How do you explore Baguio City like a local? More than knowing where to buy the best ube jam or how to get to Mines View in the fastest possible way, you should understand the issues that locals face everyday and how they deal with them.
Baguio City, the regional center of the Cordillera Administrative Region, has a capacity of a maximum of 30,000 inhabitants. However, due to influx of migrants from other parts of the Philippines and abroad, the mountain city now has a daytime population of about 400,000. This figure doesn't include visitors that arrive en masse during holidays. In 2017, there were more than 1.2 million tourist arrivals between February and mid-May, according to Tourists Statistics of Baguio City. With overcapacity comes shortage in utilities, accommodations, and the patience of locals.
For your 2018 Baguio adventure, enjoy the charms and nuances of the City of Pines like a local. Here are 12 travel tips for you.
Leave your car at home
Baguio is designed to accommodate only a few thousands of people at any given time (or a max of 30,000 inhabitants). During holidays, especially the Panagbenga flower festival, there are more than 1.5 million people in the city. The congestion is evident on traffic jams in tourist spots and the central, or “the Town.” You'd be surprise that a typical 15-minute ride could stretch to an hour or more. That may be “old news” for you in Metro Manila, but not quite acceptable for locals.
When traveling to Baguio, take the bus. Private cars, especially massive 4x4s, are clogging the city's roads and polluting the air. Taking a van may be acceptable only if you're visiting as a big group (8 people or more). But once you arrive in the city, park your car in your hotel or condo and commute or walk around the city.
Take the public transport
There are 2 types of public transport in Baguio: the taxis and jeepneys. You can visit a lot of places via jeepneys, but take note that they follow a curfew which is typically until 9 PM. There are two places in which jeepneys operate 24 hours – those traversing Trancoville and Pacdal. If you need to go elsewhere at past 9 PM, you'd need to take a taxi.
Take the jeep to Mines View, Pacdal or Maria Basa to reach several tourist spots like the Botanical Garden, Teachers' Camp, and Wright Park. You can walk to The Mansion House from Wright Park. This is the same route to Good Shepherds Convent (and their infamous strawberry and ube jam) and Mines View. Take note that you'd need to take the Mines View jeep to take you to Mines View.
Explore the city on foot
You can easily pinpoint a local from a sea of tourists. Such person is in sneakers (or leather boots in rainy days), with a backpack, native sling bag or eco bag, and almost brisk walking on the streets. You may be used to taking a tricycle to the neighborhood store, but in Baguio, locals walk. And they walk a lot.
Honesty is the best policy
Baguio locals are known for their honesty. This may be a sweeping generalization, but most people you'd meet will give you what is due. When riding a taxi, you can expect to receive an exact change down to the last centavo. The same goes when going to the market. You can rest assure that a kilo of strawberries is truly a kilo, nothing more, nothing less. And honesty is equally expected from tourists like yourself. If the old lady selling vegetables forgot to charge the broccoli in your list, go back and pay for it.
Make arrangements for your accommodation
Do you know one thing that irks locals aside from traffic congestion? Tourists coming to the city without any planned accommodation. These “adventurous” visitors would take the 5+ hours up north and pray that they could find a cheap yet affordable place, leaving everything to chance or to Batman. Some families would sleep inside their vans and cook in a makeshift kitchen. Sadly, they'd leave all their clutter on the the street.
Unless you want to risk putting up a tent in Burnham Park and freezing overnight, you should make arrangements before traveling to Baguio. Your options range from expensive five-star hotels to a small room in a transient home. Stay in the City of Pines comfortably and in style in Outlook Ridge Residences. Check out DMCI Homes price list for info on short-term stay rates.
No styrofoams and plastic bags!
Years ago, Baguio City was hailed as the cleanest and greenest city in the country. That was a time when the population hasn't breached the 100,000 mark and visiting the mountain city was physically challenging. Today, the city is grappling with a serious waste disposal problem. The local government recently passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of styrofoam and plastic products. If you're ordering food to-go, you may be asked to pay extra for the reusable container. A local would normally bring his/her own microwavable container for take-outs. Be reminded to bring an eco-bag when buying pasalubong.
Observe common courtesy
While jogging around your condo in Outlook Ridge Residences, don't be surprised if a stranger greets you a warm “good morning.” Greeting people, acquaintance or not, is a custom in Baguio. It's a common courtesy. Smile, greet the person back, and move on with your affairs. You don't have to stop and do small talk, so no pressure. Thanking people in the grocery and restaurants is also a practice. Sure, it's their job to attend to your table, but would a simple “thank you” hurt?
Because coffee is life
Cordillerans take pride of their homegrown coffee brew. National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose gave praise to the mountain region's well-loved produce in his Rosales Saga. Cordillera's coffee varieties are the best in the country, he wrote.
There's no shortage of coffee shops in Baguio. Along Session Road along, there might be more than 20 joints to choose from. But where do locals normally enjoy their steaming brewed coffee? Well, at home!
You can buy ½ kilo of Benguet brew coffee beans for about Php 120, which is more than enough for a month's consumption. Kape Umali, a quaint coffee store in the market, offers Benguet coffee, Kalinga brew, Sagada Arabica, Soya coffee, and lots more. You can have the beans ground and ready for your drip coffee maker.
Cook hot meals at home
Where does a local eat when he/she dines out? Restaurants and coffee shops, generally, flourish on tourism. Locals would rather buy fresh produce and cook like they'd prefer brewing their own coffee at home. But if they do go out, the favorite establishments are Good Taste, Tea House, Rose Bowl, and Sizzling Plate. There's also the merienda joint Solibao and pizza place Volante.
Stay in Baguio like a local and maximize condo living in Outlook Ridge Residences by cooking your meals. As of the writing of this article, a kilo of carrots is Php36 a kilo of potatoes is Php60, and a kilo of iceberg lettuce is Php30. For your pinakbet, you can have all the lowland vegetables, good for 6 people, for only Php150.
Ice cream and bread FTW!
There are two things about Baguio locals that you should know about: they love ice cream in cold weather and bread everyday. You will notice ice cream stalls along Session Road and believe it or not, locals crave for these cold desserts when the temperature drops. There's also a strong passion for freshly baked bread. One of the well-loved bakeries is Danes which sells fresh and hot pandesals, cakes, and a wide selection of coffee-buddy breads. You should try their cinnamon rolls which are available everyday at 10 AM but sell out in minutes. Similar with attending your passport renewal appointment, be in the bakery ahead of time.
For the creamiest and tastiest cream puffs in this side of the planet, head to Victoria's Bakery. They have a charming bread store/coffee shop along Mabini Street near the University of Baguio. A regular cream puff, which is as big as an average adult's palm, is Php15. You can also try the flavored variety such as choco and pandan.
Leather, coats, and too much swag
There's a joke that you can detect a tourist by simply looking at his/her outfit. A Baguio local won't be caught dead wearing a “Baguio City” or “I Love Baguio” bonnet or T-shirt. They wouldn't leave the house without shoes – this means no flip flops or the notorious Crocs. Baguio locals take their fashion seriously, no matter how whimsical it may be.
People would be in their leather boots, trench coats, and colorful scarves during the cold rainy season. Baguio people are the masters of layering and they do it effortlessly. Stay in the city like a local by strutting in your high-fashion ensemble. One thing you should know, however, Baguio is a conservative society. Dress up modestly.
Be ready for stimulating debates
Baguio locals are a laid back people. They know how to have a good time, but they also observe propriety. Singing in karaoke is tolerated on weekends and holidays. You can have a party in your house and make a bit of merry noise. However, it's advisable that you moderate your noise. This applies whether you're renting in a condo or a house in a residential area. It's a practice that if a household is throwing a party, which may last late in the evening, the neighbors are informed beforehand. It's a sign of courtesy for a harmonious community living.
Where do locals go to relax? If they're not at home enjoying a cup of coffee and mamon, they're in a bar for beer and acoustic music. They may also be in coffee shops — you guess right – drinking coffee and chatting. Baguio locals are well-versed on current affairs so be ready for debates. What issues are people into these days? Federalism, same-sex marriage, and tax reforms.
For your 2018 Baguio vacation, stay in a DMCI condo that's accessible to tourist spots yet isolated from the congestion in commercial districts. Moderate your narcissistic tendencies of taking selfies every 5 minutes and embrace your new surroundings. Observe the locals – where they dine, shop, and how they relax. Interact with them. Make your visit a truly worthwhile experience.