Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Baguio, Amidst the Storm (The Tour, Part II

27-29 August 2011. Mountain Province.

Since the weather was still unpredictable on our 2nd day, the 28th of August, and I didn’t know how far the next attraction was, and whether or not it was easy to get a ride from that attraction to the next, Jas and I decided to book the cab we hailed from the Grotto. For Php300.00/hour, we asked the driver to take us to Tam-awan Village, the Bell Church, and Camp John Hay.

Tam-awan Village

artwork @ tam-awan village

Located at 366-C Pinsao Proper, the village is home to the Ifugao arts. There’s a structure depicting the typical abode of an important Ifugao person. Paintings are prominently displayed, and for Php100.00, you may have yourself sketched. There’s a café, which doubles as an art gallery because pieces of artwork are scattered everywhere. At the gallery proper, we were treated to an array of eye-popping and mind-blowing art. There’s a souvenir shop right next to the gallery, where a visitor can bring a piece of Ifugao art back home. Entrance fee is Php50.00/person.

Jas and I were not able to explore the rest of the village because of the weather. The village was reconstructed by the Chanum Foundation, Inc., and I read that the reconstruction had the objective of making a model village accessible to the people who have not had the chance to travel to the Cordillera interior.

Bell Church

bell church

We were next whisked to the boundary of Mountain Province and La Trinidad, Benguet, where a few meters away from the boundary is the Bell Church. Aside from the unassuming signage that says ‘Bell Church’, I knew we were on the right track because of the dragon figures adorning the gates. Jas and I were instantly transported to Chinatown what with Chinese-looking stalls lining the path that led to the main attraction. The place had beautiful landscaped gardens, and intricately designed structures that housed statues of Buddha and other figures important to the Taoist faith.

It was raining again when we left the Bell Church, so we asked the cab driver to drop us off at the Forest House. It was past lunchtime anyway. Fortunately, the rain had let up by the time we were through with lunch. We hailed another cab and for Php200.00, asked him to drive us around Camp John Hay. It turned out that the cab driver was a guide by the name of Buboy. He gladly gave us a rundown of the spots he thought would impress us. The rundown was actually for Jas’ benefit, since it was his first time in Baguio.

Camp John Hay

According to my readings, Camp John Hay was developed in the early 1900’s by the United States Armed Forces for its troops to have a little rest and recreation. Later in the year the Philippine Commission declared Baguio as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, President Theodore Roosevelt reserved an area of  the place, which area measured 535 acres, for military use. The said area was named Camp John Hay in honor of the Secretary of State at the time of Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt, John Milton Hay. Buboy is of the opinion that when the Camp was still in the hands of the United States, it was one wonderful place for visitors to enjoy Baguio in its finest. However, when the Camp was turned over to the Philippine Government, business was foremost, and beauty was secondary. Pine trees were cut to make way for business establishments. Buboy showed us the area where numerous pine trees were cut to accommodate a call center company. I was alarmed because most often than not, call centers attract other establishments, like fast food and coffee chains. Would that mean the end of pine trees in Camp John Hay?

Buboy gave us a quickie tour of the Camp. We stopped at The Manor for a quick picture at its signage, and longingly gazed at the impressive hotel from the cab. The Manor is a 189-room condotel, and the first of its kind in Camp John Hay. It became fully operational in 2002. For your shopping needs, there’s Mile-Hi Center which is a commercial complex that offers branded items. Buboy opined that while Mile-Hi does offer good stuff, the stuff, however, are pretty expensive. The zipline has likewise invaded Baguio, and Buboy informed us that Baguio’s zipline made you zip at 100 feet above the ground. It was closed that day due to bad weather conditions. Sadly, Buboy informed us that Camp John Hay’s butterflies were all gone due to the continuous construction of business establishments in the area. Buboy offered to drop us at Burnham Park. We exited at Gate 3, where Baguio Botanical Garden was nearby. We didn’t explore the place; just a quick picture at the entrance.

Burnham Park

boat ride @ camp john hay

Our last day in Baguio, 29 August, was spent on a boat ride at Burnham Park. The park is located at the very heart of Baguio City. According to my limited readings, it was named after American architect and urban planner, Daniel Hudson Burnham, who laid the plans for the city. The park has a man-made lake, where tourists can rent a boat for Php100/ half hour, and an additional Php20.00 if you require a boatman; and a bike rental.

Our trip back home was at 2.40 in the afternoon. Due to numerous road repair and landslide along the way, I was back to the stress and the city at around 11 in the evening.