Will a new generation of tourists rediscover Baguio?


GUESTS at the Christmas lighting ceremony at The Manor feast on Filipino holiday staples such as bibingka and puto bumbong.

LAWYERDamaso E. Bangaet Jr., founder of Panagbenga; Camp John Hay Development Corp. COO Alfredo Yñiguez; DOT-CAR director Purificacion Molintas; Camp John Hay Leisure Corp. managing director Heiner Maulbecker; The Manor and The Forest Lodge GM Ramon Cabrera

The Yuletide season officially started at The Manor with a recent Christmas lighting ceremony at the resort hotel’s Manor Garden. Dubbed as “Magical Christmas,” the event was hailed by Manor executives, led by German managing director Heinrich Maulbecker, as the first of its kind in the Baguio-based hotel’s young history.

It was no ordinary lighting ceremony, as the event also featured a synchronized light show and fireworks display that instantly dazzled and warmed the hearts of young and old alike, as they basked in the city’s nippy December weather.

Hotel guests feasted on free-flowing drinks and various dishes, including Filipino holiday staples such as bibingka and puto bumbong, prepared by chef Billy King and set up buffet-style just outside Le Chef, the Manor’s signature restaurant.

SANTA Claus arrives in a dune buggy.

Dressed as cosplay characters, students from the University of Cordillera were among the evening’s featured performers. The Hive Band, a group of homegrown musicians, sang a repertoire of pop and jazz standards, including a number of OPM classics.

Hotel personnel, under the direction of Filipino general manager Ramon Cabrera, toiled for several days before the launch to produce their version of White Christmas, complete with dangling Tivoli and LED lights, pine trees with trunks wrapped in faux snow and larger-than-life lanterns shaped like snowmen.


MANAGING director of MOOGControls Steve Leece with his wife Rheta Leece and the little angels of The Manor

Each set of decorations was clustered into vignettes, with one featuring life-size circus animals under a makeshift tent. Thanks to piped-in Christmas songs, a gazebo lined with white Christmas lights and featuring a number of stools and sofas, including a pair of rocking chairs, doubled as a music room.

This year, the hotel shares the holiday cheer with special children belonging to A Child’s DREAM Foundation, Baguio’s first pediatric therapy center for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and other mental and sensory impairments.

Guests can extend their help by buying small holiday trimmings in the shape of angels, lanterns and Christmas trees. The trimmings would adorn the Manor’s Christmas tree at the lobby, while proceeds from their sale would go directly to the foundation.

CHRISTMAS caroling by the School of International Hospitality and Tourism Management Choir

Nestled in the sprawling pine forest of Camp John Hay, a former American military camp used for rest and recreation, the four-story, 180-room Manor has become one of Baguio’s premier tourist destinations since it opened in 1999.

Maulbecker, who has been based in the Philippines for almost 30 years now, considers Baguio his second home. As GM of the ill-fated Hyatt Terraces, the first five-star hotel to open in Baguio, he lost his first wife, a Filipino, to the 1990 earthquake that devastated vast areas of Northern Luzon.

He knows the importance of tourism to the city’s economy. But unlike such tourist attractions as Boracay, El Nido and even Tagaytay, Baguio relies mainly on local tourists.

THE MANOR’S dazzling white lights

Foreign tourists, especially those living in temperate countries, have little incentive to go to Baguio for obvious reasons. But for Filipinos, Baguio is the next best thing there is to experiencing winter-like weather.

Foreigners, mostly Americans and Koreans, who frequent the Manor are already based in the city either as students or executives of several multinational companies with offices there.

Apart from being a university town, the city also has a thriving BPO industry, which explains the considerable presence of young people in their late teens and early 20s.

No memories

“Lately, we also have to deal with the challenge of attracting young Filipinos with no memories of Baguio while growing up,” he said. “How do you make them come and visit the city?”

To previous generations of Filipinos who regularly trooped to Baguio several times a year, especially when temperatures in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon begin to soar in March and April, this may sound unthinkable.

But the advent of cheap and frequent flights to other destinations both here and abroad have lured regular and potential tourists away from Baguio.

“During the last three years, there have been more destinations coming out,” said Maulbecker. “People have more choices. And with budget airlines, they can now fly to Macau, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.”

Meanwhile, commercial flights from Manila have stopped flying to Baguio for several years now. Maulbecker cites delays and scheduling problems, which made the service unpopular among travelers and unprofitable for airlines.

Flying to Baguio, because of its mountainous topography, depends a great deal on timing and actual visual cues. Flights are usually cancelled on rainy and cloudy days. The ideal time to fly in and out of Baguio was between 7 and 9 a.m., said Maulbecker. Flying in the late afternoon is definitely a no-no.

“There have been quite a number of times when flights got delayed, cancelled or even diverted somewhere else,” he said. “By the time you learn about the cancellation, you’ve already spent three hours at the airport. Had you taken the car or bus, you would have already been in Tarlac by then.”

So-called deluxe, nonstop trips offered by a number of bus companies have filled in the void left by airlines. Since these buses have their own restrooms, travel time from Baguio to Manila, and vice versa, has been cut short to less than five hours compared to the usual six.

When he first arrived in Baguio in the early ’80s, one of the first things Maulbecker did as a hotel executive was to work with locals in creating a tourist map of the city identifying places of interest. It became a hit among tourists.

“It wasn’t a walking tour,” he said. “The map was more of a reference material because people in the hospitality business then assumed that everyone knew where to go and what to do in Baguio. For the poor tourist, that wasn’t always the case. We called it ‘Rediscover Baguio.’”

Even now, there will always be a constant need for tourists to rediscover Baguio. And people at the Manor are doing their best to make sure that they do.

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  • pepito gwaps

    Sobrang ganda ng lugar na yan. Malamig sa gabi, foggy sa hapon st para kang nasa cloud 9.Sarap palagyan ng skycraper, theme park like disneyland, high risese hotels katulad ng nasa dubai na Burj Al Arab, Garden like paradise. Casino like las vegas..tsk.tsk..kaso padreaming dreaming na lang kasi walang gustong mag invest…

    • INQ_reader

      Nyek! Puro konkreto. Para kang SM na sira nang sira sa natural na ganda.

    • lex

      sibrang ganda nga balak mo naan sirain! bobo!

      • pepito gwaps

        Low iq. Ayaw mo ng maraming jobs. Sige tayuan mo ng mga bahay kubo.

      • mrcrabdribble

        Kaya nga uminit sa Baguio dahil sa sobrang dami na ng buildings. Sobra na ang isang SM at ilang maliit na casino at hotels dun. Baligtad na ngayon – mas marami na ang hotels at FX kesa sa actual demand.

  • riccisan

    we went there this year, ang tanging meron na lang ay yung mga ukay2 na naiwan ng mga tourists at expats na binebenta the whole time. yes may SM na din and all, and the temperature is not as cold as it seems. but still its a nice place we enjoyed it. btw, hindi talaga budget ang tickets sa airlines kasi u have to book early para maka avail ng ticket na mura. (as early as 6 months or more, book and buy)

    • Merly Daguyam

      You want colder place? go to Benguet like Buguias and Atok…temperature go down as low as 6 degrees during december to Feb while Baguio just reach 10 degrees 

    • lex

      punta ka sa freezer! malamig doon!

      • riccisan

        hope u can get a life troll

      • mrcrabdribble

        you’re pathetic.

  • Rene V

    i remember the Mountain Province of my childhood. i was born in Ambuklao and my brother, in Binga. both dams were constructed to provide power to the Luzon grid and our Daddy was part of it. we used to motor to Baguio where we went around while Mom did the marketing and we did our photo ops. those were happy days! Christmas in Baguio was always magical and the cold weather and foggy views always reminded me of those special times with my Dad, Mom and Brother. Merry Christmas to all!

  • lex

    i would rather have less tourists in baguio. the city has been desecrated by businessmen turning it into a concrete jungle with no interest in ecology. so many people so few resources so many corrupt politicians so many people who do not care. let baguio rest for future generations.

  • The Truth

    Back then.. with less than 4 hrs drive to Baguio, at least twice a year family vacation and at least once a year with friends up to Sagada.

    Heavy traffic and unsafe roads leading to Baguio are the most common turn-off.

    • aris alfaro

      …my mom used to work at the bureau of mines back in the 80s. you are correct, i remember it was just a 4 hour drive form pasay or baclaran. but now i heard it’ll take 6, why? 

      • mrcrabdribble

        They built the SCTEX, but the real clog and crawl happens in that 60-km stretch after Urdaneta to the climb. Those tricycles and trucks that slow the pace of all vehicles behind them!

  • vinj

    Sadly, the Baguio of my growing years is gone. You can’t even smell the pine anymore as you open your windows on your way up Kennon Road or Marcos Highway. 

    When i tell my kids that we’ll drive up to Baguio, they are not as enthusiastic as we were before and they’d rather go to the beach.

    And yes, you could easily do the drive in 4 hours more or less coming from Manila, and that includes a stopover at Vilmar in Tarlac City. To accomplish that same feat at this day would mean leaving early or having a car that can easily overtake those slow trikes and trucks… and no stopovers. 

    • mrcrabdribble

      That’s one of the most annoying to me, too – the tricycles and trucks in the highways leading to La Union and Baguio! Argh I hate those lane-grabbing, slow-moving tricycles that have no place being in highways!

      • Shadows1

         Wish it’s legal to ram those tricycles that are not supposed to be in those highways in the first place.

  • Shadows1

    Me and my family lived in Baguio for more than three years until we moved back to Manila early last year. I still want to settle in Baguio because the crime rate there is lower compared to Manila. No carjacking, no bank robbery, no riding in tandem assassins. Although marami ring petty crimes and yes, malaki na ang ipinagbago compared to the Baguio of the past.
    Ang biggest turn off sa Baguio ay ang mga mapagsamantalang vendors lalo na sa Session Road and sa Burnham Park. Kapag tagalog ka, mas mahal ang price ng strawberries at iba pang prutas. Kulang rin ang timbangan nila halos 3/4 kilo lng at aawayin ka kapag ipinatimbang mo sa iba kase mabubuking mo silang mandaraya.
    Baguio is encouraging local tourists to visit their place but THE LOCAL GOVERNMNET DOES NOT PROTECT THEIR SO-CALLED GUESTS from those vendors. One more thing, before they encourage people from the lowlands to go up to Baguio, I strongly suggest that you inform us of your color-coding scheme. Biruin nyo anaman, papupuntahin nyo kami dyan tapos huhulihin nyo kami dahil sa coding. Eh kung alam namin ang days ng color coding nyo, we can plan our trip based on our plate numbers so we won’t be TRAPPED and ticketed.

  • mrcrabdribble

    Polluting FX PUVs and mushrooming hotels are turn-offs too. More trees, less concrete please.

  • joush charlie f. jirch

    . . . I love Baguio City . . . no matter what its the Summer Capital of The Philippines . . .  As a half German-Philippine I can not say bad things against the native country of my mother. . . love Baguio . . . 

  • felipe

    the main reasons why baguio has deteriorated into a so,so city are uncontrolled squatting,(tolerated by those in power) overcrowding due to  proliferation of educational institutions ( both diploma mills & those  with class) ,high rise buildings w/c were taboo until it was ended by low IQ’d mayor, corrupt management of city affairs, poor infrastructure & city services, influx of beggars, criminals etc…where walking the streets after dark was once a luxury now it is a struggle & dangerous. snatchers , drunks, drug addicts abound the streets..and oh !!  the smog  it has overpowered the sweet smell  of the pine trees, where crystal clear drops of dew falling from pine leaves is now dark liquid caused by the soot from the exhaust of countles taxis, jeeps & motor bikes!!! such is the present state of the baguo I love….

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