Baguio is the undisputed “summer capital” of the Philippines and this by no means is a mere title. According to historical accounts, it is the official title given to this northern city by the United States back when they were still governing the Philippines as one of their colonies.
During the summer months of March and April, the colonial government and its officials made their way to Baguio City because of its cooler weather, which is a break from the oppressive heat of Manila. This also meant that official matters were also taken up in the city, making Baguio the temporary seat of the colonial government during what the Americans called “the Season.”
Sitting atop the mountains, Baguio City boasts of lower and cooler temperatures, ranging from a low 16 degrees Celsius to merely 26 degrees during summer. From December to January, the temperature dips even lower, ranging from just 10 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees. It is not surprising that people who are looking for a respite from the summer heat flock to Baguio to get a whiff of its cold mountain air.
With all these nice things said about Baguio, should you visit the city once the summer season is over? Fewer tourists visit Baguio as the rainy season brings the wettest days the city will experience within the year. Baguio is not spared by the rains brought about by typhoons and other weather disturbances, and the mountainous terrains make traveling there quite a challenge. While this fact can be discouraging to most tourists, there are other reasons why it is still interesting to visit Baguio during the rainy season.
Rain makes Baguio a more romantic place
Couples are having fun during their visit in Baguio
There is another title that Baguio can very well own, and it is the title of being one of the country’s favorite honeymoon destinations. June is usually the month when most weddings are held; it is also the month when many couples are taking time away from their busy lives for some quiet time as newlyweds. But, because June is the start of the rainy season, beach or seaside weddings become less viable. On the other hand, Baguio becomes an attractive option because of its proximity to Metro Manila. With the opening of new express ways, travel time to Baguio via a private car can only take 4 to 4.5 hours, or only 5 hours via the nonstop deluxe buses.
You can do an early morning walk at Camp John Hay when rain is light.
Photo courtesy of Rob Mariano
For newlyweds who want a quiet honeymoon, or for any couple who want to spend time together away from the city, Baguio is the ideal destination. When it’s raining outside, they can always stay indoors, in their hotel, or in one of the many cozy cafes and restaurants in the city. For the more active set, an early morning walk on the grounds of Camp John Hay is not to be missed. Nothing invigorates the body and mind more than walking under the dew-drenched pine trees and smelling the faint scent of pine needles. Couples opting for this walk are not likely not to get that sweaty, especially if the fog comes in and envelops the surroundings during the walk. A recommended route for walking would be from CAP Convention Center to the picnic area near the Bell House. From there, if they get hungry for breakfast, they can try several restaurants at the Commissary which is right past The Manor.
The rainy day specials
Family can stay indoors when raining outside and enjoy huge discounts on their room rates
Photo courtesy of The Forest Lodge
Honeymooners, even families actually, can take advantage of the many rainy day specials where hotels offer huge discounts on their room rates. Some offers usually include breakfast and other special treats. As much as 50 % discounts on room rates are given because hotels want to attract visitors during this time of the year, which is considered their lean season. Visitors can check out the hotels’ websites for information on such offers, which are usually published as early as the end of May. Even big-name hotels such as The Manor, The Forest Lodge, and Le Money have discounts and packages to offer.
Having the city all to yourself
Because the rainy season is the lean season, travelers can have the feeling of having the city all to themselves. There are no long taxi lines, no heavy traffic in the usual tourist spots, and not too many people to bump into while walking along Session Road or even in Burnham Park. This has become a rare luxury even to Baguio residents themselves, when out-of-towners do not flock to the city.
You can go to The Manor at Camp John Hay for an evening entertainment
Photo courtesy of The Manor
Beyond the usual touristy activities that are better done during summer, there are other ways to spend a rainy day in the city. Because there are not as many tourists in the streets, a leisurely stroll is possible. In Camp John Hay, you can cap your morning stroll with a cup of coffee and breakfast. Depending on your budget, you can go to Mr. Beans at the Commissary, or Starbucks near the golf course in Camp John Hay, or even the coffee shop or piano bar at The Manor.
For vegetarians, you can try Oh My Gulay who serves brewed coffee and tea to warm you up.
Photo courtesy of Bryant Sia
If you are more adventurous, Session Road has more to offer in terms of food and things to do and see. Whether you walk down or up along Session Road, you can enjoy different types of coffee with the many coffee houses in the central business district. Local coffee shops to try include Ebay’s in upper Session near the post office and those at the Ili-likha Artist Village along Assumption Road. Oh My Gulay, the vegetarian restaurant on the top floor of La Azotea building along Session Road serves organic coffee and tea. The smaller Azotea Greens on the basement of the same building also has local brewed coffee and tea.
Cafe by the Ruins serves real hot chocolate made from pure tablea.
If you have not been to one of Baguio’s must-see places, Café By The Ruins, this is the best time to go. They now have two branches, the original one near the City Hall and Café By The Ruins Dua, which is found along Upper Session Road, right next to Mario’s Restaurant. Aside from coffee, they also bake their own bread like kamote bread, basil bread, and potato onion bread which are good to have with their herbed liver pate, fish roe pate, herb cheese, kesong puti and basil, or simply jam and butter. They also have real hot chocolate made from pure tablea.
In terms of food to keep you warm after a walk, you can go for the quintessential mami (chicken, beef, or wanton) that you can get at Luisa’s Cafe or 456 Restaurant, both along Session Road. For those who love spicy food, Japanese ramen or Korean noodles are available at Hodori Restaurant, located along Mabini Street.
The other good news about having the city all to yourself is that shopping can be a breeze. Ukay-ukay or wagwag shops are many, especially in Bayanihan Building, which is near Burnham Park. If you want to shop while enjoying the cold evening breeze, go to the Night Market along Harrison Road. One side of the road is closed off starting 9:00 PM so that vendors could set up their wares. There are new items for sale, but most are second-hand items that range from shoes and clothes. Consider bringing a flashlight, so you can clearly see the items you get interested in. Check for damages or missing parts.
Art appreciation: Baguio style
Appreciate the local art works at Bencab Museum
Since the rains will likely keep you indoors, you can take some time appreciating the beautiful things in life, and that would include local art and crafts. It may not be known to many that Baguio is a favorite place for artists, with a few famous ones making this city their home. Among them is world-renowned artist Ben Cabrera, also known as BenCab. His love affair with the city and its culture has brought him to establish an artist community that started at Tam-Awan Village, and eventually, his own museum called BenCab Museum, along Asin Road.
The museum offers a glimpse of local modern art through exhibits and shows while, at the same time, showcasing his own collection of Cordilleran and Filipino art. Tam-Awan Village is located on a hillside, with native huts all around. It was originally conceptualized as an artists’ village where artists could stay to make art. Meanwhile, The Café By The Ruins in Dua also features art exhibits of local artists. Artworks during exhibits are for sale, so one can go as far as grabbing a piece and taking it home to continue appreciating it.
There are many fun things to do and many places to see in Baguio even during the rainy season. Just remember to not let the rains dampen your thirst for adventure. If you open your mind, you will see a different side of Baguio, one that you will most likely enjoy.