The Summer Capital of the Philippines,” Baguio sits up in the pine-clad mountains of the Codillera region. The nickname comes from the migration of people, even the president, to the city trying to escape the heat of the humid summer months in the rest of the Philippines. Unfortunately for me, it’s still the rainy season and it showed in Baguio last weekend.

My manager, Patrick, and another co-worker, Samuel, are part of a brotherhood. They had a national officers meeting to attend on Friday afternoon in Baguio. Patrick asked if I would like to go with them for the weekend to visit Margaret, fellow YASCer, and see another city. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. I, too, wanted to escape from the hot, humid weather in Santiago.

The six-hour drive through the mountains is not for those who suffer from carsickness. I usually never do and I was feeling queasy by the end. The last 50 km or so is like a zig-zag roller coaster up and down a steep mountain.

Driving through the mountains

My first impression of Baguio was a combination of San Francisco and Asheville, NC. San Francisco because of the all the hills covered with brightly colored houses sitting on top of one another and the steep streets that make you wonder how a car drives up them. Asheville, NC because of all the pine trees, cool mountain air and size of the city.

Friday afternoon, I hung out and recovered from the early morning drive while Patrick and Samuel went onto their meeting and I waited for Margaret to finish classes at 4pm. Margaret walked over to the Diocesan Center. We went to get a snack and coffee to catch up at her old stomping ground when she lived at the Guest House for the first week or so. It was wonderful to compare our experiences so far, catch up and enjoy delicious homemade treats.

Margaret and I catching up over snacks and coffee!

Saturday began with breakfast at Dunkin Donuts! It actually happened to be their grand opening. Don’t worry; their donuts are still delicious on the other side of the world! We picked up Margaret and met up with Mark, the diocesan Development Officer, who was our tour guide for the day. However, from reading my Lonely Planet book I did have a couple of suggestions.

Our first stop was Lourdes Grotto. The monument created by Spanish Jesuits in 1907 sits atop 252 steps. Mark and Patrick opted to stay in the car as Margaret, Samuel and I made the climb. On the way up, there are vendors selling rosaries, roses, or candles to offer to the Virgin Mary at the top. There was something tranquil and reflective as I silently stood looking out onto the city’s rooftops.

Margaret overlooking her city!

Margaret and I then asked to go by the BenCab Mueseum. Sitting on the edge of town, the art gallery mixes the work of Benedicto Reyes Cabrera, BenCab, with modern, contemporary pieces to traditional Ifugao carvings. Full of high glass panes, the natural light beautifully strikes all of the works. Also by balancing on the edge of ridge, it provided the perfect spot to watch the fog and rain roll in.

Mural in the parking lot

Samuel, Patrick and Mark

The fog rolling in
Two paintings deeply spoke to me:

"Fruits of their Labors" (Katas ng Manggagawa) by Antipas Delotavo
"Morning Bath" by Romeo Mananquil

The fog and rain did not lift the rest of the time we were in Baguio. Unfortunately, this limited our options of things to do. Most of the sights are outside or part of their appeal is the views they provide of the city and mountains. With the dense fog, there wasn’t much to be seen from the viewpoints. We spent a little over an hour in the mall to pass the time after lunch then drove around to see the city.

Enjoyed a delightful vanilla latte at the mall on the cold afternoon.
The Mansion - the old summer home of the president
Margaret suggested we stop by the Easter Weaving Room. The room is over a hundred years old and sits among the Easter College buildings where Margaret teaches religion and English. You enter on the level of the weaving room’s store where you can buy jewelry, shoes, carvings, woven placemats, purses, scarves, clothing, you name it. Downstairs you can go watch the magic happen. It’s remarkable to watch these women quickly work through the web of strings to create stunning fabric. Much of the fabric they weave are patterns of the traditional tribes or provinces of the Codillera region.

The traditional patterns of the indigenous tribes.

According to this write up I found in the BenCab Mueseum, “The Codillera region is the Phillippines’ only land-locked region. It consists of six provinces: Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Apayao, and one chartered city, Baguio, which is the regional center. The Codillera region encompasses most of the area within the Codillera Central mountain rage of Luzon, the largest range in the country.

The region is home to numerous indigenous tribes collectively called Igorot. Once used in a perjorative sence by lowlanders, it has come to be used with pride by younger members of the mountain community as a positive expression of their ethnic identity. The Igorot are composed of several cultural groups: the Ifugao, Bontoc, Kankanay, Ibalot, Kalinga, Tinguian, Isneg, Goddang and Ilongot.”

So there you have some background and history of the area. Fun fact: almost all the people who work at the Diocese of Santiago are Igorots.

After the Easter Weaving Room, we all went for a quick dinner and then headed back to the diocesan guest house because we had an early morning and long trip back to Santiago the next day. While I enjoyed the cooler weather, it reminded me of fall, my favorite season, which I’m missing at home right now, I was happy to leave the rain behind. It was time to get on the road after a 6:30am service at the Cathedral and a quick breakfast. However, we brought the rain back with us to Santiago.

I enjoyed getting out of Isabela and exploring more of the Philippines. The rain was unfortunate, it gave Margaret and I plenty of time to catch up. I do plan to go back when the rainy season is over and I can need to escape the heat again!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Margaret's dad here - we've been waiting to see what your visit looked like, but her camera was not working. Thanks for posting, and definitely go back later this fall or winter, when Baguio is dry!

  2. I find this interesting ;) I hope to visit that Eastern Weaving Room on March. Nice one here...