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Baguio City, Mount Kalugong and that little coffee shop on top of a mountain

Early this year, we went to Baguio City and La Trinidad, Benguet for a quick weekend break. I love the Baguio area because as a northern Luzon guy, it looks and feels different than my usual environment, but at the same time, I'm assured that I'm just close to home. It's also so easy to get there, that I feel comfortable just going on an impromptu trip without any planning necessary.

Whenever we go to Baguio/Benguet we try to look for easy mountain trails that we can try. So upon arriving in the city at dawn via Victory Liner (and after a quick Jollibee Burger Steak breakfast), we rode a jeepney that would take us to Mt. Cabuyao in Tuba. The jeepney ride went on and on and so we asked the driver where we can possibly get off if we're going to Cabuyao. I realized that we missed our stop and possibly lost when the old women in the jeepney let out a collective gasp and said "May-awawan dan san" (I think they're lost) and "Haan da ngamin agdamag" (They should have asked). And so the drive just told us to stay until he returns to the city and he'll drop us off the nearest drop off point. That, he did. But just when the jeepney with the gasping old women had already zoomed away, the man at the entrance checkpoint pointed to a sign that says Mount Cabuyao is closed.

Oh no. How do we go back to the city then? I pretended to stay calm and just took pictures of the view. Here's one of them:

While I was taking photos, two ladies who now also appear lost arrived at the same checkpoint with the signs that say the trail is closed. Good thing they arrived on a taxi! The driver offered to take us back to the city (I don't know why the ladies insisted on staying there, they must know more than we do), but we said we want to go to a similar mountain. He recommended Mount Kalugong in La Trinidad.

Mount Kalugong (an Ilokano word that means a hat) is just a few kilometers away from the famous La Trinidad strawberry plantation, and the entrance to the mountain, an uphill path accessible through the highway is near the provincial capitol. The cab driver was nice enough to give us a background of the mountain - like how it was converted to a park by a retired nurse, and how we should be careful of snakes and lions in the place and how we should relax because it's a ten-hour drive going there. Obviously, and thankfully, not everything he said was true, and it wasn't long enough that he was already waving us goodbye, grateful for our monetary tip that we gave in exchange of his mountain climbing tips.

The place is well-maintained, and it had cottages and restrooms and other attractions. Thankfully, it still looks like a mountain, and not a theme park. Well, it's not like the other trails we tried in the past where, because they're so secluded and there were no other people around, I'd often feel uneasy because I feel as if I'm trespassing. This time, there was a guy in a hut asking for entrance fees, so we knew that we're legit visitors.

Yes they have restrooms, but it's still a nature hike, ok? And so I did my trademark "hiking in jeans" pictorial.

Mount Kalugong has a thick pine forest, but it's got walking trails so even the most amateur fake-mountaineers like me can walk and around not fearing for their lives.

There are rock formations where you can take fake summit photos! This one I used is the lamest one by the way cause I was scared. There are other bigger boulders and stonewalls in the area where you can have those photos that look like you're living your life dangerously. You can check some out on Instagram. Not mine. Other people's Instagram. Just check the Mount Kalugong geotag.

But if that's not your thing, just looking at the view is worth it.

There's a promise that this is a stress-free zone. Probably true because... have I mentioned there were restrooms in the area?

Great spot for your panoramas and 360s.

Well look at that relaxing view. Far more relaxing than the view from SM City Baguio!

More pine forests for your arte arte Instragram poses.

The park area can be a great spot for picnics, or for pondering life's greatest mysteries like "what if there are really snakes and lions in here?".

You can also learn a little bit Cordillera culture and heritage here. 

But one of the best spots in this mountain park is this coffee shop at the summit. The picture below, well, this is not it. These are juts the steps that lead to the coffee shop. I thought going up was easy because "may hagdanan naman" but well a lot of stairways cannot be trusted.

Here's the very homey cafe waiting for us at the top.

More amazing view from the cafe's view deck. From here you can easily see the strawberry farms.

There are kitty cats hanging around the cafe. They're very friendly and chill.

Perfect spot to get your fresh mountain air. Again, fresher than the air in SM City Baguio's view deck.

A very familiar sight for me. Palay grains hanging on the walls.

THe door that leads to the viewing deck.

And the mountain coffee beans. They look (and smell) amazing under the morning sunlight.

But since I have "coffee intollerance" (Something I made up), I just settled for lemonade, served in a Kirin beer mug.

That's it haha. I haven't got much photos from the rest of the trip. But of course, we went to the classic Baguio favorites like Mines View Park, Session Road, The Public Market (where I buy binatog!), The Mansion, and Wright Park.

And a visit to the city of pines wouldn't be complete without that trip to SM City Baguio haha. Anyway, let me share a photo of the hotel we stayed in. This is Ridgewood - which is a short walk away from the Wright Park's Mansion entrance. 

So there. One realization from the trip is that January could be the perfect time to go to Baguio City. Not too crowded because January is sandwiched between the Christmas season and the Panagbenga Festival, both ultra peak seasons.