Baguio City

Baguio City is  city located in the province of Benquet in Northern Luzon. It is often called the Summer Capital of the Philippines. This is due to it’s elevation (1,540 m / 5,050 ft)) which gives the city a cool climate. That is why people from Manila love to travel there during summer to escape the heat. It was once designated as a hill station by the Americans in 1900 and for a while, even the Philippine government relocated there during summers to escape the low land heat.  Despite being named the Summer Capital of the Philippines, a lot of people share my sentiment that one of the best time to visit Baguio is during December. This is evident in the crowd of vacationers from other places that flock to the city to enjoy the cool weather.

Each December, our whole clan would trek up north to Baguio to either spend CHRISTmas or New Year there. Thank God for the SCTEX and the almost complete TPLEX highways which help make the trip faster and easier. Of course, one needs to go there early or at odd hours specially during vacation season to avoid the congestion nightmare along NLEX and the SCTEX Toll gates. We usually stay at Camp John Hay Manor but this year, due to the  Manor being fully booked, we had to split between the Manor and the Forest Lodge, which is right besides the Manor and is under the same management if I am not mistaken. Manor’s room is a bit more upscale while Forest Lodge has the newer, bigger and cleaner smelling rooms but its Wifi service is horrendous to the point of being unusable.

Baguio City is my favorite vacation spot in the Philippines.  There is just something about the place that gives me this relaxed and restful feeling. Baguio City is slowly becoming more modern while still retaining the quaint charms of  its colonial past.  In Baguio City, you can find the Philippine Military Academy, Camp John Hay, it is the former hill station used for R&R by the American military personnel stationed in the Philippines and has now been converted to a major recreational and tourism place a place with several hotels, eco trails and a techno hub. Others placed of interests are the Mansion House (Official residence of the President of the Philippines in the city), Mines View,  Burnham Park  and Session Road, the main commercial thoroughfare of the city.

I used to really enjoy walking around Session Road and just soak in the city but sadly there are just too many vehicles nowadays and too much pollution. Afterall, one of the reasons I love Baguio is the fresh air and the smell of the pines. Nowadays,  I prefer to spend my time mostly inside Camp John Hay, away from the congestion and pollution of Session Road. All that I need for a relaxing vacation can be found inside Camp John Hay.  🙂

I love the chilly weather, I love the quiet early morning jog/walk. I love all the different foodie places sprouting in this city. There was even a time early on that I seriously contemplated moving to Baguio as my place of residence. I really love Baguio.

On a photography note,  I brought along the following stuff as part of my photographic gear  for this trip – my Fuji X-T1, Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8, Fuji 35mm f/1.4, Fuji 56mm f/1.2 & a Sony RX100M4. I wanted to be able to have the versatility of shooting with a bigger headroom than with a point and shoot and the ability to change lenses should the need arise. The Fuji X-T1 is a joy to use. I am so familiar with it that it feels like an extension of my arm and part of my eye. The 16-55mm f/2.8 was on my camera 95% of the time, a testament to its versatility as an all-in-one travel lens. I thought I would shoot with the 35mm and 56mm more but the only time I used the 35mm was for the market shots where in I wanted to have the smallest and less intimidating looking set up and the single time I used the 56mm was for a couple of portrait shots I took of my family.  Of course, I still brought along my small Sony RX100M4 pocket rocket of a P&S as a backup. The X-T1 and 16-55mm combination did not disappoint me. I really enjoyed walking around with it and knowing that I am ready for almost all shooting situations. The only problems I had with bringing the X-T1 and 3 lenses is that each time I go out, I kept asking myself “Should I change lens?” or “Which lens should I use today?”. I also noticed that despite pairing it with the 35mm lens, people still find it a bit intimidating and tend to turn/look away from me.  In hindsight, I probably should have just went with what I did for the past couple of years which was to just bring along the Fuji X100 series, a P&S and my Rolleiflex TLR. The X100 series just gives me the complete freedom to shoot without the internal debate as to which lens to use because it is a fixed lens camera with a single focal length. The images it can produce is on par with the X-T1. It also is a whole lot less intimidating to the people on the street. I think I could have gotten more “Street” type documentary candid shots with it than with the X-T1.  The revelation of the trip for me was the Sony RX100M4, I bought this one from my sister just in time for this trip and its small size is perfect for the hike I did at the  Eco Trail and for my morning walks. I think Fuji and Sony are the cutting edge in terms of cameras these days.

For more about Baguio City – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baguio

Camp John Hay Manor – http://www.campjohnhay.ph

Camp John Hay Forest Lodge – http://www.campjohnhayhotels.ph

Here are some of the photos I was able to take for the trip. Photos from the trail were taken with the Sony. I have labelled each photo with the camera used. Please click on the photos for a larger view.  Hope you enjoy this entry. God bless and Happy New Year everyone 🙂

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