Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Among the Pines: The Best Place to be in Baguio City during the Holidays

Aside from being a favorite destination during summer, Baguio City is also a perennial destination during the Christmas season. With its cool weather and pine trees, the commercial and financial hub of the Cordilleras, in northern Luzon, provides an apt backdrop for the holiday spirit, enabling one to recreate an American storybook atmosphere. 
Although Baguio City’s glitter as a hot tourist destination has waned in recent years, having to compete with hip and emerging destinations in other parts of the country, it remains to be a nostalgic choice for many and sort of experiences a resurgence. In fact, last year, the volume of visitors going to Baguio City for Christmas was overwhelming, resulting in the humungous traffic jams, which lasted for about seven hours.
This year, Baguio City’s local government as well as private stakeholders are taking measures to avoid last year’s traffic jam, said Ramon Cabrera, general manager of The Manor at Camp John Hay.
Not only that, they are ready to welcome visitors with different Christmas gimmicks and activities. One major Christmas attraction is The Manor at Camp John Hay.
Already, the hotel inside the former American military base went to lengths in decorating for Christmas, which attention to details. A life-size creche greets guests as they enter the hotel lobby. Potted poinsettia plants have been placed in numerous corners. The deli has a mantle of real gingerbread and icing.
At the lobby, Santa Claus and his elves greet guests every afternoon from 5 to 6 p.m. until Jan. 2, 2016. Unique Christmas candles are on sale, and proceeds go to children diagnosed with cancer.
Its sprawling garden, which overlooks the valleys and mountains of Benguet, as been transformed into a Yuletide wonderland with inspiration from the ballet The Nutcracker. The pine trees are decked with larger-than-life Christmas balls, stars and candy canes. The lampposts are wreathed with pine branches.
At night, the garden and hotel building glimmer with Christmas lights. Not only that, these lights dance to music at an appointed time. For the third year now, The Manor is mounting a light and music show.
It is starting to be a tradition here at The Manor, according to Cabrera. He said they were not planning to put up one last year, but guests have come to expect the show now from The Manor. Now, they are not only meeting their expectations, but surpassing them. The intensified Christmas lineup is also in celebration of its 15th year anniversary.
Last Dec. 12, The Manor inaugurated its light and music show, with performances by the St. Louis University Orchestra, a band, a singer, dancers. The highlight was the inaugural light and music show and concluding the affair was a short fireworks display and a sumptuous buffet prepared by chef Billy King.
From Dec. 18 until Jan. 2, guests will enjoy lights and music show, which lasts about 10 minutes, accompanied by performances of the Sanglaw Dancers, from 6 to 6:30 p.m. The show will be preceded by the nostalgic sounds of Christmas carols, which will be heard at the hotel from 5 to 6 p.m., sung by the University of Baguio Voices from Dec. 18 to 26. They will be replaced by the Voices Ensemble from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2, 2016.
In one corner of the garden, at Scout Hill, a mini-carnival is set up, creating a small whimsical world of its own with shows, games and food. According to Cabrera, many of The Manor’s clients are families, with kids. He also said that there are not much facilities for kids at the hotel so they decided to put up a mini carnival.
The carnival is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Jan. 3, 2016. Additionally, an outdoor cinema will also be set-up in the playground from Dec. 17 to Jan. 2, and will be open from 6 to 9 p.m.
Additional activity for kids is its version of Junior Master Chef, organized by Le Chef. It will be on Dec. 5, 12, 19, 26 and Jan. 2, 2016 from 4 to 5 p.m., for P380 per child.
On the other hand, Le Chef comes up with special promos for diners to help celebrate Christmas with King ensuring a delectable feast. The Manor’s restaurant will prepare a Christmas Eve dinner buffet on Dec. 24, from 6:30 to 10 p.m., for P1,950 per person and P800 per child (five to 10 years old). This will be followed by the Noche Buena Buffet (P1,100 per person and P550 per child), from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., with Music of The Heart Pop Orchestra serenading diners. On Dec. 25, the Christmas Day dinner buffet will be from 6:30 to 10 p.m. for P1,950 per person and P800 per child. And lastly, the New Year’s Day dinner special on Jan. 1, 2016 will be from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. featuring a set menu of four courses for P1,250 per person.
Culminating the holiday festivities of The Manor at Camp John Hay is the New Year events. A countdown party (for P3,300 per person and P1,400 per child) will be held on Dec. 31, from 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring performances by Music of The Heart Pop Orchestra, Brewed Band and Highway 54 Band. Aside from the live entertainment, there will be a dinner buffet, a champagne toast, party favors and noise makers. These will culminate with a fireworks display.
Cabrera is preparing for a substantial influx of guests, many of which are returning ones. Many Filipinos have been spending their Christmases in Baguio City, which has become a family tradition. Many of them opt for The Manor at Camp John Hay. 
“It is a unique setting in Baguio City, a nice property. It sells itself and we don’t do much marketing,” reveals Cabrera, who have been with The Manor for seven years.
But he also said they are not just sitting around, especially now that major players are poised to come into Baguio such as the Bellevue Hotels and Resorts, the Discovery Group, and The Courtyard by Marriott. With many years of creating memories for visitors and locals alike, The Manor at Camp John Hay remains to be a top choice in romantic Baguio City.

The Manor at Camp John Hay is on Loakan Road, Baguio City. For details and bookings, call Baguio at (074) 424-0931 to 47/50-53; and Baguio hotline (02) 584-4892 and (02) 584-4911. E-mail reservations@campjohnhay.ph, or visit www.campjohnhay.ph.