One of my earliest visits to Baguio was not a pleasant one. I was a young cub reporter covering the aftermath of the disastrous July 1990 earthquake where more than 400 people died. I remembered that it took forever to reach the city because the major highways were closed. Session Road looked like a picture of devastation and most pitiful of all was the Hyatt Hotel ( also the site of a casino) which crumbled like dominoes and buried scores of people. The stench of death was clearly palpable above ground where we were and heard stories of who tried to escape, who died and who lived. I did have a picture but I was too sad to keep it.
It’s now nearly 20 years and there’s no longer a sign of that tragedy in Baguio, except horrific memories perhaps. Visiting Baguio this first week of January with my loved ones, I felt safe in the arms of Mother Nature. The Baguio climate in January is just lovely. Erase that: it is the best. For those of us who are tired of the humidity in Manila, the cool weather (below 20 degrees Celsius) provides a welcome respite.
We devoted a full day in the lovely confines of Camp John Hay with its tall pine trees and greenery. A portion of it is absolutely posh (because the rich have vacation houses inside the camp). However, Camp John Hay is also one great public park and you could while your time away here having a picnic and renting a table for just P100, going for bikes and games at the arcade, outlet shopping, hiking, eating and doing a sundry other things.
Chocolate de Batirol is a nature-inspired coffeeshop inside Camp John Hay’s Scout Hill Area. A must-try is of course their native cups of hot chocolate in different flavors. Mr. Z and I had the traditional blend and the Baguio blend which tastes more like strawberry. Too bad we had a full lunch so we weren’t able to try their native desserts like the bibingka, turron de langka and suman sa lihia. Still, Chocolate Batirol proved to be a cozy chill out place even though it is small, with plants, vines and artworks all over. Other hang outs in John Hay include Cantinetta, the House of Waffles, Mile Hi Diner, Starbucks, Carlo’s Pizza, Dencio’s, Hotshots, Brothers Burger and the outstanding Le Chef at the Manor.