Many moons ago, our family would make the 6-7 hour long roadtrip from Manila to the country’s summer capital. Baguio: the city of pines. Those were the days when Baguio was cleaner, less crowded and the pine trees everywhere. It’s a shorter drive these days, but that feeling of “being in Baguio” seems restricted to areas around Camp John Hay, Baguio Country Club and the Mansion House. The Baguio you find today is no longer teeming with the scent of pine trees. And it’s a completely new Camp John Hay with its lovely Manor House and several new cottages and shops.

For this trip, we stayed at the century-old Baguio Country Club — still looking nearly like the grand dame it was many years ago. The old fireplace is still where it was then, and you can still take home those raisin and banana breads we’ve come to love. Over breakfast at the Verandah, I reminisced about the time when I’d wake up real early to tee off for a round of golf while other early risers watch me as they waited for their morning brew. I tried to join the earliest flight of golfers then to avoid being watched! Now, I sit and watch them while sipping my coffee and waiting for my eggs to be done. 😊☕️🥚🍽🥐🍳

In the many trips I’ve been here, I have only gone as far as the gated front of The Mansion House. We had the privilege of getting inside the Presidential Summer House this time. And sit/pose around the conference table. (Thanks, Meloy). I even stood at the rostrum as if addressing an audience 🙄

We did the touristy thing as we showed our US-based friends around. Apart from Camp John Hay and Mansion House, we dropped in at the Cathedral, Mines View Park, Burnham Park, dined at Rose Bowl at its new location. Some of them last visited Baguio 35 years ago so it was truly a nostalgic trip. A big plus was the Opening Ceremony for the Panagbenga Flower Fest!

I’ve never attended Baguio’s Flower Festival. Frankly, I don’t remember it as a child so I assumed it’s a recently-organized annual festivity. Other “new attractions” are the colorful houses in La Trinidad Valley and the well-curated Bencab Museum. I’m awed by the blooms from Baguio, and pleasantly surprised they now grow persimmons too! I love this fruit (along with Sagada oranges, lychees and longans) that I can’t even remember how much I paid for them!

The Museum and its garden is now a must-visit destination. I noticed they have rearranged and added more items. Nice. My balikbayan friends thought this museum is a great additional attraction in Baguio. I only wish they improve the museum guide’s spiel — I’m sure every Bencab artwork is laden with substance and meaning I’d be so curious about. Lunch was in Bencab’s Cafe Sabel, where we enjoyed every item on the menu from Strawberry Shake to pancit chopseuy to spicy tuyo pasta.

Our trip timed perfectly not only with the festival blooms display but also with the super blood blue moon. We craned our necks for a good half hour at the roofdeck of Baguio Country Club at 12 degree celsius just to watch this lunar spectacle. How I wish I brought a proper camera. The iPhone just won’t do for those zoomed photos. But good enough for those Baguio flowers!

In my next visit, I hope to see more colorful Trinidad Valley houses, more locally-grown fruits (cherries?), maybe watch the Panagbenga parade and eat more at Bencab’s Cafe Sabel. Who knows? I may even pick up the sport again!

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