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Baguio: The Summer Capital of the Philippines

The City of Baguio is a highly-urbanized city located in northern Luzon island in the Philippines. The city has become the center of business and commerce as well as the center of education in the entire Northern Luzon thereby becoming the seat of government of the Cordillera Administrative Region (C.A.R.).

by Jhaypee Guia on August 06, 2012
Baguio: The Summer Capital of the Philippines

The City of Baguio is a highly-urbanized city located in northern Luzon island in the Philippines. The city has become the center of business and commerce as well as the center of education in the entire Northern Luzon thereby becoming the seat of government of the Cordillera Administrative Region (C.A.R.). Due to its cool mountain weather, Baguio is considered the summer capital of the Philippines. Because of its many pine trees, it is also called the City of Pines. Every summer, Baguio proves to promote tourism in the Philippines.

Baguio  City was established by Americans in 1900 at the site of an Ibaloi village known as Kafagway. The name of the city is derived from the word bagiw in Ibaloi, the indigenous language of the Benguet Region, meaning 'moss'. The city is at an altitude of approximately 1,500 meters (4,900 ft) in the Luzon tropical pine forests ecoregion conducive to the growth of mossy plants and orchids. Because of its altitude, Baguio City was designated by the Philippine Commission as the Summer Capital of the Philippines on June 1, 1903. It was incorporated as a chartered city by the Philippine Assembly on September 1, 1909, as authored by former Philippines Supreme Court Justice George A. Malcolm. The City of Baguio celebrated its Centennial last September 1, 2009.

Brief History

During the Spanish Era, Benguet was not a remote area for the Spaniards to explore. The vastness and promising economic potential of the place lured the Spaniards to conduct series of expeditions. Early explorers included Juan Salcedo in 1572 and Don Q.M. Quirante in 1664. Series of attempts were made to subjugate the "Igorots " but failed. Finally in 1864, Commandante de Galvey established his Commandancia at La Trinidad, Benguet (named after his wife). Galvey went to establish the province of Benguet with 31 rancherias. The first Kapitan of Benguet was Pulito of Kafagway, now Baguio, a minor rancheria of about 20 houses.

The presidentia of Baguio was first established in the house of the Campulet at the top of the Tabacalera road at the lower end of Guisad Valley. Later, the presidentia of Baguio was moved to the present site of the Baguio City Hall.

The Spaniards established order, built churches and schools, made trails and introduced coffee during their long occupation of the area.

The Americans came early in 1900 and established their government with H. Whitmarsh as the appointed Governor of Benguet and Baguio as the capital. This was the first provincial government to be established in the Philippines and this happened a year prior to the inauguration of the civil government of the Philippines. Their best administrators and teachers were fervent boosters and promoters: Worcester, Wright, Forbes, Pack, Barrows, Eckman and others who together with Filipinos committed to make the place a haven.

Several mines near Baguio within Benguet were developed and were very productive. Business in the city also flourished with the establishment of commercial centers. Recreational facilities were also installed. Then, the city grew before the outbreak of World War II.

Baguio was bombed on December 8,1941 by the Japanese and they occupied it on December 27 of the same year. When the war ended, rehabilitation was immediately done with the supervision of the Americans based at Camp John Hay. Since then, the city became a favorite for vacationists.

The July 16, 1990 earthquake devastated the entire city with its infrastructure, buildings and its populace but it did not end here. Four years after the great earthquake, Baguio City has recovered and is standing firm and proud for its restored heritage.

Until today, Baguio City as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, is the most frequented destination in Northern Luzon by local and foreign tourists alike.Geography and land area

Baguio City, approximately 250 kilometers north of Manila is, situated in the heart of the Province of Benguet. The area of the city is 49 square kilometers enclosed in a perimeter of 30.6 kilometers. The developed portion of the city is a plateau that rises to an elevation of 1,400 meters. Most of it lies on the northern half of the city.

There are two great valleys found in the south and the north of the city. The more famous Guisad - Lucban Valley has an elevation that ranges from 1,300 to 1,400 meters and is centrally located towards the north. The southern valley is composed of long and narrow vales surrounded by low hills and transected by a network of hills. Some of the more important valleys are Camp 7, Loakan, Bakakeng and Crystal Cave, These valleys are arable as they are rich with alluvial deposits.

The summits on the plateau offer panoramic views. The summits that face the west: Quezon Hill, Mirador -Dominican Hill and the Bureau of Animal Industry Stock Farm which offers splendid view of the Ilocos Coastal Plain, Lingayen Gulf and the South China Sea during cloudless days.

Another famous promontory is Mines View Park, which overlooks the mining town of Itogon and offers a glimpse of the Amburayan Valley. All over the city, however are sporadically scattered steep side hills and mountains. About half the area of the city has a slope of 25% or more.

Tourist Attractions

  • Marker of the Philippine Commission's First Session in Baguio

This is the site of the building where the members of the Philippine Commission met from April 22 to June 11, 1904 and officially initiated the use of Baguio as the Philippine Summer Capital. The Commission was composed of Governor General Luke Wright, president, and Commissioners Henry Ide, Dean C. Worcester, T Padre Tavera, Benito Legarda, Jose de Luzuriaga, James Smith and Cameron Forbes.

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Baguio a project was done to locate, clean and spruce up all historical markers.

Named after Col. Lyman W. Kennon, who was the final builder of the famous Benguet road, with the help of the industrious Cordillerans and foreign workers. Kennon road is the shortest and the most scenic highway linking Baguio and the lowlands. The lion's head can be found along the way. Final construction of this road was finished in 1903. Col. L. Kennon first ascended to Baguio in 1905. Of the original workers, the Igorots and Japanese were admired for their trustworthiness and willingness to work. Kennon was closed to traffic after the July 16, 1990 earthquake. It is now open to light vehicles only.

  • Diplomat Hotel on Dominican Hill

In May 1911, the councils of the Province of the Dominican Order voted to construct a vacation house in Baguio on a 17-hectare property they had acquired when the American authorities were encouraging people to come here. Actual work started in 1913 under Fr. Roque Ruano and the building was inaugurated on May 23, 1925. To take advantage of the tax exemptions a school called Collegio del Santissimo Rosario was opened in June 1915 but due to the very small enrollment the school closed in 1917, reverting the building to the original vacation house. During WWII refugees first occupied it. Later the Japanese Army Liberation Forces had to bomb out the refugees from the buildings. The five hits left very extensive damage and for a time it was left unrepaired. Reconstruction was started in 1947 and completed in 1948 with most of its pre-war grandeur and beauty restored. In 1973, Diplomat Hotels, Inc. acquired ownership, remodeled the interior into a 33-bedroom hotel with modern facilities, but retained the unique and distinct personality of the Dominican Hill. In the 80's the hotel ceased operations due to the death of one of its majority stockholders. Plans are underway to develop this historical religious landmark into a tourist resort.

  • Philippine Military Academy

The Philippine Commission promulgated Act No. 175, which became the basis for the creation of the Philippine Constabulary in August 8, 1905. The school for the officers of the constabulary was first located in Sta. Lucia Barracks in Manila. Later in 1908, it was relocated in Baguio on the site known as Constabulary Hill later renamed Camp Henry T. Allen, in honor of the first chief of the Philippine Constabulary. With the passage of the Jones Law, the school was later changed to "Academy for Officers of the Philippine Constabulary" with a two-year curriculum. In 1908, the course was raised to collegiate level and later lengthened to three years with class 1938 as having the last graduates of that course. When the commonwealth government was established in 1935, the Philippine Military Academy was created in place of the Philippine Constabulary Academy. Under the National Defense Act, the PMA was authorized to maintain cadet strength of 350. Because of increased population, the academy transferred to Teachers Camp in June 1936 where it remained until WWII broke out. After the war the PMA headquarters was temporarily relocated at Camp Murphy and later at Alabang, while Camp Allen was being rehabilitated. Since May 1950 the Philippine Military Academy has found its permanent home at Fort del Pilar, Loakan, Baguio City.

This imposing and majestic mansion has a long list of Filipino Presidents and American governor-generals. It has elegantly structured building and guesthouse. Its gate is patterned after that of London's Buckingham Palace. The Mansion has also been the site of several international conferences and a working office of the President of the Philippines during his visits to the City.

This former American recreational facility is currently undergoing development as a world class resort. As of March 27, 1999, the golf course was completed and is now open, The skating rink, picnic area, and the mini golf course at the Scout Hill area are likewise open.

  • Teachers Camp

It was through the vacation normal school, which began in 1908 teachers from all over, the islands were able to have a respite and some time for studies. In a letter to the Secretary of Public Instruction, Governor William Pack outlined his plan to set up a camp in Baguio where teachers can be accommodated. The plan was approved on January 8, 1908 and the camp was opened on April 6, 1908. For a start, four assembly tents were put up for kitchen, dining and storage purposes and two other large tents were set aside for class purposes. Later on, the "KURSAAK" was constructed in 1909 as a permanent structure and took over the functions of the mess tent, aside from being the social center for assemblies. The next year, other buildings were added, the road traversing the vast hectare leveled and the athletic field out in its hollow. It now caters to conferences, meetings, seminars and social functions sponsored by the government sector.

Cultural and Historical

  • Easter Weaving Room

This school was built in 1905 under Samuel Drury with funds donated by Bishop Brent of the Episcopalian Church of the Philippines. It opened in 1906 as a church school. Dr. Benjamin Platt introduced the Easter School Weaving Room as an industrial work in the curriculum. By 1924 there were five buildings and in 1928 they inaugurated the Chapel of the Holy Innocents. Before World War II, the Easter School Compound, which had nine buildings, were raised to the ground by the American Liberation Forces. With only the Headquarters and the Nurses' Cottage standing then, rehabilitation started to complete the compound as it is now. It is the right place to visit for those who are interested in native fabrics and other handicrafts. Here one can witness the actual process of cloth weaving as practiced by the natives of the Mountain Provinces for ages.

  • Saint Louis Filigree Shop

This is a handicraft shop specializing in silver jewelry and other filigree products. Some of the craftsmen are only high school students. This shop is in the center of the city and was established in 1916.

  • Baguio Tourism Complex

Within the complex along Gov. Pack Road are the Baguio Sunshine Park, the Regional Office of the Department of Tourism and Secretary's Cottage. The Sunshine Park features flowering garden and a covered stage with ethnic design, which is often used, for cultural presentations. The park itself is designed after a shield.

  • Baguio - Mountain Provinces Museum

This museum is temporarily located at the Baguio Convention Center. It has on display a variety of artifacts and relics showcases the cultural heritage, customs and traditions of the mountain provinces. The cluster of buildings within the complex depicts the architectural features of the native houses of the mountain provinces. The Department of Tourism and the City government of Baguio are undertaking a reconstruction of the Baguio -Mountain Provinces Museum.

  • Baguio Convention Center (BCC)

Situated across the University of the Philippines College Baguio exudes an ethnic flavor considered the most spacious edifice North of Manila. The BCC initially gained prominence when it became the site of the 1978 internationally renowned chess championship series between Anatoly Karpov and Victor Korchnoi. It was inaugurated by former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos on July 17, 1978 during the opening of the series. It continues to cater to conferences, conventions, meetings and other social functions in the City. It now temporarily houses the Baguio Mt.-Provinces Museum Foundation, Inc.

  • Educational Institutions

There are six (6) colleges and universities in Baguio. These are the University of the Philippine College, Philippine Military Academy, University of Baguio, Saint Louis University, Baguio Colleges Foundation, Baguio Central University, Pines City Colleges and the international school in the city, Brent International School.

  • SLU Museum

Located in the premise of the school (SLU), it showcases the different culture heritages of the Cordilleras and some lowland amenities. Artifacts and relics including an ancient coffin can be seen on display. A curator is always stationed for the convenience of visitors to explain the artifacts and the culture of the Cordilleras.8. Ifugao Woodcarvers Village Along the way to Asin, about 5 kilometers from the city, is an Ifugao wood carving village, which produces and sells beautiful hand-carved curio items at very low prices.


  • Asin Hot Spring

Located 16 kilometers northwest of Baguio, the resort's main feature is a swimming pool surrounded by thermal springs, lush vegetation and several hanging bridges. It is an ideal respite. This is now eyed to be redeveloped into a tourism resort along with the adjoining tourist attractions of Tuba and Baguio.

  • Mt. Sto. Tomas

A trek up to the Mount Sto. Tomas is a hiker delight. The peak is 7,500 feet high and commands a majestic view of mountains, sea and valley. The mountain can be reached by foot or by vehicle.


  • Lourdes Grotto

This is a religious shrine housing the image of the Lady of Lourdes. About 252 steps lead to this shrine where pilgrims brave the steep climb to offer sacrifices, devotion and prayers. One is also regarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

One of the familiar landmarks in Baguio, the structure with its twin spires and one hundred steps sits on top of a hill in the heart of the city, offering church goers and visitors a chance to get a bird's eye view of the entire commercial hub.

This cluster of temples is located on the border of Baguio City and Trinidad Valley. Its exotic oriental architecture, pagodas roof, ornate gateway, dragon ornaments and Buddha - guarded windows gaze from atop a hill. The Bell Temple priest practices a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity. One may even try having his fortune told.

  • Churches, Seminars and Convents

Baguio is an ideal location for meditation, contemplation and spiritual renewal hence the existence of no less religious denominations that run churches, seminaries, convents and other institutions such as hospitals and schools.


It is the oldest of all Baguio parks. One can unwind from the tension of the day-to-day bustle by biking, skating or simply reflecting on the day's experiences amid a soothing garden backdrop of colorful flowers. It is thickly wooded and is a great place to have picnics and concerts. There are tennis and basketball courts, a football field, athletic oval and an orchidarium.

  • Botanical Garden

It is also called the Igorot village, which features native huts typical of the Cordillera architecture. This village within a village captures the ethnic spirit and cultural legacy of the Igorot dweller. The garden is also a site of cultural presentations and other tribal meetings.

  • Mines View Park

Appropriately named for its breathtaking view of Benguet's mountain ranges where gold, silver and other ores were once quarried. There are souvenir shops around the park offering such items as woodcarvings, woven cloth, ashtrays, shell products and other curio items.

  • Wright Park

It is sometimes mistakenly called "Ride Park" by some that identify this pine tree park reserve for kiddy horse rides. A long stairway leads to the "Pool of the Pines", a 100 meter long pool of water lined on both sides by the famous Baguio towering pine.

  • Baguio Country Club

This club was organized with funds, which were privately contributed. They built tennis courts and cottages. Today Baguio Country Club has 200 guestrooms and suites in a new building. It also boasts a beautiful 18-hole, 61-par golf course for its members and guests.

  • Session Road / Market

During the early years of Baguio, buildings only on the left side opposite the hill on which the church was built occupied Session Road. A big stream spanned by wooden bridge crossed the lowest portion of the road. Beyond this bridge was the swampland where bull carts parked and congregated thereby starting what is now called the market. Many of the open-air stalls spread out towards Lucban following the banks of the steam and thus determined the direction of the market expansion.

What to Do

  • Panagbenga, The Baguio Flower Festival is held every February. Street parades, colorful floats and costumes and native dance displays have drawn huge crowds to Baguio every year.
  • Horse back riding, Wright Park and its surroundings. It costs about 300 pesos per hour (150 pesos for half an hour), plus a guide fee if you want to ride beyond the park.
  • North Haven Spa, 21 Avelino Street, Ferguson Rd,. Aside from the usual Thai, Swedish and combination massage, you can have a Baguio strawberry, Benguet coffee or Cordillera rice scrub, an indigenous head massage or the Dagdagis or Kolkolis, the region’s traditional foot
  • · massage using runo sticks to stimulate the soles of the feet.
  • Spa de belles fleurs, 5th floor ES Clemente Bldg. Otek St (Chowking Burnham, in front of Baguio Orchidarium). Body and facial treatments. “Spa de Belles Fleurs” means spa with beautiful flowers in English.

Where to Eat

Baguio has the usual fastfood joints that are so ubiquitous in major Philippine cities. For a true taste of Baguio, have a bite at the following establishments:

  • Forest House Bistro & Cafe, Great food, great music, great service. This is one of the must-try restaurants in the city. Visit Forest House located at 16 Loakan Road, near Nevada Square.
  • Flying Gecko Restaurant and Cafe, 103 Session, (half a block uphill from Calderon Rd). A cool relaxed place popular with Japanese students.
  • Star Cafe & Restaurant, 39 Session Road, Baguio City. Serving Chinese food here well before the dawning of the fastfood age.
  • Café by the Ruins, 23 Chuntug St., Baguio City. Quaint ambience, hearty salads, pastas and juices and good coffee or tea to top it off.
  • Barrio Fiesta, upper Session Road. Authentic Filipino food.

Where to Sleep

Baguio has a fine selection of accommodations, mostly cozy pension houses and small hotels that reflect this Philippine province's delightful homey atmosphere.

  • AIM Conference Center Baguio, Igorot Lodge, Camp John Hay
  • Atenara House, 40 Navy Road
  • Azalea Residences, No. 7 Leonard Wood Loop, Barangay M. Roxas
  • Baguio Village Inn, 355 Magsaysay Rd.
  • Burnham Hotel Baguio, 20 Calderon St.
  • Chalet Tepeyac, 177 Leonard Wood Rd.
  • City Travel Hotel Baguio, 15 Kisad Rd (across Burnham Park)
  • El Cielito Inn Hotel, 50 North Drive
  • Ferionnil Pension House and Dormitory, 140 T. Alonzo St.
  • Hotel Elizabeth, #1 J. Felipe Street corner Gibraltar Street
  • Hotel Veniz, One Abanao St. (at the foot of Session Road, across Burnham Park)
  • Lyn's Baguio Transient Homes, 79B City Camp Alley (very near Burnham Park and town)
  • Microtel Inns and Suites Baguio, Upper Session Road
  • Ridgewood Residence, 17 Julian Felipe St, Barangay Lualhati (near The Mansion)
  • Paladin Hotel Baguio, 136 Abanao Extension, Corner Carino St.
  • Red Lion Pub/Inn, 92 Upper Gen. Luna Rd., Salud Mitra
  • Sevilla I. Gammad, 79-B City Camp Alley, Barangay City Camp

Getting In

Riding a bus is the most common and economical way to get to Baguio from Metro Manila. Several bus lines ply the Metro Manila to Baguio route with terminals scattered across the metro. It generally takes about 5-7 hour  to get to Baguio by bus. An hour longer than it would by car due to stopovers along the way.

Victory Liner, has hourly bus service to Baguio from its Monumento Main terminal in Caloocan City, Cubao and Pasay terminals. Buses are generally modern and air-conditioned but seats are sized generally for Filipinos and tall people would need to take advantage of the various stopovers to stretch their legs.

Dagupan Bus, New York St., Cubao, Quezon City, also serves the Manila to Baguio route via its Cubao Terminal. Buses leave on an hourly basis. 

Getting Around

By jeepney

Similar to Manila, jeepneys ply various routes within Baguio and its immediate surroundings.

By taxi

More convenient for tourists perhaps, taxis are also common but once you are in the outskirts may be a bit hard to come by.

By car

Car rental in Baguio is a good option for short out-of-town trips and traveling around the city. There are several agencies offering car hire in Baguio and there are both self drive and with the driver options available. To rent a car in Baguio you should have an international driver's license. Baguio usually involves navigating a series of winding mountain roads.The traffic is on the right side of the road. As the Session Road and the public market have a very limited parking space, consider leaving your car outside the city center. Rates for car rental Baguio companies can go by the hour, the day or by the week.

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