Running in Baguio City, Philippines


Before going to Baguio city, I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t be swayed by the cold, relaxing weather, and I will not miss my long run despite the work-free weekend. I have a month of training to go before my first-ever 21K run, and I strongly believe this is the only thing that kept things arduously straight. Without this motivation, I would have cut short my training there.

Sunday. I woke up at 6 am, trying to mentally prepare myself for the 22K run that day. I ate a banana, gulped lots of water, and borrowed my brother’s long sleeves as I forgot to bring mine. The tight fit wasn’t comfortable at all, but with 18 degrees Celsius, I’d rather have that than shiver the entire way.

Having no pedometer whatsoever, I knew pretty well that I had to rely on distance markers (road signs, electric posts) along the way. This is what I love most about simple and plain running: you get to be in-twine with your surroundings and your body, as well.

My Route

From Brentwood to Teachers’ Camp, to John Hay, all the way to Philippine Military Academy (PMA), then a turn around bound to Brentwood again.

The beautiful views that allowed me to keep up with the hills
My Observations

People here are accustomed to road runners, bikers, and walkers. Jeepney drivers know how to pay courtesy (runners and bikers first!), people encourage you (“Kaya mo ‘yan!”/”You can do it!”) and delightfully show the way, especially when I was on my way home, already tired and “confused” of the course.

The weather is so runner-friendly, you could go on and on without feeling tired aerobically. But then again with all the uphill in varying degrees, there’s a lot of stress on the legs. There are stray dogs, of course, this being the Philippines, but it’s a good thing that people try to help you out by shooing them away.

The Eastern Skyline of Baguio City.
Image: doc Jabagat on Flickr

Though the road is nice, there’s a lack of sidewalks, owing to the fact that the roads are narrow by themselves. So along the way to PMA, I had to hitch a ride to stay away from areas with no sidewalks and full of blind curves, until I could go down and resume with my running again.

I ended up running for 3 hours and 30 minutes—my longest so far, in my one year of running experience. I owe it all to the good weather, the friendly and supportive people, and of course, the historical Baguio.

Why I Will Go Back Again

I feel a bit sad that the Baguio I used to know as a kid is not the same Baguio as we know it today. Maybe I am just romanticizing but as I remember it, everything was so simple back then: I could go to the market with my cousins without worrying about the smoke and the speeding cars; and Burnham Park was the place to be for families, where we could bike around, pedal on the water swans, camp around and have picnics.

Today, Baguio, though far up north, is rapidly turning into a commercialized city with more accessible roads leading to it, and great migrations for its appealing weather. That long Sunday run made me feel the ill-effects of commercialization: increased vehicle smoke greatly felt on the uphills; historical monuments bogged down in favour of popular and modern tastes; the pine tree population cut down to accommodate more tourist attractions; and more economically-friendly attractions reduced in size, now ill-maintained, and now less accessible.

But then again despite all these, I still feel blessed to see Baguio’s greatest treasures: children happily playing on the side street; hardworking vegetable farmers walking on the sidewalks carrying heavy loads on their backs; a father and a son walking hand-in-hand; a strawberry taho vendor waving his hand to greet me; teenagers playing traditional songs on their guitars and modified drums; people shooing away dogs when they get in my way; and children gaily trying to run with me.

Why You Should Give it a Try

Next time you run in Baguio, leave your headphone behind. Look around and enjoy the view. Try to make sense of Baguio’s history, because by running on its rugged and asphalted roads, you are trying to be a part of it, too.

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