When it comes to traveling, nothing compares to a perspective from someone who has already been to the destination.
Over the years, local travel has grown more popular because of this reason alone. In DG Traveler, we believe it's the locals who know best and can shed a true light on what their hometown has to offer.
We interviewed Baguio-based lifestyle blog Where to, Baguio? co-founder Jireh Rodriguez on his passion project and what to do when you're in his hometown.
DGT: Who is Jireh Rodriguez?
JR: I'm Jireh-el Rodriguez, but everyone calls me "Jai". I was born and raised in Baguio. Aside from being a freelance graphic designer and art enthusiast, I am a writer for Where to, Baguio?.
DGT: Can you share the story behind Where to, Baguio?
JR: We started Where to, Baguio? in early 2016. [It was] the brainchild of Jem Calija, who is our head photographer and EIC. Being graduates of Communication, we wanted to put our skills and media training to good use, … [so] we came up with the website.
During that time, we were also just beginning to explore the arts and culture side of Baguio, and we were surprised by how most of these events and places aren't always covered by the mainstream media.
There's just so much more to Baguio than what we usually see. There are places and people that deserve to be recognized, so it has become our mission to put a spotlight on them and help them reach a wider audience, even if just by a bit.
DG: What is your favorite thing about Baguio?
JR: I live for Baguio's art scene. The city has been named a Creative City by UNESCO, and I'm always proud to call it that. There are just so many art spaces, art-themed cafes and restaurants, and artists that it's hard to keep track of everything sometimes. But, I wouldn't have it any other way. Oh, the weather's pretty nice, too. Hahaha.
DGT: How is Baguio’s art scene?
JR: Baguio is really active when it comes to art. I believe there are at least three new exhibits that open every month, scattered around the city such as in Cafe by the Ruins and VOCAS at Oh My Gulay.
Baguio never runs out of creative talent, and not just for visual arts but performing arts as well, like we have a few bands who are coming into their own.
My favorite artists are Carlo Villafuerte, who does fabric art. Kelly Ramos, an oil painter, and Kora Dandan Albano, a children's book illustrator. There's also Fredi Agunoy and his art group called "Salonpas" composed of older gentlemen. There's Venazir Martinez who has made a splash on mainstream media for her Cordilleran themed murals along Military Cut-off. For literature, we also have Dumay Solinggay who has represented us nationally and internationally for poetry. In the music scene, we love the tunes of CamelHump for their indie, folk, chill vibe, and The Turn Coats, specializing in rock.
DGT: What are your top 3 picks for those visiting Baguio for the first time?
JR: For people coming to Baguio for the first time, I actually do think they should at least go to the places where people usually go, like Burnham Park, John Hay, Wright Park, etc... pretty much those tourist spots that pop up whenever you Google "Baguio".
For dining, Oh My Gulay in Session Road or Ili-likha in Assumption Road is a must-try for the ambiance and a taste of the art scene. People also love the freshly brewed craft beer at the Baguio Craft Brewery in Marcos Highway.
DGT: What is something that you want people to know about Baguio?
JR: People come to Baguio thinking that Strawberry Farm is near our Central Business District. It's actually in La Trinidad, the capital of Benguet, which is about 30 minutes away, depending on traffic. La Trinidad is also home to a few mountain areas, like Mount Ulap and Mount Kalugong, which are great for hiking. This sister municipality is also definitely worth a visit.
I think any place is a hidden gem depending on what you're looking for, whether it's the food, the surroundings, or the uniqueness. But to name a few more, there's Mount Cloud Bookstore for book lovers, which we love because it supports local writers. There's also a quaint bed and breakfast called Bahay Hignaw in Gibraltar Extension, which is near tourist spots like Mines View and Good Shepherd, and they offer Cordilleran fusion dishes.
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