Camp John Hay is where it all started for Baguio developing into what it is now.
The Americans first took interest in Baguio during the early 1900’s due to its cool climate, erecting Camp John Hay as a recreation facility for their troops in the Pacific. The resort was then exclusive to American soldiers but was later opened to the general public. It was used as a military headquarters during the Second World War and was later turned over to the Philippine government after the RP-US Bases Agreement in 1991.
Entering the pined avenues of John Hay, what I first noticed is the serenity and peacefulness of the park. The air seems clearer, the nature sounds more amplified. I really would not mind walking along its winding pined boulevards with the cold Baguio wind whispering through its leaves.
Camp John Hay is a multiple destination tourist spot packaged into one humongous area. Having a total of 690 hectares, there is so much to see inside the camp besides the Jack Nicklaus designed golf course.
First off is the Butterfly Sanctuary where you can get up close and personal with the colorful winged creatures. Entrance fee is at P40.00 per head and includes a funny photo session with the butterflies.
Then there is The Manor, one of the grandest if not the grandest hotel Baguio has to offer. It maintains a cozy atmosphere despite is megalithic size with its warm log cabin motif. The Manor is open even to visitors who just want to enjoy the panoramic view at the hotel’s back. Tourists can also try the posh restaurant located near the lobby of the hotel, although I have yet to try their menu as I don’t think I can afford their prices hehe.
A few meters down from the hotel is the Mile-Hi Center where stores selling imported goods and food places are located. You can choose from a wide range of dining experience from 60’s themed restaurants, grill houses, pizza parlors and burger joints.
Walk ten minutes more and you will find the secluded Starbucks Café. This is my most favorite spot inside the camp. Baguio weather being always conducive for coffee, this location is the perfect place to have it.
Another interesting spot is the Baguio Historical Core. Located inside are the Bell Amphitheater, a Museum, the Historical Walk, a Secret Garden, and the Cemetery of Negativitism. The last one is quite hilarious, as it is not quite the cemetery you are thinking about. This is where our supposed bad habits are interred and laid to rest. The graves are marked with tombstones complete with inscribed witty epitaphs.
Near the Historical Core hides another gem of a resto, the Chocolate de Batirol. This place is just wonderful, looking like a cross between Kidlat Tahimik’s Oh My Gulay and Tagaytay’s Bag of Beans, they serve Filipino dishes in a semi-outdoor garden dining set-up.
The best time to visit Camp John Hay is during lunchtime as it would take half a day to visit all the interesting spots inside. Choose the restaurant of your choice for lunch, then burn those calories away by doing the tour afterwards. End your day at Starbucks with a hot, or as I prefer it, cold coffee and chat away the afternoon away with your friends.
But, if you are in no mood coffee, I recommend that you depart the camp by walking. Watch the golden light of the afternoon filter dramatically through the pines as the sun fade. Let the chilly dusk envelope you among the towering pines of Camp John Hay as you flag that oncoming cab on your way back to the bustling city center.
PART OF A 3-DAY BAGUIO SERIES
BURNHAM PARK | PIZZA VOLANTE | UKAY UKAY | OH MY GULAY! | THE DIPLOMAT HOTEL | BENCAB MUSEUM
MINES VIEW PARK | CAMP JOHN HAY | FOREST HOUSE BISTRO & CAFE | STARBUCKS COFFEE AT CAMP JOHN HAY