5 Reasons To Live in Baguio City
Who could resist the inherent charm of this popular holiday destination? Here’s why you should consider “living BC.”
My epiphany came in the strangest of places. Fresh off a dusty, five-hour bus trip from Sagada, bearing two backpacks in the midst of a throng of thousands of market-goers, suddenly, I knew that I was home. I was so happy at the realization that I could have just walked from Baguio market terminal to the steep inclines of Mirador Hill, just off Naguilian Road. Arriving here—arriving home—was well worth the long, metaphorical trip. Perhaps I share many of their reasons for choosing to live here, but I have many more reasons of my own.
A Manila friend and fellow "BC" [“Baguio City”] enthusiast remains fascinated at how Baguio's residents all seem to be perennially in a good mood—and who wouldn't be? The climate is comfortable, the community is inspiring, you've got all the conveniences of the city, with the Philippine Cordilleras, home to my forebears, as a backdrop. Quite different from the place I've called home since I was knee-high: Quezon City.
Instead of bolting out of bed in an air-conditioned bedroom purposely curtained off from the sounds and scents of Tandang Sora traffic, I now wake up to birds serenading the hills in the early morning. I can afford to get out of bed slowly, unperturbed by the usual metropolitan noises, watching sleepily through picture windows as the sun lmakes its way up into the sky. From the very first week I started "living BC," I've reveled in the relative lack of metropolitan urgency that I'd become accustomed to. With a lot more time on my hands and a lot less noise, I accomplish so much more, even having time left over to tap into long dormant reservoirs of hidden talents and interests pushed to the far back of the proverbial shelf by the day-to-day demands of a vicious urban jungle.
In BC, one's creativity is amped to record levels: On the first night of my first-ever writing retreat, poetry poured out of my head and heart and onto my pen like never before. Baguio really does inspire you to courageously reconnoiter strange creative territories. Which is probably the reason why a number of artists have chosen to make BC their home: best-selling painter BenCab (Ben Cabrera); renowned sculptor and art pedagogue, Benhur Villanueva, with his talented family that includes multimedia artist Bumbo and photographer Marney; BC native and émigré from Germany, filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and his own family of artists; another Baguio local, Cordillera photographer Tommy Hafalla; and even Pinoy rock legend Joey "Pepe" Smith, to name-drop a few.
I've met many former lowlanders who have uprooted themselves from the madness of Metro Manila and found their place in this mountain town. Bliss Café's Jim Ward, for instance, worked around the world before finally finding his groove as a BC vegetarian restaurateur. Even my next-door neighbors are originally from Marikina. Every single one of these BC converts told me that they have absolutely no regrets of moving up here.
The move was bound to happen sooner or later, considering all the time I've spent in the Cordilleras-Benguet, Mountain Province, my maternal home province Abra, with BC as a hub. BC itself is a city of great memories, a trove of reminiscences starring those near and dear to me. Some friends have likened my BC relocation to moving into my first apartment in Paris, but the experience is so similar that I've chosen a Parisian-apartment/Moulin Rouge-on-hash- meets Session Road theme in renovating the house. BC mornings are crisp and chilly, with sunny afternoons, punctuated by foggy interludes, just like a good day during a Parisian spring. BC is also a great walking town, barring the doggy poo.
And of course, BC has the best market of any I've seen or experienced in this country. I could spend the whole day in it, just like I spent many hours dreamily lost in the Sunday Bastille marche or the smaller weekday Mouton Duvernet market in my 14ème neighborhood. For a fraction of Manila's (or Paris's!) prices, I can carry away my dinner of skewered meat or fish hot-off-the-grill, newly harvested vegetables, succulent strawberries by the kilo, and, my favorite indulgence: armfuls of freshly picked flowers. The Parisian comparison is not so superficial after all; but this time, with my own Cordillera Ilocano ancestry, I can actually talk the talk. And, unlike Paris, or any of the many other places I thought I'd settle down in, Baguio City truly feels like home.
Baguio, in spite of the encroaching development, still retains its old-school charm. A lot of establishments have cropped up since, adding even more culture and color to the city. Take for example the cozy bookworm’s haven Mt. Cloud bookshop at the 107-year-old (but recently renovated) hotel Casa Vallejo. Another off-the-beaten-track destination is Ninja Sabado’s Arca’s Yard (fourth photo and main photo above), which is a café, bed-and-breakfast, mini-museum, and library all in one. Don’t forget to stop by Ninja’s husband Greg Sabado’s shop of wooden wonders and artifacts along Outlook Drive (above), and then head over to the Ketchup: The Food Community for myriad choices of concept restaurants.
PHOTOS Jun Pinzon and Dairy Darilag
Read the original article ("Living BC") in the July 2006 issue, and the Baguio Special in the December 2015 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to summitnewsstand.com.ph/real-living for more details.
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