Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.: OLA: Driving to Cool Philippine Mountain Air

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

OLA: Driving to Cool Philippine Mountain Air


Kennon Road from Rosario, La Union to Baguio, built by Americans in 1903
From Ifugao and Mountain Province in the Cordilleras, the Philippines’ mountainous region with temperatures ranging from 17 (winter) to 30 (summer) degrees centigrade, we now go to Benguet. Its biggest city is Baguio, the country’s summer capital, nestled about 5,000 feet above sea level with a population of about 450,000. When Bill sold his business in 2009, we came for his first visit and one of the first things we did was the trip to Baguio, Holy Week 2009. 
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Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan
The road trip itself was quite eventful. In the province of Bulacan we visited 2 friends of mine. The first is a former Commissioner of the Commission on Elections who now owns a private resort in Hagonoy. Going to Pulilan to visit a former Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and her Butterfly Haven, we also stopped at the old Barasoain Church in Malolos, site of the framing of the first constitution of the Philippines.

penitents in Pampanga on Holy Week
The Philippines is 90% Catholic and the next province, Pampanga, is known for classic rituals for the penitent during Holy Week. At a gas station where we were filling up, we chanced upon a group of men who stopped to rest from their procession. With red, bloodied backs, they had been flagellating themselves relentlessly. One of them was carrying a large wooden cross which will be used later on to crucify him, simulating the Passion of Christ.

view from our apartelle
It took us 6 hours to reach Baguio, ascending the steep and winding Kennon Road which the Americans built, together with Camp John Hay, in 1903 for the recreation of Americans in the country. Little by little the unmistakable scent of pine trees signaled the arrival of the precious mountain city! Our chosen apartelle was atop one of the highest hills, overlooking a section of the city. We lost no time getting ready for the day trips we had planned.

the Lost Cemetery of Camp John Hay
First is Camp John Hay which had been turned over to the Philippine government (like Subic and Clark). The historical parts were preserved but new hotels and condominiums have been built. The camp is a haven in a city that has grown beyond the limits of its hills, bursting at its seams. I love going back to the Mile-Hi Recreation Center, its golf courses, the Lost Cemetery where you bury any remaining traces of negativism, the vast gardens and picnic areas.

Baguio Botanical Garden with the natives
The flower-ful Botanical Garden is where we found some colorful tribal people who wanted to earn some money by posing for pictures with a WASC (white Anglo-Saxon Catholic). The Mansion is the summer home of the president of the Philippines with Wright Park and its horseback riding activities just in front of it. Further down is the Mines View Park, overlooking old copper mines, where little boys wait for the coins tourists throw for good luck.

Mines View Park
At the center of the city is Burnham Park with its large man-made lake where families can go boating in swan-like paddle boats and biking or skating on its perimeter roads. Nearby is the city’s main artery, Session Road, where shops, restaurants and bars abound. At the higher end is the magnificent Baguio Cathedral and at the opposite end is the Baguio City Market, famous for cheap souvenir items and fresh local produce that can only be found in the cool capital: strawberries, Baguio lettuce, Philippine grapes, etc.

Ellen's Lot
Bill and I took a look at my sister Ellen’s lot which she wanted to become a memorial to tribal people before she succumbed to cancer in 2003. Her ashes are there and now it is green with Baguio vegetables. The city evokes such precious memories like summer getaways my mom gave us at the Teachers Camp with the cool mountain air and the scent of pine. Baguio has grown so big though that Sagada and Banaue (pop: 11,000 and 21,000) are the new Baguios.

Burnham Park
Next: Driving along the Coast to the Philippine North