Blessed to have been to Baguio City, several times. As frequents thereof, it is now our normal routine to wait for the other shoe to drop then we are off to Baguio once again. Hashtag official business transaction a.k.a. working vacation 😉
But unlike the many trips we had in the past, in this instance we were impelled to spend the entire weekend seeing the city in a whole different perspective (which for us was a good thing, of course). Sauntering around the city not just once, or twice, or thrice, we know that we are past beyond the limits of being just mere tourists in a foreign land, we have already acquired some sense of familiarity with its terrain and gained insights of the people’s culture. So if there is another side of this lovable city that we are not really acquainted with, it is the life away from the hustle and bustle of the centre, the laid-back life of the countryside.
There are so many access roads that led straight to the Cordillera Region but the more convenient, practical and less expensive route for us Cebuanos is via Pampanga, cheaper fare, less passengers, win-win.
Armed with a sketchy plan and directive from the “boss”, we booked two airline tickets and flew to Clark, rode an Airport shuttle going to Dau Bus Terminal in Mabalacat, Pampanga then embarked into a 5-6 hours bus trip from Dau to Baguio City.
- AirAsia provides cheaper fare most of the time
- There is an 11 o’clock Genesis Bus that traverse Baguio City directly from Clark International Airport but if you are conscious of your time and absolutely dread waiting, better proceed to Dau Bus Terminal where buses plying the same route leave every hour
- Airport shuttle costs Php100 per person
- There are only two (2) bus stops during the entire trip and there are no portable toilets inside the Bus unlike the other Buses going to Laoag and Tuguegarao
If there is one thing I both love and hate in Baguio City is its cold weather. If the bus’ temperature from the inside suddenly drops without maxing out the overhead aircon’s capacity, then welcome to Baguio CIty. Unfortunately this time it was intensified by a low pressure area and an impending typhoon ravishing the country with heavy rains and a bit of thunderstorm.
The Forest Lodge at Camp John Hay
With all the non-stop downpour that rendered most roads invisible, we came to a realization that we are indeed bound to spend all the nights of this trip in the Summer Capital of the Philippines. After hours of discussions and weighing the pros and cons of our options, we decided to book a room in one of the best looking hotels there is in the area, the Forest Lodge.
Though The Forest Lodge at Camp John Hay is more or less 6km. away from the centre (checked google and it’s 5.8km from Baguio City Hall), we convinced ourselves that we had to make the most out of our time and lavish ourselves with luxury. Take note: “affordable luxury”.
What I love about the Forest Lodge is that it looks expensive, appears expensive, and caters to expensive palates but their superb service and splendid rooms are offered at a very reasonable price.
One room is complete with basic amenities including cable tv, telephone, toiletries, linens, bidet, YES BIDET and it has the best bar in the area I must say and dressing room. But what truly made our stay more enjoyable are the lovely staff who we commend their friendly attitude and excellent service, especially our room boy Mark.
To boot, the kind of peace and comfort the hotel provides is like no other. It provides solace from a fast paced life and a much needed escape from reality. This whole experience for us is undeniably our unexpected holiday while on duty.
- Agoda provides cheaper rates all the time
- The Forest Lodge rooms have bigger floor area than most of Baguio’s hotels, pension houses and transient homes
- The Forest Lodge is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (P-Approved!)
Le Chef by Chef Billy King
We had to not miss the opportunity to try Chef Billy King’s creations in Le Chef located just inside the Forest Lodge. I’ve heard the name of Chef Billy King for so many times through our local tv channels and to be his customer, food critique and taste his food up close and personal is truly an honour. We tried his twist on the Filipino Pancit Canton and Chicken Yakitori. For dessert, we had Strawberry Flambé a La Mode and Belgian Chocolate Gateau. Taste, presentation, and service are absolutely amazing.
- Le Chef is a fine dining restaurant
- Slippers, shorts and other informal clothing are highly discouraged
Neatly tucked just beside the entrance of the hotel, there is a coffee shop that serves all its patrons Columbian Coffee 24/7. While they boast of the fact that their Columbian coffee beans were shipped all the way from Puerto Rico they likewise promote locally produced coffee beans which they heavily display on their countertops.
Though I honestly am not a fan of Columbian coffee’s overly bitter taste (based on my personal preference), but what I love most about this café is their cheesecake. They have the best tasting cheesecake we have ever tasted. Smooth, creamy, delighting, no-bake, perhaps, but only them knows.
• One should not leave Baguio without trying its famous Strawberry Shortcake.
And even if most of our time were spent inside the hotel, we knew all along that we could never miss a single opportunity to taste one of Baguio’s most favorite product once again.
There is a quaint little pastry shop in Session Road that offers this one-of-a-kind shortcake. Though this tasty treat became more appetizing because of that hunk of a man named Tony Labrusca and his beautiful on-screen ladylove Angel Aquino in the film “Glorious” (yup, Vizco’s Strawberry Shortcake already hit the big screen) but setting aside our prejudice courtesy of that manly physique of the lead actor, we must and we have to say that Vizco’s Strawberry Shortcake is the best strawberry shortcake in the history of Philippine Strawberry Shortcakes.
It has the right balance of everything, sweetness, acidity, creaminess and the right flavour from the fresh strawberries. It’s our nth time to devour an entire slice and our preference over that Strawberry Shortcake has not yet diminished. We 100% percent approve of it and we definitely agree that it suits any picky eaters and choosy tastebuds. In fact, a visit to Baguio is not complete without a bite of it. (Better taste Vizco’s to understand the whole point. Lol! 😅)
It was a rainy and foggy day everywhere in Baguio City during this visit. But working + (all expense paid) vacation and looots of delicious foods, we are in no position to complain. So what’s your working vacation story?