We were certain of our mission for that day: To visit as many tourist attractions in Baguio as we could in one day.
What my friend and I couldn’t decide was whether to go DIY or look for a tour guide. We went about our day nonetheless, with the hope that Google Map and a few blog sites could really guide us through.
We started with The Mansion. From our lodging building which was located along Baguio’s main avenue, Session Road, we walked along the slightly busy street and headed to Mines View terminal.
For P 8.50 each, the driver drove us to our destination, the Wright Park, along with other passengers that were bound to these routes: Baguio-Plaza-Mines View and v.v.
At this point, my friend was still enthusiastic about this wandering thing we were doing. She busied herself taking photographs of the horses with pink hairs, as well as of pine trees, as we passed along a line of stable and clambered up the stone steps which led to the upper part of the park.
Little did we know that this aimless wandering would end outside the ornate black gates of The Mansion. There we met a man named Jessie, who was a tour guide/driver for Highland Trails: Hop on, Hop off tour in Baguio.
Jessie, the tour guide
Jessie might be too friendly for a local, but for a tour guide that was just necessary. Thankfully, the openness the man exuded was all natural to him. We needed that to feel comfortable in his company, especially since we were his only guests for the day.
My friend and I had to keep on asking Jessie about that simply in pure disbelief.
“Are you sure it wouldn’t hurt the business if you’d tour only the two of us around Baguio? That’s only 600 pesos, you know.”
“It would be much better to help you two get to the destinations you’d like to visit, all while comfortably seated inside the van than just get this van stuck here all afternoon.”
His answer made sense, and I admit that was kind of heartwarming.
So off we went.
The tour’s highlight
Tam-awan Village is no Ben Cab Museum, another must-visit in Baguio that I wished to include in our itinerary for the day.
But you can have your self-portrait there. Not only by one but two artists.
It wasn’t in our plan at first. But Jessie had been persistent, that even when my friend and I had already returned to the van and given him a look that said “no, we wouldn’t try it,” he made us change our minds again.
He had been so tender with his plea which made me realize he was trying to help the artists raise more income besides the entrance fee.
Surprisingly, it was the most enjoyable part of the tour. The artists’ hand strokes flowed harmoniously with the background music. And boy were they fast because as soon as the lulling melody had ended, they were done with our portraits too. Amazing!
The Tour, the Hop on, Hop off way
The tour started with a registration and ended with writing feedback about the tour and our guide.
Our first three destinations weren’t much of a sight, although Jessie told us that development plans were underway for the Botanical Garden. We also dropped by at a park before going to a food establishment that seemed more important to Jessie than the food would warrant.
He would utter history tidbits here and there though he seemed more interested in engaging in simple conversations. He also took us to Taoist Bell Church, Benguet Easter Weaving, the Strawberry Farm, and the Mines View Park, of course.
Jessie wasn’t the perfect tour guide, but nobody ever was. His remarks could get too frank, but seeing how my friend was able to engage in banter with him, I learned to loosen up.
By being too open, my friend and I had glimpses of him as a father, as a local, as a friend, and as an employee.
The tour’s end
Jessie dropped us off right in front of our inn. He helped us carry our plastic bags filled with food and souvenir items.
Then he smiled, extended his hand for a handshake, and said goodbye. On his way back to the driver’s seat, he took a pause to wave to a fellow local.
“What a friendly man,” my friend and I thought. But we just exchanged glances and smiled at each other.
Indeed, all that starts well ends well.