A visit to the Baguio Botanical Garden

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I have been to Baguio City for quite several times already and it's always the trip I most look forward to. Baguio City is located at the mountainous province of Benguet in the northern part of Luzon, one of the three major islands of the Philippines. The city is dubbed as the Summer Capital of the Philippines because of its cold and refreshing weather which makes it automatically a popular destination especially during summer. Being a city on a mountain or plateau, it is famed for its cool weather, pine trees, wood carved products, vegetables, fruits(especially strawberry) and of course, the ethnic group Igorot. Baguio City is also famous for its beautiful flowers. In fact, they hold a Panagbenga Festival(Flower Festival) annually which attracts hundreds of thousands to even a million of local and foreign tourists.

In my whole life, I have never experienced going to the Panagbenga Festival although I watch it live on our local channel. I easily get stressed on large crowds that's why I'm glad that Baguio City has this super vast garden which they call Baguio Botanical Garden where you can enjoy nature to your heart's content without getting stressed by the crowd.


(image source: Katsanslimites)
Inside Baguio Botanical Garden.

A few days before the 30th of June, my mother told me that we're visiting Baguio City soon to process some documents. Knowing that the processing will only take a few minutes, I can't help but think where to stroll after. (Katsanslimites the explorer! Lol!) Why don't we stroll somewhere new? Somewhere we've never been but just near the city proper? And so a light bulb popped bright inside my head.

That's right! The Baguio Botanical Garden!

I remember my friends and I had passed by the Baguio Botanical Garden when we were on our way to Mines View Park last May 2015. The facade looks tribal with a few to some tourists busy taking photos. I know there's something even more beautiful inside that keeps people from visiting that place. Since my mother loves nature, specifically flowers, getting an approval see this place is as easy as pie. She even said she'll buy some flowers if there are some being sold in the area.

June 30th came and we were supposed to leave in the morning to maximize our stay but due to some circumstances, we were able to leave around two in the afternoon. We took a public van instead of a bus because it takes the shorter and faster route to Baguio City, the Kennon Road. My brother said it only takes an hour and a half from Dagupan City, Pangasinan to Baguio City, Benguet and so I kept my eyes on my phone's clock to see if it's true. With light to moderate traffic at the Kennon Road due to the constructions at some of the camps, our travel time resulted to two hours and two minutes which is really not bad. It was rather impressive since it was definitely faster than taking the bus which takes almost three hours to three hours and a half travel time. Plus, it's air-conditioned but is turned off when reaching an area where the coldness of Baguio could already be felt. Why the need to turn on your vehicle's AC when your whole surrounding itself has its natural AC? Although if you're not in a hurry, I suggest you to take Marcos Highway because it is safer with its wider roads.

We arrived around four in the afternoon and had swiftly taken care of the documents needed to be done without lasting more than thirty minutes. After our main purpose of traveling, we proceeded to our side trip. We rode a taxi cab and off we went to see the beauty of nature through the Baguio Botanical Garden. From the city proper, it would probably take you around ten minutes but not more than fifteen minutes to reach this nature haven. If I remember it right, we paid sixty-five pesos(P65.00) for the fare. Not bad, you think?


A Warm Welcome at the Baguio Botanical Garden


(image source: Katsanslimites)
My mother with the Igorot elders at the Baguio Botanical Garden entrance.

Upon reaching the Botanical Garden, we saw a couple of Igorot elders at the entrance and just after getting off the taxi, an elder woman from the group went near us and talked to my mother. I didn't understand what she said because she spoke in another dialect(Ilocano maybe?) but I guess she was asking if we would like to have a photo with her but of course with a fee of ten pesos(P10.00). My mother agreed and while I was busy taking out my phone, the group of Igorot elders started to flock beside us and my mother was like, "What's going on?" We initially thought that we're just having a photo with one or two of them but having them all pose for us was a bit shocking.

My brother and I were taking turns to take pictures but then an elder woman from their group volunteered to capture photos for us.


(video source: Youtube.com)
A quick pictorial with the amazing Igorot elders.


What can I say? These elders are so cool! They all know how to do those fun poses! Not to mention the woman behind the camera instructing us with the poses we should do. She captures fast just like a professional photographer and what amazes me is that she can operate a phone's camera better than my mother! (Hahaha!) I felt a bit embarrassed too while we were taking photos because we were just alongside the road. Some people inside the vehicles would look at us as they pass by but who cares, right? Moments like this is rare and is totally fun! And because mother really enjoyed it, she gave them ten pesos each.

Inside the Baguio Botanical Garden

The entrance for the Baguio Botanical Garden is on the left side of its beautiful facade and before reaching the hidden beauty of the garden, you have to work your way down on a zigzag ramp. It seems tiring but worry not! For sure you'll forget about those aching feet muscles as you begin to feed your eyes with the colorful flowers and gorgeous trees welcoming you at the sides as you walk down.

I was expecting a lot of people inside because this is a popular tourist spot but I was surprised to see a few people walking around. Maybe most of them had already left because considering that it's already late in the afternoon or probably due to the cloudy skies which worried them that they might be caught with rain while roaming around the vicinity. Anyway, with just a few people around, it made the whole area so quiet and calm.

We first went to the right side where there were some concrete bleachers, a statue emulating five men pounding rice grains behind the small stage and a wide area with concrete steps which probably serves as bleachers too for people to sit on when there's an event happening on the mini stage. The area was of course surrounded by gorgeous flowers in different colors. We took our time taking photos but just after a few minutes the sky started to drizzle. We were thinking of leaving after taking a few more photos but I insisted and continued looking around. Soon enough, the skies went in my favor and it stopped from raining. Yay!


(image source: Katsanslimites)
Signage reminding visitors not to pick flowers.


While roaming around I passed by this signage. Of course upon entering the area, you should know that picking flowers is a big no-no but definitely you can touch them and take photos. Just make sure to handle these lovely flowers with extra special care. If you want to bring home a souvenir from your visit, you can buy some flowers or plants at their shop somewhere down the area too. But that's not all! You also have the chance to experience wearing an authentic Igorot costume. Have some fun taking pictures while wearing it.(Sorry, but you can't take them home.)

Walking more towards the left side area of the garden, you'll see more flowers and trees of different kinds. (Sorry, I'm not very familiar with the names of flowers and trees.) There were also different paths that would take you to different areas of the garden and we chose to go on the widest path.

(image source: Katsanslimites)
Beautiful stairs with arch-shaped roofs filled with vines.

We then reached this beautiful stairs with roofs covered in vines and plants on the sides. Be careful not to pull or climb on those metal bar frames because they're fragile. I was doing a pose and grabbed on the metal frame and the whole frame wiggled like it's about to break and fall off. So please, don't do the same. You may not be lucky as I am. (Haha!)

This pathway is a bit long but not very tiring since you're going downwards. I suggest you to just take your time and appreciate this lovely green tunnel to divert any feelings of tiredness. Take pictures or just imagine you're a prince or princess happily looking around your castle's garden!

If you were awed by this wonderful stairs then take a deep breath as this is only just the beginning of a more spectacular flora sanctuary.


(image source: Katsanslimites)
Taller trees and more beautiful landscapes at the inner area of the garden.

Taller trees and more flowers would greet you after a long walk from the stairs. And I mean very tall trees! I believe this is where you can find the souvenir shop too. I saw a little house from afar although the lady who was probably in-charge was already keeping the things back inside the house. Aside from the trees, a huge wood carved Igorot immediately captured my eyes. If I remember it right, there were also concrete seats on this area where you could rest after a long walk or while your family and relatives or friends are busy buying some souvenirs. There's this large red bridge too at the center where I saw some people flocking to take pictures. Be careful as this bridge is very steep. Looks can be deceiving sometimes you know!

Looking around, I can't believe that there is actually more to see. There seem to be no end to this garden and it makes me worry a bit of just how much time are we consuming to see everything but on the other hand, I enjoyed the new things my eyes uncover. There were even more stairs heading up which unexpectedly led us to a much more lovely discovery.

International Friendship Tokens

(image source: Katsanslimites)
Chinese Pavilion, Korean Gazebo and a Golden Gate Bridge miniature.

Who would have thought I would see garden structures from different countries on that day? My eyes glimmered at the sight of these beautiful structures. These were built as a symbol of their friendship to our country specifically to the City of Baguio.

Probably the most famous of all is the Chinese Pavilion(left photo). It was built by the Filipino-Chinese community in Baguio as a sign of the good relationship between this city and the Hangzhou City of China. The gazebo was strikingly an eye-catcher with its red, green and yellow color. The concrete seats around the area were also painted in red and yellow color. There were also red lanterns hanging on each posts which added to the Chinese ambiance.

Near the souvenir shop, you could find a miniature of the ever-famous Golden Gate in San Francisco, California, USA(right photo). This was built by the Baguio Californians, Inc. I also saw two white butterflies on this area happily prancing from one flower to another. (We believe that white butterflies symbolizes good luck or good fortune. Hehe! Just sharing!)

I also found a Korean Gazebo(middle photo) situated between the Chinese and American structures. I believe it's from the Koreans because of the Korean characters on the signage placed infront of the gazebo. There's a pair of statue and a bridge near the gazebo too which I believe is part of the Korean landscaping.

The Historical Japanese Tunnel

You read it right! A Japanese tunnel inside a botanical garden! I think among the things built by some nations, Japan has the most and earliest structures ever made in this garden.

(image source: Katsanslimites)
Stairs to the Japanese tunnel with Buddha statues on each side and a torii gate at the end.

There are two ways to reach the tunnel and one of which is this beautiful stairs with little Buddha statues on the sides. (Buddha is the founder of the Japanese religion Buddhism.) It was so amazing but what really caught my attention is the huge Torii or Japanese gate on top. Excited as ever, I ran my way up to get a closer view of the gate leaving behind my brother and mother. When I stood infront of the gate, I was so surprised to see a tunnel which I initially thought was a cave. I squinted my eyes forcing to see what's inside beyond the dark tunnel until I saw a shadow slowly forming. Somebody's coming out! My inner coward self controlled my feet and ran back down to where my family is. I told about what I saw and we altogether walked up.

According to a map hanged at the tunnel's entrance, this was used as a hideout for the Japanese Imperial Army led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita during the second world war. The tunnel was also used as a shelter for their wounded troops. It has a total of 30 cubicles and some passages leading to some barangays and known structures.

(image source: Katsanslimites)
Brother posing inside the Japanese tunnel.

If you are up for a challenge with yourself or with your friends, yes, you may go enter the tunnel to explore and feel the remnants of history. (The shadow I saw earlier coming out was actually a tourist. Lol.) As they say, "carpe diem!"(seize the day!), and so I urged my mother and brother to go inside the tunnel. Before entering, I greeted the place with words "Konnichiwa"(Japanese word which means "Hello" or "Good afternoon") and "Konbanwa"(Japanese word for "Good evening") since it's almost evening already that time. Well, who knows there might be spirits residing in there so better greet them and excuse yourselves for interrupting their peaceful shelter.

Upon entering the tunnel, you would surely remember Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" as you will be welcomed by two pathways. One has a bright light on the end while the other was dark. Anyhow, we didn't plan going any deeper because the place was so silent and looked very eerie and narrow. All we could do was take photos at the mouth of the tunnel. If we came a bit earlier I could've challenged myself to go deeper the tunnel. (Hehe! When I returned home, I read somewhere that the lights inside the tunnel automatically shuts off at 6 P.M. Then I realized we were inside the tunnel just a few minutes before six! Glad we went out soon, else, we will surely freak out and think we're being trolled by some spirit.) I'm planning to bring my friends here someday and challenge them to enter without looking at the map!

Aside from the Buddha statues and tunnel there were also Japanese bridges and a huge rock which I believe is an important element for a zen garden. There was also a small gate leading to another set of beautiful landscapes although it was closed due to some renovations. I wonder what's more to see beyond that gate. I'm getting curious!


(image source: Katsanslimites)
Silhouette of trees as we return to the botanical garden's entrance.

Soon after, the sun bid its farewell for the day signaling us to leave the place. We wouldn't want to get caught by the dark inside the garden for it will be difficult to find the exit and it's still a very long walk back to the garden's entrance. Even to an almost dark surrounding, this place is still a beauty. The silhouettes of the trees against the fading sky is just perfectly gorgeous. Well, nature is indeed God's masterpiece!

A Nature's Kingdom in an Urban Jungle


(image source: Katsanslimites)
Some flowers that can be found inside the botanical garden.

Before I end this post, here are some of the flowers I saw at the botanical garden. The yellow flowers at the middle in third row are called Aster, the orange flowers are Cosmos, the pink flowers on the first row are Dahlia and the blue flowers on the first row are probably Delphiniums. (I apologize I can't recognize the other flowers. I wish I was a flower expert so I could tell you more about them.) They were quite few in my opinion. I believe it's because the flower season is already over. Am I right? I think it would be best to visit here around third week of February to March when the flowers are in full bloom and just in time for the Flower Festival. But either way, I still love the place and the remaining flowers were still looking pretty.

Overall, our stay for almost two hours in this place was all worth it. Compared to the Burnham Park that I usually go to when going to Baguio City, Baguio Botanical Garden is way more serene and relaxing. Surrounded by tons of tall trees and plants you'd really feel that you're like in a far away land from the city, where in fact, it's just a few minutes away from the bustling streets of the city. The quietness of the place gives it a more feel of being closer to nature and the very few number of visitors that time gave me the liberty to take photos clearly of the area as much as I want. It is indeed a nature's paradise and a very good place to unwind. And coming to this place without knowing what other things I would see gave me a lot of excitement too.

If you plan to visit Baguio Botanical Garden, it would be best to allot at least two to three hours on your schedule so you could have enough time to go around the place. Did you know that you could also have picnics inside? However, make sure to clean your mess after. Oh, and lastly, going inside this garden is absolutely free!

Thanks for reading!

✧ Katsanslimites

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