The Manor at Camp John Hay, Baguio City

They say the early bird gets the worm. True. But there’s more. Those who rise early get to discover that this early, the first week of November, there’s fog in Metro Manila. Yes, fog, not smog. A truly wonderful sight. It’s so beautiful (well, at least for those with roof over their heads), with the blinking red light on top of the nearby cellsite greatly muted and dispersed. It’s like being in Baguio City. Except nothing really substitutes for Baguio.

Baguio City, the summer capital of the Philippines. Baguio has a lot of attractions, including the PMA, for the entire family. The sights and sounds of Baguio could be rounded up in one day. An exciting adventure for the first-timer, not so for those who repeatedly visit the place. But we all know, for us, at least, that Baguio is, first and last, not about specific tourist attractions. It’s not about Wright Park, Burnham Park or the Mines View Park. It’s something much, much more.

Your guess?

It’s something that we saw in the movies when we were young. It’s one of the primary reasons why we, that’s you and me, most probably go to Baguio. And it’s something that is slowly dying as Baguio comes alive with more people and establishments.

One of the remaining pockets in Baguio City where we could enjoy this SOMETHING is at The Manor, located within Camp John Hay.

No, it’s not the white lady that reportedly appear on, or with, the fog that results to zero visibility. It’s not Manny Pacquiao who regularly undergoes high altitude training (or, in one occasion, shoots his TV show in one mall). And it’s not Freddie Roach who enjoys his breakfast, with autograph/photo-seeking fans as appetizer.

Ok, I’ll quit beating around the fog, er, pine trees, er bush. That SOMETHING we usually remember, and frequently visit, Baguio for? It’s the smell and feel of the mist as it covers and weaves in and amongst the pine trees.

The Manor is a developed portion of the 695-hectare Camp John Hay military reservation, a fenced area dominated by pine trees and punctuated by the golf course. With only a tiny portion planned for development, and because it’s a military reservation, there’s a greater chance that the surrounding area, particularly the pine trees, will be amply protected.

Established in 1903 by order of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, of course during the time when the Philippines was under the United States, this reservation which is more formally known as John Hay Air Station was named after John Milton Hay, President Roosevelt’s Secretary of State.

As a communications station (and a former US military area for rest and recreation), Camp John Hay was one of the first targets when the Japanese attacked the Philippines during World War II. The most [in]famous Japanese leader in WWI, Gen. Yamashita, occupied the American Residence in the camp. Good choice of residence and HQ during the war. Also a good choice of place to surrender when the Japanese surrendered upon their defeat, and the end of the war, in 1945.

It still is a great area for rest and recreation even until today. If the city has become too crowded, Camp John Hay retains our image of the old Baguio. If there’s an urbanized Baguio sprouting around Session Road, there’s the idyllic side remaining in Camp John Hay.

Due to its location, The Manor naturally looks different from any hotel in the Philippines. The manor’s lobby and bar feel like a log cabin, just like what we see in movie scenes in snow-covered countries. The fireplace between the lobby and the bar completes the ambiance. The experience of listening to the band, with drinks on the table, and keeping warm beside the fireplace while the fog and cold air hang outside the hotel, is a welcome escape that so many seek in Baguio.

But something else makes The Manor unique — its rooms have no air conditioner.

If the first thing we do upon going in the usual hotel room is to look for the aircon control to select a cooler temperature, the first thing we do at The Manor is to hide under the blanket. What’s amusing is discovering the absence of aircon when you try to turn it off because it’s cold. You discover there’s none.

Then you thank the High Heavens that you have, ahem, your significant other with you. To keep you warm.

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