We asked Baguio local Billy Tolentino for some insights about The City of Pines. Billy and his partner manage the online travel agency Sturmfrei Travel and Tours. If you’re planning a trip to Baguio, or even thinking of living there, Billy has some astute pointers for you.
Question: How long have you lived in Baguio?
Billy: I have been living in Baguio now for 5 years.
Q: What made you decide to move there?
Billy: First and foremost, the decision to move to Baguio was somewhat of an impulse. My partner, who is a Baguio local, and I just woke up one day and felt that our life in the city felt so repetitive and stagnant. We felt like we had to drastically make a change in our lives and moving to Baguio was the most natural thing to do given that she is from there. Plus, the nice cool weather made the move so much easier.
Q: How is Baguio different from other places you have lived in?
Billy: I can actually go on for days with giving the advantages. But let’s just stick with the obvious ones. There is no place like Baguio anywhere in the country. You get a more laid back feel without feeling like you are in a province. Cost of living is way cheaper compared to Manila. You need not bother yourself with buying air-conditioning as it is naturally provided for. Public transportation is within a minimum wager’s budget. Pollution is at a minimum. Vegetables are always fresh and very affordable. Crime rate is in check so it’s quite safe to walk around the city proper even at night.
While I have given quite a number of advantages in living in Baguio, I would be lying if I would say that there are no disadvantages as well. Here are a few:
First, Baguio being a premier tourist destination is a disaster when it comes to traffic. On ordinary days, traffic is already quite an endeavor. Come long weekends and the Christmas season all the way to the Flower Festival, one would wish to just stay home and let the festivities pass on by without giving a hoot, or just be in a different place altogether. It’s like Manila traffic was teleported to Baguio. Secondly, the choices in goods and services are quite scarce. One would have a hard time finding goods that are normally easily available in Manila. Choices of restaurants are quite few. Don’t get me wrong though, there may be few but they are excellent ones. Thirdly, it can get a little too gloomy during the rainy days. It would sometimes rain for 2 whole weeks and not get a bit of sunshine, which leads to landslides as the surrounding lands become too soft.
Q: What do you love about Baguio?
Billy: I love the people here. Baguio peeps are easy to get along with. If you are from a big city though, leave the big city swag behind when you visit, as the Baguio locals are not too fond of that!
Also, obviously the weather. You get to show off your stylish side with them jackets and cold weather clothing.
Q: What are some of your recommended well known tourist attractions in Baguio?
Billy: Aside from the famous ones which I need not mention, try visiting BenCab Museum which is owned by Philippine National Artist Ben Cabrera. One should also visit Tam-Awan Village which is an artists’ haven for locals and art enthusiasts.
Q: What are some of your recommended little known tourist attractions in Baguio, or off the beaten track kind of things to see and do?
Billy: Baguio is a very small city. There are no places here which are unknown to tourists. However, there might be some which I know of but I would like to respectfully decline to tell it as it is somewhat sacred to Baguio locals. The trick, however, is to befriend a local to get access to it.
Q: What are some of the restaurants you can recommend in Baguio? What kind of food do they serve, what is the price range, and what are your favorite dishes?
Chaya Japanese Cuisine – P250-1000 for 2. Get the Temaki Platter ( Make your own sushi)
Amare La Cucina – best pizza in town. Sounds cliché but I suggest you see for yourself. P200-800 for 2. Highly recommended is their Pepperoni.
Hill Station – European fine dining. P300-1000 for 2. Shepherd’s Pie
Good Taste – P150- 400 for 3-4 hungry heads. It’s a budget friendly place. Lechon Beans and Beef broccoli are two of my go to dishes whenever I visit this place.
Q: How much would one need to save up in order to experience Baguio?
Billy: For a solo traveler who is fine with staying at transient homes, a budget of 5 to 6 thousand pesos is more than enough for a 3 day stay in Baguio.
Q: How many days does one need in order to fully experience the magic of Baguio?
Billy: A 3-day stay would be enough to enjoy the city. But a full week would be recommended to fully appreciate what Baguio has to offer. This may also give you a chance to meet locals and get access to stuff generally enjoyed by local peeps.
Q: What are the different modes of transportation that people can take going to Baguio?
Billy:Bus lines are always available which have hourly trips daily to and from Baguio. There are bus terminals in Pasay, Cubao and Avenida with buses going up to Baguio.
Q: What advice can you give to tourists who are visiting Baguio?
Billy: As a tourist,. try to keep an open mind while you visit as you will learn more about the culture of Baguio rather than just seeing it as a place to cool down when it weather in other areas get unbearable. Clean as you go. Bring your trash with you. Walk instead of using your cars. Less pollution, instant workout.
Q: What advice can you give to someone who wants to live in Baguio?
Billy:Try to learn Ilocano as fast as you can. Life would be so much easier if you do. Be friendly and never say anything off about the natives.
Q: Can you describe the climate throughout the year?
Billy: Coldest is around December through February. Warm during summer months at noon time but gets cooler around mid afternoon. Rainy as hell during the rainy season as is with the whole country.
Q: What are nearby places to go to outside of Baguio? What is there to see there and how far away are they?
Billy: The Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet is just a 15-minute ride from the city proper. One should also try the hot springs in Itogon which is 30 minutes to an hour’s ride from Baguio. Or try the hot springs in Tuba, Benguet along Asin road.