Sunday, February 25, 2007

Baguio: Baguio City in full bloom for Panagbenga 2007

After all those years watching the parade on television and seeing photos of the colorful floral floats published in our national dailies, I finally saw the Panagbenga (Baguio Flower Festival) with my own two eyes. It was late when we decided to actually trek up to Baguio City to brave one of the biggest crowds that jampack the city annually.

Since hotels would have been fully-booked and buses filled to the hilt, we decided to drive up on the morning of the float parade, just in time to find a good vantage point for festivities. We left Pampanga at about 12 midnight. It was a sleepy but smooth drive given that heavy traffic was factored out of the picture. So we made it to Baguio close to 3:30 a.m. if I'm not mistaken. We took a quick nap at a place where some friends were staying and at 6 a.m., we were off to Session Road for breakfast.

Our plan was to try out the breakfast meals at Swiss Baker. But since they had a catering service that morning, they did not offer breakfast that day and we were left with the turnovers from the night before. As we were eating, we noticed that the sidewalk was slowly being filled-up so I rushed out to reserve a place for us. To make the long story short, we waited for close to two hours before the parade reached us. By that time, there was layer upon layer of people behind us. So it really paid to come early.

First came the city officials and the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy followed by the colors borne by cadets from the PMA. Then came two great floats from the Baguio Country Club and Chowking, both in the Hall of Fame. I especially liked the Chowking float which was very creative.

The parade was so orderly and there was enough crowd control and police to keep people within the rope on either side of Session Road. Of course, the floats which were out of place were those of the candidates. When the people carrying the letters CHAVIT passed by our area, everyone shouted "boo!" with their thumbs down. I thought it would have been the same reception when the float with the candidates passed by. But then, Cesar Montano was on it, so the boos became shrieks from fans.

For some reason, we managed to get out of the rope and find a great vantage point in front of the Baguio City Market. How we were able to do that without being noticed by the police is a trade secret. Haha! Anyway, we saw even more floats. I liked the ones from Greenwich and SM (even though I still could not forgive SM for demolishing the Pines Hotel and chopping hundred of pine trees on top of Session Road all in the name of money).

It was nearing lunch and the parade was not yet done. So we decided to call it a day and headed towards St. Joseph's Parish where my SSEAYP batchmate Tanjo Tambol was waiting for us. He treated us to lunch at Villa Cordillera which is of the best-kept secrets of Baguio (for the meantime). Managed by the Baguio Country Club, this hotel and restaurant offers a relaxing view of the green golf course and pine-covered hills.

I was surprised to find out that you could get a room for two here for as low as PHP1000. But that is an introductory price which would change by April. I regret booking elsewhere since there were rooms available when we arrived since as I predicted, everyone would have checked-out and were on the way back to Manila by Sunday afternoon. Anyway, lunch was great and the prices were quite affordable.

Since Baguio City was jampacked, we decided to stay at a spa for the afternoon. Spa Ultima at the top of Session Road was very recommended. We got a full-body massage for just PHP340! By the time we were done, it was already dark so we had dinner at the restaurant above the spa, Broad Meadows Cafe. But the food was nothing special.

After dinner, we went back to our inn to rest for a while. At about 10 p.m., we met up with my China-ASEAN batchmate, Dr. Ryan Guinaran who brought us to this cool hang-out called Kaffeeklatsch. The place was very homey with live acoustic perfomances entertaining the guests. The place was out of the way but it had its regular denizens which was not a surprise since it had a very cozy ambiance. After a few ours of chatting, we called it a night.

More photos in Multiply.


  1. Anonymous28.2.07

    Where are the floats with those out-of-place politicos?

  2. Hi Alex, I did not want to waste space in my camera on them. So I did not take their photos!

  3. Anonymous28.2.07

    I miss the old Baguio! I miss Session Cafe. I miss Gingerbread Man folk house at Magsaysay Rd. I miss that charming old lady seer at Old Pagoda Shop along Session, next to the PAL Office. I miss Pines Hotel where I used to have afternoon swims. I miss BUSURRCA, that cooperative store along Kisad that sold rabbit's foot keychains and the most delicious cinnamon rolls. I miss D&S Fine Foods. I miss Valiram's & Pohomull's Indian stores. I miss Pines Thrift Shop on Abanao managed by Mr. Woelke. Is Sunshine Bakery/grocery still there? Fireplace? Tesoro's snacks and their famous spaghetti bun on Assumption Rd? Vallejo Hotel? Ayayayayy, those were the (pine-scented) days!

  4. I hope the Baguio City Council approves that Heritage Bill we drafted before it's too late!

  5. Too many fiestas... I will not have enough time in my life to cover them all! ;-)
    Great to see that you had a pleasant stay in Baguio!

  6. Anonymous28.2.07

    The flower festival in Baguio is getting better every year.Especially with the conceptualization of some flower floats. But too bad Baguio is not like before, where the shrubs and beautiful flowers just sprout everywhere even in the highways.Nowadays there are more denuded mountains than pine trees. I just hope the goverment of Baguio can do something about these unsightful sceneries.

  7. @sidney: Thanks for dropping by! I'll see if funds would permit me to join you in Masbate.

    @airgem: Yes, I hope the City Government of Baguio would do something about it. We already filed a draft ordinance that would protect certain heritage areas of Baguio and prescribing some measures to fix the problems.

  8. Anonymous28.2.07

    Sigh....would you believe that I've never been to Baguio?

    I'm now an OFW in Singpore.

    Hope I can save a lot so that I can tour the Philippines one day...


    Cultur Shiok!

  9. Anonymous5.3.07

    Hello Ivan, there is now a plan to construct a multi-level parking structure in Burnham Park. I wonder what you and the Heritage group have to say about this. Would appreciate very much your comments. -Resty Refuerzo

  10. That is really bead news. Let me ask around. Shame on the proponents for thinking of such as thing.

  11. Anonymous7.3.07

    Hello Ivan, the following I read from our local paper, Baguio Midland Courier. There will be a public hearing on the proposed multi-level parking area in Burnham on March 14 at 1 p.m. at the City Hall. I hope a Heritage representative can come to contribute to the hearing. Regards, Resty Refuerzo

  12. Anonymous18.3.07

    baguio's population in 1990 was only 120,000.. last 2000 it was 250,000...lately it's 400,000

    It's too much... most like the population increase is brought about by migration rather than birth rate.

    The best thing for this : In-migration law. Hey, Baguio is only 50 square kilometers.

    If Baguio passes a in-migration bill, this might just prompt local officials in the neighboring lowlands to do better for their respective places. Baguio started amany times from scratch.. ww2, earthquake... if Baguio can do, why not in other areas? There's just to many excuses that there's no job; but when they come here to Baguio, they become illegal peddlers. Who don't they just invest their money in their places? I mean, not only will it help them economically, but also their place.

  13. Anonymous25.3.07

    Could I have a copy of the draft ordinance and circulate it at the Baguio Webbers International forum?

    You might also want to check this recent photo of a historical Baguio house scheduled for demolotion:

    SSEAYP '89

  14. Hi Khristine, you can download the ordinance at or

  15. Anonymous25.3.07

    Thanks, Ivan. Maybe you'd like to join us at BWI:

  16. Ok, will do. Hope you can push for it. The person sponsoring it is Councilor Tenefrancia and I heard it was approved on Second Reading. But if it does not pass before June 30, we're back to zero.

  17. Anonymous26.3.07

    We've been active writing and circulating petitions at BWI. We have some 400+ members scattered all over the globe. See you there!

  18. The petitions are good but in the real world of politics, we need the approach the councilors themselves. That's what I've been telling the petition proponents. If I didn't approach my SSEAYP batchmate who was former Baguio City SK President to give the draft I made to his contacts, there would be no draft ordinance pending in the city council. Hope you could mention that sa group. Thanks!

  19. Anonymous27.7.07

    I bet, you need more than just lobbying for this Heritage Ordinance to be approved.

  20. First we have to get a strong heritage group in Baguio organized. HCS can't lobby for it here from Manila. We'll need to set up a local chapter there.

  21. Three weeks ago I gave a lecture to a conference of lawyers in Baguio & I could not avoid giving my observations about the city because I had not been to Baguio for over two years. The Baguio of my grade school years (at STC Baguio, now gone) has lost its unique charm. Gone were Dainty Restaurant, where the politicos and businessmen of Baguio would gather in the afternoons for the best Benguet Coffee; the Session Cafe, the Mido Restaurant and all those mentioned in arcastro57's comment. The Vallejo hotel is still there and it should be saved. In the 60's our family rented (from a woman named Mrs. Lim the entire second flr of Pohumul's) and lived there after our house in Kayang St. was razed by the big fire of '62. In high school (St. Louis Boy's High Science class), I treated my friends once to the famous cinnamon bun at Tesoro's. On Saturday's at about 2pm, we would go to Session Rd. to look for the boarders from STC, since Sr. Bertin (Sr. Yvonne to another generation of Baguio Theresians) would take them out to the city for a walk. Up to a certain point in the 70's, when I had ceased to live in Baguio to become part of the Diliman Republic, one recognized about every four persons walking down Session Road. It is emblematic of Baguio's decay that when I walked down Session Road three weeks ago, I did not recognize anyone, except the proprietors of Star Cafe, who moved from their original site to the opposite side of Session Road.

  22. Anonymous30.8.08

    time has changed and baguio migrants residing overseas who visit pines city would become a stranger in his/her own hometown.

    baguio city has been commercialized in the past decade and its landscape has dramatically altered. baguio of long ago has long been gone. only the memories remain my friends. only in memories.



  23. Anonymous11.2.09

    just want to ask if you know another hotel or even a small inn whose rate is just about PhP1000 apart from the one you mentioned that has this rate as an introductory price.
    thanks :)

  24. Anonymous21.2.09

    Hi to everyone thats posting here. we seem to have the same views and grievances. Just came back from Baguio a few days ago after 18 years of absence. I'm shocked up to now on how crowded session rd. is, and the smog is horrible. I used to drive up and down Session rd. with my windows opened. Same as arcastro, I miss the places he mentioned. RAA, I was also a student of STC for Gr 4 to Gr 6. I miss the old Baguio, the smell of pine trees, and most of all, is the time when everyone knew everyone.


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