Rediscovering Baguio (and how to “properly” travel)

Baguio City. You think jackets, bonnets, peanut brittle, strawberries, and flowers at the mention of this elevated paradise. You close your eyes and imagine the grandeur of fields, rivers, and mountains that greet your eyes as the vehicle you’re riding on approaches the city that holds hands with the sky.

Baguio is one charming place. I have visited this city when I was younger, but something was different after my most recent trip. Baguio was more charming than ever before. I fell in love. I will share the things I experienced in this trip, along with some pieces of wisdom that everyone can use when they are traveling or are planning to travel.

1. Baguio is beautiful at night. (Travel at odd hours.)

I usually arrive in Baguio at noon or in the afternoon when I was younger and was traveling with my family. This gave us time to stroll a bit before we seek refuge in our hotel rooms. I had a very comfortable stay in Baguio.

Things were a bit different this time. My girlfriend and I left the familiar yet congested and polluted streets of Manila in the afternoon. As the bus we were riding on was traversing the North Luzon Expressway, our eyes indulged in the ever-changing landscape of urbanized mess turning into provincial bliss. The sun was saying its farewells, and I was a sponge trying to absorb everything that was going on. Surely enough, we were engulfed in darkness. The only familiar things within my vicinity were steel, the cries of an infant, and my companion. I was getting impatient, wondering if we were ever going to arrive.

Suddenly, there she was. She took my breath away. She was dazzling. Under the cloak of darkness, she was sparkling. She was shining so brightly that the moon and the stars were looking down in envy. Even in the engulfing darkness, I can connect the dots and trace the city’s contours like little constellations.

(Travel at odd hours. Arriving at your destination at night is not a bad way to start the trip.)

2. Baguio at night is a sweet shot of bitterness.  (It’s really important to plan ahead.)

When my family plans a trip, the children are usually given the Chris Lao treatment. We just go on with our lives, and Mama would knock on my bedroom door at four in the morning, drop clothes on my bed, and say “Gising na, aalis tayo.” I’d follow her instructions, and let them take me to wherever they want to go.

What happened to my latest travel to Baguio was the complete opposite of what my family does. We arrived late at night, about 10:30 in the evening. We had no idea where we were going to stay. We never really planned thoroughly. All we knew was that we would stay in a transient house for a night or two, and explore Baguio.

We arrived in a bad time: Panagbenga was officially starting the next day, so transient houses were full. We became tired hobos, as the streets became our bed and the frigid air our blankets. My back perspired and the thin Baguio air, out of concern or sheer cruelty, dried it several times. I was tired, sleepy, angry, but I was happy. I really felt like I was traveling. We could have used a reservation, though.

(Plan ahead. Seriously.)

3. Baguio is not that big of a place. (Acquaint yourselves with its streets. Learn how to walk.)

When my family toured Baguio, we rode a lot of cabs. Taxis in Baguio costs a lot less than its Manila-based counterparts, so my parents were a bit too happy with hailing a local cab and go to the usual locations in the city.

We walked to a lot of places as we looked for a place to lay our heads on. It is in our desperate search that Baguio introduced her charm. She breathed into me cold air that bit my fingers and stimulated my senses. I was exasperated and fascinated as I explored her sleepy veins. Her artery, Session Road, was a different sight to behold at night. She smelled differently from the usual stench of my Manila. At night, she was friendly.

Of course, there are bacteria hidden within her that causes illness, but Baguio has a body to behold.

(Walk. There are hidden gems that one will not see if he keeps on using taxis to buzz from one famous, abused landmark to another.)

4. She made everything worth it. (Travel with someone you love.)

I love my family. Sure, I can be a dick and fight with my siblings the majority of the time, but they made me who I am. The only problem I have with traveling with my family is the fact that they tour; they never travel.

We stayed under the wings of Golden Arches as we waited for the sun to rise. When it finally kissed us with warm rays, we went to Baguio Cathedral. The priest was giving a homily that hit me hard: Be calm. Trust the Lord. The entire night, I was tired and exasperated. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to quit. But she was there. Her support kept me going.

Finally, her mobile phone on her hand rang. A transient house was available for us. (It was like God was telling me to go to Church more.) Words definitely do not give justice to our expressions as we walked to the house, settle down, and sleep. The elation was heightened by the fact that I experienced and struggled and journeyed with her.

She made every single step worth it.

(Traveling alone gives you time to think about things, but traveling with someone you cherish allows you to live.)


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