BAGUIO CITY — The heat getting to you? Want to cool down and see new places at the same time? Then hop on to your car or grab a bus and head on to the coolest city in the country – Baguio.
The annual exodus to the Summer Capital of the country officially begins with the coming Holy Week and the observance begins with the annual search for the Lucky Summer Visitors conducted by the local media organization.
The lucky visitors will be feted to four days of red carpet treatment including free hotel accommodations, a tour of popular tourism sites of the city and its surrounding Benguet towns, as well as special treats coming from each local government unit they will visit.
Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) President Jane Cadalig said that a maximum of six visitors will be chosen on Holy Thursday, April 13. They will be chosen from a Baguio-bound bus from Metro Manila. They will be billeted at the Hotel Supreme and from there, the club will tour them to local tourist destinations in the city such as the Philippine Military Academy, the ever popular Mines View Park, the Tam-awan Village, and Cathedral of Our Lady of Atonement – better known as Baguio Cathedral.
There will also be new experiences for the lucky visitors of Baguio’s neighboring towns like strawberry picking at La Trinidad town’s strawberry fields, and living a miner’s life at Itogon town’s mine tour. In between, they will be feted by local governments in testimonial dinners or lunches.
Although Cadalig did not disclose the criteria for this year’s search, she said that the search committee will begin boarding buses to look for the lucky visitors who are riding on a “winning” bus line at 8 a.m. on April 13.
The search would be heaven sent for those fortunate visitors because hotel and other accommodation facilities in the city are already fully booked.
Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) President and Baguio Country Club (BCC) General Manager Anthony de Leon said most of the member hotels of HRAB have already reported that their rooms are booked for the Holy Week.
“This will continue every weekend until June or July,” de Leon added.
“We, of course, welcom all our tourists who will come to Baguio for their summer escapade,” de Leon added, “Enjoy this comfortable weather compared to Manila’s sweltering heat.”
And it is the cooler climate of Baguio which has been the main attraction of Baguio ever since it was established by the American colonial government in 1909.
Back then, the American colonizers found it important to establish a second national capital during the summer months to escape the scorching heat of Manila.
It set up Baguio, which was back then a mere hill station, to be a city where they can continue running the affairs of the country less the heat and sweat. This is the reason why there are extension offices of such government agencies like the Supreme Court, as well as summer residences of the then governor-general (now known as The Mansion), the senators and House Speaker.
Even though Baguio is more than happy to host the hundreds of thousands of visitors, residents as well as officials have started to feel the pinch which tourism brings.
Every year, the city experiences urban blight brought about by the huge number of visitors.
Chief among them is a previously unknown phenomenon in Baguio – vehicular traffic. Traffic can get so bad to popular sites and sights that at times it takes up to three hours to reach. A problem which also started to cast a bad image of Baguio.
To help solve this, an advocacy campaign started in 2014, which urges locals and tourists alike to ditch their cars and instead walk to their destinations.
“Enjoy the hospitality of Baguio people, but always observe cleanliness and we recommend people to walk to the central business district)and other parks to avoid traffic,” de Leon stressed.
The advocacy, known as “Walk Happy, Baguio City”, was initiated by HRAB as a means to minimize vehicular traffic especially to tourist sites and the heart of Baguio City.
“Baguio has such a beautiful summer climate, not too warm, not too cold. Perfect for walking and experiencing what the city is all about first hand by being able to touch, feel, smell and savor the experiences one can never feel when going around the city sitting inside a car,” said Walk Happy coordinator Ferdie Balanag.
This sentiment is echoed by de Leon who has been encouraging guests to take long walks through the pine covered surroundings of the city.
“We’d like to repeat our message, that visitors and locals leave their cars at home or at their hotels and just enjoy “Bisita Iglesia” or going around Baguio by walking or using public transport,” Walk Happy co-coordinator Israel Buenaobra likewise said.
“We also like to tell everyone that part of respecting Baguio and its people is to be responsible and mindful of the environment. For visitors it’s vacation, but for locals, Baguio is our home. So it would really help if they would manage their wastes properly and clean as they go,” Buenaobra added.
“Leave cars at home and help ease traffic. Less carbon emissions too,” Balanag also added. Sam Bautista/PNA-northboundasia.com