A trip to Baguio City during the annual Panagbenga Festival is one of the most challenging trips to plan. This is despite the high frequency of bus trips going to Baguio City, and the number of hotels that can accommodate visiting guests. This is why we created this practical guide which can hope can help you organize a hassle-free weekend in Baguio City and enjoy the biggest flower festival of the north, the Panagbenga Festival 2017.
Step 1: Know the Schedule of Panagbenga Festival
Schedule your trip on February 24 to 26, 2017. Panagbenga Festival is a month-long annual festival starting from February 1 and ends on the first Sunday of March. The highlights however are scheduled on the fourth weekend of February. This year, the Grand Street Parade is happening on February 25, 2017 while the Grand Float Parade will take place on February 26, 2017.
The Grand Street Parade starts as early as 7:00am so we highly recommend that you should already be in Baguio City by February 24, 2017. Other activities are lined-up during the festival. You can check the Complete Schedule of Activities from the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation.
Step 2: Book Your Accommodation in Baguio
There are hundreds of hotels, lodges, inns and B&Bs in Baguio City, catering to different budgets and guest requirements. What is common among them is that all of them run on high, if not 100%, occupancy during the fourth weekend of February. Most hotels would also charge a higher Panagbenga Rate during this weekend.
We recommend that you book your accommodation not later than January 20. By February, most hotels are already fully booked or some would only have the highest room categories, the expensive ones, available.
Both the Grand Street Parade and the Grand Float Parade will pass through Session Road, so your first choice of hotel would be those located along Session Road such as Microtel Baguio, Casa Vallejo or City Center Hotel. This is not a bad idea, however, you should also note that Session Road will also be the busiest street in Baguio during the festival weekend, so expect a lot of foot traffic in the area.
We recommend hotels located away from Session Road such as Grand Sierra Pines Hotel which is one of the newest hotels in Baguio located along North Outlook Drive in Barangay Gibraltar. You can also check-out Azalea Hotel Baguio located along Leonard Wood Road, as well as The Forest Lodge at Camp John Hay. Citylight Hotel located near the Baguio Cathedral is also a great choice. You might also want to consider Venus Parkview Hotel which is conveniently located next to Burnham Park.
Step 3: Plan Your Transportation
If you hate the traffic the Manila, you will detest the traffic in Baguio during the Panagbenga weekend even more. Major streets of the city are virtual parking lots filled with cars from Manila and other nearby cities. We urge you to just take the bus going Baguio instead, and don't add to the volume of cars anymore. As soon as you are in Baguio City, there are Taxi and GrabTaxi service available.
Just like the hotels, buses also get fully booked during the festival weekend. We recommend that you book your round-trip bus tickets in advance. We always take the Joy Bus by Genesis Transport whenever we travel to Baguio. Joy Bus are the deluxe bus service of Genesis which feature ultra comfy and spacious lazyboy seats.
Joy Bus tickets can be booked online via iWantSeats.com.ph so no need to go to the bus terminal. Payment can then be made via bank deposit. We have been using this online booking system since 2013 and we find it very convenient and reliable. One way ticket is at P720.00 plus a booking fee of P30.00. Total fee for roundtrip tickets is 1,500.00 per person.
IMPORTANT: Make sure that you book your bus tickets in advance, not later than January 2017. It is totally impossible to get seats as chance passengers. We already learned this the hard way in the many attempts we did in the past.
Step 4: Planning for the Parade
Now that you have your bus tickets and a place to stay, you can congratulate yourself for a job well done. To fully enjoy the festival, you will have to find a good spot for you to watch the parade. Both the Street Parade and the Float Parade start as early as 7:00am. We recommend that you should already be at Session Road by 5:00am. Don't forget to eat breakfast first either at the hotel or at any fastfood restaurants along Session Road. Bring some light snacks such as biscuits in case you get hungry during the parade.
Our favorite spot is the section of Upper Session Road between Casa Vallejo and SM City Baguio. It is not as crowded as the Lower Session Road and the sidewalk is fully shaded by trees. Remember that it is February, the coldest month in Baguio, so DO wear warm cloths. Jeans and t-shirt should be perfect.
By 6:00am, it will start to become crowded in the area. Remember to be assertive of your spot as some tourists may attempt to cheat their way in front of you and block your view. Remember that you woke up early and stood in the cold for your spot, you earned it!
The parade will start by 7:00am and will continue until about 10:00am. Several schools and universities will participate in the parade, as well as other civic groups and associations. The parade will showcase the colorful flowers of Baguio City which are integrated into the costumes and props of the street dancers.
Be mindful of your belongings all the time. Pick-pockets take advantage of spectators too busy watching the parade and unknowingly fall prey to the crime. After the parade, it's the best time to go out fo lunch. Avoid going to Lower Session Road, It will be so much crowded there. You can walk uphill towards Victory Liner bus station where you can get a taxi.
Step 5: Decide Where to Eat in Baguio
Just like Manila, Baguio City has a very vibrant dining scene. A new restaurant opens every month so there is no excuse to eat at 50's Diner and Café by the Ruins again. Don't turn this Baguio trip into another cliché! Enjoy Baguio dining like a local by visiting these Must-try Baguio City Restaurants.