Wake up in the Cordilleras

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    With very low COVID-19 cases, the Cordillera Administrative Region has been classified as low risk and preparations are under way for the cautious rebootof its economy.

    Straddling the majestic mountain ranges of northern Luzon, Cordillera Administrative Region is the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples which boast of rich ancient cultures.

    A few years back, the Department of Tourism launched the “Find Yourself in the Cordilleras” campaign to rediscover the highland’s manifold wonders—nature, farm sites, built heritage, cuisine, and everything in between.

    With very low Covid-19 cases, the region has been classified as low risk and preparations are under way for the cautious reboot of its economy.

    “If and when the region opens for tourism, Baguio City will be the hub of tourism activities once more as the other highland provinces might not yet be ready to welcome travelers,” says DOT-CAR officer-in-charge Jovi Ganongan.

    She said that beyond the pine trees and conducive climate, there is much to be rediscovered in the summer capital, such as its artistic soul, culinary tradition and close-to-nature recreation.

    She also pointed out that the region has adopted the slogan “Wake Up in the Cordilleras” based on the DOT’s national tourism recovery plan.

    Baguio was named in 2017 to the Unesco Creative Cities Network, a prestigious global club of 63 cities which promotes creative industries and integrate culture into sustainable urban policies.

    The city, which will mark its 111th charter day on Sept. 1, earned praises for its handling of the pandemic with its efficient triage and contact tracing.

    Guests can hop around museums, galleries, art cafes, and spaces which locals have transformed into venues of visual and performing arts.

    Sink your teeth on homegrown dining outlets which showcase the rich upland culinary heritage, many of which were rendered a gourmet twist. Among these is Bistro Lokal which offers a new take on favorite Filipino flavors created with the best of organic Cordilleran ingredients, served from farm to table.

    To savor the crisp mountain air and avoid enclosed areas, al fresco dining is a cozy experience at Le Monet Hotel, The Manor at Camp John Hay, The Barn, and Baguio Country Club, among others which are away from the crowd.

    A must-try is forest bathing, the Japanese art of wandering in the woods to improve health and well-being. The country’s first Forest Bathing Trail was opened at Camp John Hay’s forest of thick and soft pine needles, canopies, and foliage. People can hug a tree, walk barefoot, inhale the pine scent, and commune with nature through yoga, meditation or prayer.

    An alternative place to stay is Mirador Jesuit Villa Retreat House, an intimate country-style lodging which began as a meteorological observatory by Jesuit scientists at Dominican Hill.

    It has the Knidos Labyrinth where one can pray through slow walking for purification, illumination and discernment, with the majestic mountains as backdrop.

    Another best-kept hideaway is Guesthaven Bed and Breakfast whose restored homes reflect rustic living, with its features nostalgic of American-built houses. Food is homestyle and meticulously prepared for pre-booked guests.

    Just outside Baguio is Benguet which is regarded as Cordillera’s center of farm tourism where visitors can immerse in agriculture-based activities. Among these sites such as Cosmic Farm, Mount Costa, The Green Living Room, and the popular Strawberry Farms, all located in La Trinidad.

    Further away is Shayanlene’s Fruits and Vegetable Trading in Tublay and Northern Blossom Flower Farm in Atok, which has been an internet sensation before the pandemic.

    “With stringent health and safety protocols in place, it is just a matter of time before guests can wake up and find themselves in the Cordilleras,” Ganongan concluded.