Alfonso Cuaron once said: “What’s the point of being an Australian guy traveling through India if you are going to go to India to meet other Australians?” Now change India to Baguio and Australians to whatever you call the people from wherever you’re from, and it will still work the same. Why waste 5-7 hours of travel if you just want to shop in SM (who apparently cuts trees for profit) or hang in Ayala Technohub (which is under a company that allegedly has gross violations of farmers’ rights?
What I’m saying is, as a center of commerce in the North, Baguio’s already too crowded and it doesn’t need your touristy pomp to thicken its already transient character. Restaurants, condominium and useless parks already cement the mountains. The last thing the city needs is someone who wants to take a selfie with the old Igorots in Botanical Garden and hashtag it “blessed.”
Having said that, going to Baguio during the holidays is more likely a stupid idea. Because during these same dates a huge amount of pseudo-tourists (students) go down and a huge amount of tourists go up and they are just clumped up in the same area – a huge amount of everyone in that tiny space between leaving and arriving. Abandon the idea that you can fully unwind and relax because traffic is ridiculous during the holiday season. But if you really really want to go to Baguio and this is your only spare time to have a little bit of fun outside bigger toxic cities, then this list will help you at least find the local produce for the least evil of consumptions.
The places below are secret nests in the city aside from the usual spots in the central business area. They are all about being humble breathing spaces that could bring the North slightly closer to your heart. So when you finally decide to visit Baguio in its peak season, arrive and leave lightly and please avoid being the annoying tourist in town.
The museum is open to all from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00am to 5:00pm. Fee range is 10-40 pesos depending if you’re a student, a senior citizen or a regular pass. I suggest that you inquire for a guided tour at the front desk, it’s best to take that.
Mt. Cloud Bookshop doesn’t only have national and international selections. They have a charming collection of regional publications as well as zines, comics, and all those good self-published DIY stuff. They also have this corner called Death by Cuteness that has hand-made products by local craftspeople.
Mt. Cloud Bookshop is located at Casa Vallejo in Upper Session Road. They’re open daily from 10:30am to 8:00pm.
Bookends Baguio is a discreet tiny bookstore tucked in between ukay stalls. This shop is amazing, last time they had a Christmas sale the trade was 1,000 pesos per crate. That means all the books you can fit in one crate will only damage you a thousand.
They have two branches now, one is in UCPB Building, T. Claudio St. and the other is in Easter Weaving, Guisad.
It’s hard to describe how to get to these stalls but I leave it up to you to explore the market. I suggest you go deeper in the marketplace and not settle for those stalls in front. Besides, it’s always nice to go around this kind of place to see the transactions of the real people that make the city work.
However, to get away from that 80% tourist population and the possibility of being fooled, you can always go to Hilltop to appease your ukay needs. There are several stalls there that sell shoes for 100, clothes start at 50 and bags at 150. It is just near the market, so it is best to buy pasalubong and ukay things in one day.
If you don’t have relatives in the area, it’s also nice to stay indoors* especially when it’s raining. Spend time with yourself and a cup of warm cocoa, coffee or tea. If you’re into tea, look for some Mountain Tea in the market. It’s 20 per plastic, just boil the leaves and add honey. With that, you can grab a book to read or look out the window and watch the fog embrace the mountains bit by bit. Ah, these simple things are the most wonderful.
*For a really chill stay I suggest you check out Frangeli House. That place is too underrated for what it can offer. It’s quietly located in #1 St. George Drive, Bakakeng Norte.
Baguio Country Sounds is located at 260, Magsaysay Ave, Baguio.