Friday, November 09, 2012

The Forest Lodge: Aiming for Growth in Baguio

The Forest Lodge nestles among the stately pine trees of Camp John Hay

The Forest Lodge facade

Although there are newer destinations emerging in the Philippines, poised to capture the imaginations of tourists, Baguio City remains to be a “classic” destination. The educational and commercial city in the Cordillera region in northern Luzon was tagged as the Summer Capital of the Philippines and it remains so for many people. There is a kind of romanticism to the city that no other places in the country can conjure or foment. Despite urbanization, calamities and neglect, Baguio still draws tourists, first-timers as well as frequenters who consider the city memorable, and many tourism stakeholders in the city are hopeful it can attract more.
One good reason for them to go to Baguio is Forest Lodge, a new hotel launched in early September inside Camp John Hay.
“It is in the works for 10 years, and despite problems we were able to open it because we are committed to bringing tourism, committed to bringing in people to Baguio to experience not just the environment but also the culture,” Robert John Sobrepeña, chairman of the Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco), who targets to open a thousand rooms in the former United States military recreational camp turned into a tourism and recreational zone.
It was hinted that Forest Lodge’s opening was delayed partly due to frictions between the hotel’s developer and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).      
“Now that we are in this stage, we hope that we will be able to iron out whatever differences we have,” Baguio City mayor Mauricio Domogan said. “Let us work together because as we all know it is only when we are united that we can accomplish a lot.”
“We’re committed to bringing in more people to Baguio City to celebrate, not just the environment but also the culture of Baguio City,” Sobrepeña further said. “We believe that it presents a very unique attraction to tourists, not just Philippine tourists but foreign tourists as well.”
Heiner Maulbecker, managing director of CJHDevco’s The Manor, and board director of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB), said they see an increase in domestic tourism and that Baguio is still a preferred destination for conferences and seminars. He further said that Forest Lodge will cater to the growing Filipino market and is cheaper.
“The burgeoning Filipino domestic market, that’s our market,” said Tito Avanceña, president of Club Leisure Resorts, Inc., which manages The Manor and Forest Lodge, and defined this market as “the trendier market, the younger market, the new Filipino market.”
            To cater for this market and to attract more tourists, they made the rates of Forest Lodge a lot cheaper than other hotels of its kind. They tout it as the “best deal in Baguio.” The rates are indeed friendly—P2,900 for a superior room, P3,300 for a deluxe room, and P5,400 for a one-bedroom suite on a triple-sharing arrangement. These with amenities that are almost five-star.
            Because of this, Avanceña exclaimed: “I don’t know what to call it. Does this look like a budget hotel?”

Rooms have complete amenities

The Twist by Chef Billy King offers very affordable Japanese, Indian and Korean cuisines

The 19th T can accommodate wedding receptions and conferences

The Boardroom is suitable for small meetings and seminars

The lobby features a fireplace where guests can lounge in relative warmth

            The Forest Lodge is a not entirely a new hotel. The 208-room structure was built more than 10 years ago and was opened as The Suites at Camp John Hay, a sister hotel of the nearby and posh The Manor, one of best accommodations in Baguio City.
“We rebranded it because there’s a need to meet this market we’re targeting,” said Avanceña.
            At the launching, 55 rooms (43 superior rooms, seven family rooms and five one-bedroom suites) are open for occupancy at the Forest Lodge. Avanceña revealed that they hope to increase the rooms to 70 to 100 by the end of the year. The capacity of the building is over 300 rooms.
Those who stay at the Forest Lodge do not only enjoy the fine amenities and services of the hotel but also the amenities and facilities of Camp John Hay, which includes the Camp John Hay Golf Club, the picnic grounds with its stately pine trees, the Filling Station row of food outlets, the Commissary, an eco-trail, the butterfly sanctuary, the Tree Top Adventure, the CAP-John Hay Trade and Cultural Center and the Bell Amphitheater.
            Forest Lodge itself has many features including a spacious lobby with a fireplace, a lobby shop, the Boardroom for small business meeting, and the 19th T for wedding receptions and conferences.
            An interest to many is its casual dining outlet at the lobby, The Twist by Chef Billy King, which offers very affordable Asian cuisines particularly Japanese, Indian and Korean. Its simple menu has miso soup with chicken and udon noodles (P120); wheat noodle soup with pork balls (P120); tuna tataki with ponzu (P240); tuna sashimi (P240); salmon sashimi (P210); assorted maki and sushi rolls (P150); prawn tempura (P240 for four pieces); seafood cake with Asian coleslaw (P160); chicken tikka masala with biryani rice (P165); crispy pork belly with honey chilli garlic with steamed rice (P190); breaded pork with tonkatsu sauce with steamed rice (P160); vegetable chap chae (P140); beef chap chae (P190); beef bulgogi with steamed rice (P210); and Mongolian barbecue, stir-fried from wok, with a choice of rice or noodle and a choice of chicken (P160), beef (P200) and seafood (P200). King is the famed chef who runs the restaurant of The Manor, Le Chef.
            With the opening of the Forest Lodge, people will now have more affordable options to enjoy the beauty of Baguio City more.

At the grand inaugural launch held recently were (from left) Alfredo “Boysie” Yniguez, chief operating officer, CJH Hotels Corporation; Robert John “Bob” Sobrepeña,  chairman of Camp John Hay Hotels Corporation; congressman Bernardo Vergara, district representative; Mauricio Domogan, Baguio City mayor; and Ramon C.  Cabrera, general manager of The Manor at Camp John Hay and The Forest Lodge.

For reservations and inquiries, call the Baguio office (Camp John Hay, Loakan Road, Baguio City) through tel. nos. (63 74) 424-0931 to 47 or 50 to 53; toll-free nos. (63 2) 584-4911 or 584-4892; facsimile no. (63 74) 424-0960 to 61; email address; or its Manila sale and marketing office (Unit 1107-A, 11th floor, West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange Building, Exchange Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City) through tel. nos. 687-6524 and 687-6710; facsimile no. 687-6607; or email address

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