It's almost summertime in the Philippines and a lot of people are getting ready to head to cooler destinations. One of the most popular is Baguio. To jumpstart our travel to the north, we decided we'll be in Baguio for Panagbenga 2011. And so we packed!
The most common way to get to Baguio is via Victory Liner. We've been taking Victory buses (especially when we don't bring a car) since I was a child. I've taken Victory in all of my trips to Pangasinan and have never been disappointed. The bus almost always leaves on time! Last February 25, they were understandably 20 minutes late. Still, we reached Baguio proper by 4 a.m., an hour earlier than our expected time of arrival.
Arriving in Baguio at 4 a.m. is not a godly hour to be outside with a child. So I frantically hailed a cab (there's a long line of SUVs for hire in front of the Victory Bus Terminal) and went off as directed by my local friend. Sadly, it took us almost an hour to get to our destination. My friend was given the wrong information, and thus, relayed the wrong information to me. Good thing there were 2 old men who helped us walk the streets in the dark. I thanked them when I thought I was on the right gate.
However, when my cousin called to ask where we were, I found that we were nowhere near them. And then we decided to meet at a known rendezvous, a nearby hotel near the Lourdes Grotto. Finally, I saw them walk towards us from the opposite direction. We walked another 300 meters. Our early misadventure made me wonder how residents jog around. The streets were winding and just like a roller coaster ride, they go up and down. Some have just the right slope while others will certainly make your leg muscles feel the workout. I don't know how I could accelerate with the 33 L backpack I had. Getting inside the house was such a relief! I unloaded and began to set up our breakfast.
Good thing I brought instant coffee sachets and some homemade food. Cold weather always make me hungry. I guess we need more food to produce more body heat. I've lost weight since I gave birth last 2009 and my body fat can no longer protect me from the cold. Unlike my son, who didn't seem to be cold, I had to wear thick socks and an arm warmer all throughout our stay in Baguio. Since I only brought 1 jacket, I simply wore a couple of layers to keep from getting goosebumps. But the Baguio breeze is just too chilly! Good thing we came this February. They say summer isn't as cold anymore.
We went around and totally missed the Saturday Parade for Panagbenga. But we made sure to catch the Float Parade on Sunday. It was our first time to be in Baguio for Panagbenga and I was caught offguard with the volume of tourists who came in to see the festivities. I'd recommend you book at a lodging near Session Rd (where the parade usually starts) or check the updated itinerary to see which hotels are within the vicinity. From the Grotto, it was tough trying to get a cab back to Session. Aside from too many tourists, roads were also closed so expect heavy traffic.
As in all occasions, one can see that Filipinos' attention are pretty much easier to grab with popular personalities. And that's why many businesses join the parade. Being seen by half a million people and being showcased on broadcast media is actually worth more than winning the judges' thumbs up. And they even support tourism along the way.
I, on the other hand, was pretty amazed at the flowers used in the floats. The kiddie band players were also awesome. Some had to withstand the cold Baguio weather barefoot to exhibit Ifugao clothing. There was this one band who, I think, should have been disqualified for not making their stand safe for the children. Exposing children to these festivities will help them appreciate their roots. When they grow up and leave their hometown, they will only have these festivities to remind them how good it felt to be part of their community.
In the long run, I hope that tourism in the different regions will bring better opportunities for local residents. A thriving community will no longer have to see their youth leave and look for greener pastures.