We wouldn’t have made it to the 8:00am street dancing parade if Laryh didn’t go to Victory Liner two hours earlier than our meet-up time which was 11:00pm. We didn’t reserve tickets at that time which was a bad idea since it was the peak season of Panagbenga Festival. Tickets were all booked and the next available bus will leave at 4:00am. So most of us rushed to the terminal and others had to leave the office earlier to make it to our 11:00 departure.
It took us around 5 hours and a half to reach Baguio City with two stopovers along the way. The trip went smoothly and ended with an early morning strawberry taho when we finally reached our destination. It was still very early so we decided to buy our return tickets at the terminal to avoid the rush hour on Sunday. Unfortunately, everyone had the same idea so it was like a box-office line when we bought our return tickets.
Then, we walked along Session Road exploring the place while looking for a place to stay. We almost got a good bargain at 200 pesos per person but eventually we ended up staying at YMCA which is just in front of Session Road where the street dance and float parade will take place. The food was also very cheap if you will just look around. We had barbecue and Chop Suey meal for breakfast for only 50 pesos. I was determined to succeed in the 1000-peso-challenge I set for myself. So far everything looks good with cheap food and good accommodation that costs 375 pesos only.
After breakfast, we headed to Session Road an hour earlier before the start of the parade. But the place was already jam-packed and none of us got a good spot to take pictures and to watch the street dance. But the street dancing parade was one of the most visually-appealing festivals I’ve ever seen. The colorful and intricate designs of their costumes harmoniously blend with the dancers’ graceful movement. It was something we can be very proud of.
We all converged back to YMCA to have an hour of rest before lunch. Then we set out to the market looking for this highly recommended restaurant by one of our friends. We went round and round the maze of Baguio market looking for “Oh My Gulay” which nobody seemed to know. Finally we just decided to walk back to Burnham Park and had our lunch in one of those long stretches of barbecue grills that offer delicious but reasonably priced food. Although we have to contend with the smoke even inside the dining area which left us teary-eyed the whole time we were eating.
After lunch we chartered a taxi to our first side trip- the Tam Awan Village. It cost us a total of 50 pesos for the taxi and another 50 per person for the entrance fee. The place showcases authentic Igorot huts, art gallery, a coffee shop, Fishpond, Eco-tours, art workshops and cultural shows. It was almost 4:00 when we left the village and headed to Camp John Hay for our next side trip. We had our early dinner at Carlos’ Pizza before we explored the place for endless photo shoots.
We were too exhausted by the time we got back to our lodge so we decided to have a short nap. But everybody slept through and missed our planned gimmick night. But on the other hand, we all woke up early and this time refreshed and fully invigorated. We already learned our lesson during the street dancing parade so this time we went two hours earlier to Session Road to find a good spot for the Panagbenga Float Parade. As expected, there were already many people as early as 5:00am as this is one of the most anticipated events for this month-long celebration.
The Float Parade reminded me of the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade on a smaller scale. No wonder both sides of Session Road from SM Baguio all the way to Baguio athletic Bowl were jam-packed. Buildings, trees and overpass were filled with spectators from different places. The performances were even grander and the floats were such a feast to my senses. The colors and scents of Panagbenga Festival can already be summed up by this one event alone.
Some companies who had their floats were Cebuana Lhuillier with Ogie Alcasid, San Miguel with Alyssa Alano, Dunkin Donuts, and ABS CBN with Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson who got the loudest applause so far second only to Jollibee. The PMA has their own delegation too as well as the local officials in Baguio.
We attempted to follow the last float to Athletic Bowl but it was like walking in the middle of a sold out concert so halfway near it, we just went back to YMCA to regroup and get ready for lunch. Ivy was still determined to find “Oh My Gulay” so we set out again for this very elusive restaurant. Fortunately, someone who knows the place overheard us and told us where to find it. It was actually an artist café and it was all worth it looking for this place. It is located on the 5th floor of Azotea Building along Session Road and offers a great view, an exhibit of photos, a lot of sculptures and relics, and very well-crafted furniture. It is indeed a haven for artists. But of course the best part of it were the fresh, crisp and delicious salads they offer and an array of organic vegetarian dishes. But with the kind of appetite we have at that time, we can finish three plates of pastas and salads in one sitting.
As this point I was already on the verge of losing in my 1000-peso challenge budget for two days in Baguio excluding the fare. We still have to visit the Bell’s Church, the Grotto and the strawberry farm. But we ended staying longer in Oh My Gulay so we just went to strawberry farm instead and bought our pasalubong. We tried the strawberry ice cream and had a free taste of strawberry wine here. It was almost 4:00 when we left the farm so we just went back to Burnham Park to wait for our 6:05 departure. We had our last dinner at Jacks before we headed to the bus terminal of Victory Liner which gave us a 10% surcharge fee for arriving at 6:00pm.
At last after all these years, I finally had the chance to visit the City of Pines. It was my first festival for this year and I think it is going to be hard to top this one in my list. Mabuhay Baguio City!
For list of other attractions in Baguio, where to stay and how to get there, please click the link below