March 2014 – Some of my closest friends have said at some point that they’re done with Manila and they’re leaving for Baguio to become a nun or an artist or a recluse, etc. My friend Elvina is not one of those people. I think she’s always had a love and hate relationship with Baguio, having spent a whole year living there as a student. This month, we rediscovered the City of Pines together and resolved to be as non-touristy as possible. Here are six places we visited in Baguio:

Burnham Park

Baguio Museum – This dingy, poorly lit museum showcases a few artifacts from the different ethnic groups in the Cordilleras. While the gallery on the first floor is very informative and engaging (there’s a Sagada coffin on display with an actual mummy inside!), the galleries on the other levels failed to capture my attention. When we were there three weeks ago, the exhibit on the second floor was about the previous administrators and officials of the local governments (I think), and the third floor had a few beautiful paintings that were mounted on wooden platforms, without any description whatsoever.

Although I enjoyed our visit, I know that we could have gotten more from the P40 we paid as entrance fee. I’m not complaining; I just hope we could have seen more. Anyway, I still believe that it’s worth visiting, especially if you’re interested in the rich culture of the Cordillera people.

Baguio Museum

Emilio Aguinaldo Museum – This is, by far, the most beautiful and well-maintained privately owned museum (dedicated to Philippine history) that I’ve visited. Founded by the family of Gen. Aguinaldo’s youngest daughter Cristina, the Aguinaldo Museum in Baguio houses the first Philippine Flag and one of the banners Aguinaldo and his men used in battle.

I highly recommend visiting this museum to see the original flag unfurled in Kawit before we lose it to time and decay. We didn’t get to take pictures because we left our cameras in our bags by the door, but I believe it’s allowed.Our entrance fee was P45, but I’m not sure what the ticket’s actual price is because the caretakers and the guide made us join a group so my friend and I can get discounts. Before you visit, make sure to call ahead or send them a message on Facebook.

Aguinaldo Museum

It goes without saying that the museum’s version of the events during the Philippine Revolution is biased for Aguinaldo, and Bonifacio was relegated to the sidelines of history as a proto-politician of sorts. But I still respect them for what they do, for they understand the significant contribution of all the political figures from the Revolution. I discovered then that Cristina Aguinaldo married Sun Yat-Sen’s descendant (his son, I believe), and that they migrated to Baguio. We were even more surprised to discover that our pretty tour guide was actually one of Cristina’s grandchildren haha.

Balatoc Mines Tour – This is basically a tour in one of the mines of District 12 the Banaue Mining Corporation. Read about my visit to the country’s first mining tour. You can also visit their Facebook page.

Tam-awan Village – This haven for artists offers tourists a glimpse of the art of the Cordilleras. Wooden huts were erected on the side of a steep hill like the traditional houses. I think these huts are used as artists’ studios. Since we visited during Women’s Month, there were lingling-os everywhere. I would’ve bought a necklace with this fertility symbol but they only sell silver and golden lingling-os that were beyond my budget, so I purchased a book instead. And a box of postcards. And a wooden sculpture. And a cup of coffee (with a free refill!)

BenCab Museum – I must admit it felt weird to see hundreds of bulul in an art space, but I think they felt at home in this museum. Here we saw not just traditional artwork and handicrafts from the Cordilleras, but also a few contemporary works as well. The entrance fee is P100 for non-students. We didn’t eat at the cafe here because we’re poor, and also because I heard someone got food poisoned here. And we were penniless. Anyway, the landscape behind the museum is worth the long descent down the building.

Bencab Museum

Burnham Park – We didn’t have anything to do here because we’re boring people. My friend Vin just took some photos and then we moved on; I just wanted to see it in person. I envy the residents of Baguio for being fortunate enough to have so many well-maintained parks in their city. Imagine how pleasant living in Metro Manila would be if we had a Luneta in every town and municipality!

We also went to Mt. Cloud Bookshop and Oh My Gulay, two places which I will always visit when I’m in Baguio. Visit their Facebook pages for more information.

I read somewhere that Aldous Huxley once said that we Filipinos are the most unoriginal people. Obviously, he’s never been to the Cordilleras, or even to Baguio City where the city vibrates with creativity and artistry.