The calm, brown surface of Burnham Lake in the morning sunlight
The calm, brown surface of Burnham Lake in the morning sunlight
The calm, brown surface of Burnham Lake in the morning sunlight

Rediscovering Burnham Lake, Baguio City’s Crown Jewel

The heart of Baguio is Burnham Park, and the heart of Burnham Park is Burnham Lake. It has been that way since the early 1900s, at the beginning of the American occupation and colonization of the Philippines, when the American architect Daniel Burnham first laid his plans for Baguio as a mountain resort and retreat for American soldiers and civilian employees seeking respite from the sweltering heat of the Philippine lowlands, and as a garden city able to accommodate – very comfortably – some twenty five thousand citizens.

And it continues to be so now, more than a hundred years since the founding of the city, now that Baguio has rapidly grown and transformed into the most important city anywhere in the Northern Philippines, a center of administration, education, trade and commerce, tourism, and culture and arts; and now that Baguio accommodates a population of more than three hundred and fifty thousand citizens, swollen by the hundreds of thousands to a couple of millions of tourists who flock to the city to experience its cool climate and wealth of scenic sights.

Throughout a history spanning more than a century, Baguio has seen and undergone a lot of changes. But this one thing still remains true: that the heart of Baguio is Burnham Park, and the heart of Burnham Park is Burnham Lake.

The calm, brown surface of Burnham Lake in the morning sunlight
Burnham Lake, the heart of the heart of Baguio…


The City’s Crown Jewel

At the advent of the 20th century, when American colonizers first set foot in Baguio, they were immediately won over by the crisp highland climate, with its cool mountain breezes washed with the sharp scent of pine trees. Indeed, Governor-General William Taft, the Philippines’ first Civil Governor, on his first visit to Baguio in 1901, is said to have noted the local air ‘as bracing as Adirondacks or Murray Bay… temperature this hottest month in the Philippines on my cottage porch at three in the afternoon sixty-eight (or 20°C).’

After establishing Camp John Hay (America’s only hill station in Asia), commissioning the construction of Kennon Road (a road to Baguio), and building The Mansion (the official summer residence of the American Governor-General), the Americans promptly set about establishing the entirety of Baguio as the Summer Capital of the Philippines. A great labor was begun to transform Baguio – then only a small Ibaloi village – into a veritable mountain city following the design laid by Daniel Burnham, along with fellow American architect William Parsons.

Burnham’s design called for the construction of broad streets and avenues laid out in geometric patterns over the rugged and rolling terrain of Baguio. It also called for the construction of an urban park in the heart of Baguio, fronting the City Hall, over a large expanse of grassy ground then known as Baguio Meadow, one of the few level grounds within the otherwise hilly land. This urban park was to have a small pond or lagoon situated at its center, with regimented lawns and pathways arrayed around it. Such an urban park was completed years after, and, as a tribute to Burnham, the park was named after him.

The calm, greenish-brown surface of Burnham Lake, with boats moored on the shoreline, seen through a frame of leaves, branches, and flowers
Burnham Lake…

Burnham Park grew alongside Baguio; it has borne witness to and borne a share of the century-long history of the city. And as with the rest of Baguio, much has changed in Burnham Park since its founding. The extent of the park has been greatly reduced, and numerous features and structures have been added, altered, or completely removed. Today, Burnham Park little resembles the urban park Burnham once envisioned – though a hint of the original plan may still be descried.

But what hasn’t changed is Burnham Park’s importance and its allure – it still remains, by far, Baguio City’s most iconic landmark, its most sought-after destination, indeed its veritable crown jewel. And as it has always done before, so it continues to do now, drawing crowds of admiring people, both locals and tourists, to its manicured lawns, picnic grounds, tree-lined pathways, and colorful flower gardens.

In fact, if anything, Burnham Park has become even more popular. The changes that the park has undergone, though these stood at variance with Burnham’s original plan, and though these often seemed unwelcome at first, have ultimately only made the park more purposeful. Indeed, all the new features of Burnham Park have only given locals and tourists alike more reasons to visit the so-called mother of all parks of Baguio.

But despite all the renovations and redesigns, and all the new constructs and structures, the most important and most sought-after feature of Burnham Park is still the small and unassuming lagoon in its very center, the very same lagoon that Burnham himself envisioned. City Pond, it was once called, for with its miniscule size, it verily resembles nothing more than an overlarge pond. But to most people, it is known as Burnham Lake – historic, iconic, scenic, beloved Burnham Lake.

Green trees and blue sky reflected on the still and clear surface of Burnham Lake
The very image of Baguio…

Despite its smallness, scarcely covering an area of 2 hectares (5 acres), and plumbing to a depth of no more than 3 meters (10 feet), this century-old, rectangular man-made lake holds a grand reputation. It is in fact one of the most recognized and most famed icons not only in Baguio, but also elsewhere in the Philippines. With the many leafy trees marching in ranks and the many flowering plants bearing resplendent blossoms laid in rows around its shoreline; and the many rental boats of various, colorful figures and designs laden with ecstatic tourists floating over its greenish waters, Burnham Lake has become the very image of Burnham Park, and indeed the very image of Baguio City.

And so despite the multitude of attractions and activities Burnham Park offers, people still visit it chiefly to see Burnham Lake, the heart of the heart of Baguio.


An Early Morning Visit

There is much to see, and much to do, in Burnham Park. In fact, though its name belies it, Burnham Park is actually a sprawling 34-hectare (84-acre) agglomeration of a number of smaller parks and sections – clusters, as they are called, and there are about thirteen of them.

Of course, there is the Burnham Lagoon cluster, which is made up of Burnham Lake (no one calls it Burnham Lagoon) and all the green grounds and footpaths surrounding it.

But there is also the Rose Garden, which encompasses regimented rows of colorful flower beds and garden boxes, grassy lawns, paved pathways, and fountains, all arranged in a sort of an ampitheater; and where the bust bearing Burnham’s likeness stands.

There are the Athletic Bowl and the Melvin Jones Football Grounds, where I used to play football – real football, and not the American version – with classmates back in my college days.

There’s the Children’s Park, where among its swings and slides and seesaws I used to play as a child.

There’s the Orchidarium, a garden, where, as its name says, orchids of numerous and diverse sorts, as well as many other plants, are displayed and sold.

There’s Sunshine Park, which is situated next to where I attended – and graduated – college (University of the Philippines Baguio).

There’s the Skating Rink, where I never once in all my life set foot in, much less tried to skate in.

Then there are a few more clusters which I would not now bother to mention.

But to me the essence of Burnham Park is still Burnham Lake. And one day, a desire filled me to see it once again. I have not seen the lake in several months now, after the entirety of Baguio (and indeed most of the Philippines) was shuttered in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

I must admit, however, that even before the lockdown, I had never really bothered to visit Burnham Lake for the past few years or so. I only saw it in passing, or caught glimpses of it when my errand took me that way. It’s not because Burnham Lake has lost its charm or its appeal to me, mind you, but only because I always thought that it seemed so close and so accessible anyway that I could just visit it whenever it pleased me, in much the same manner that we seem to take for granted the things we deem common, ordinary, and part of everyday life.

But now, after spending almost half a year confined within my home, and only venturing out three times to date, I was longing to see Burnham Lake again, if only to see the outdoors once more and perhaps to remind me what living was like before the pandemic.

And so the early morning of one fine September day – as fine as you could wish for, with clear, blue skies; mellow, golden sunshine; and a slight, cool breeze blowing – found me walking along Perfecto Street towards Burnham Park, weaving, winding, and wending my way through small crowds of people all clad with face masks (and face shields) such as I was. Baguio has been gradually loosening its stay-at-home restrictions for some time now, and there were quite a lot of people out and about in this early hour.

I reached the end of Perfecto Street and joined a handful of people standing before a pedestrian lane that spanned Lake Drive, waiting for the traffic to subside. When the road cleared, I crossed Lake Drive and found myself standing on Burnham Park (or at least on the central portion of Burnham Park, for I had passed Igorot Park, another cluster of Burnham Park, along the way).


The Park in the Midst of a Pandemic

It’s been six months since a lockdown was imposed over all of Baguio (and most of the Philippines). The vast majority of businesses were shuttered. Citizens were forced to stay indoors, under pain of fine or imprisonment, and were permitted to venture outside only for essential purposes. Entry to and exit out of Baguio were limited to only the most crucial traffic. The city literally was shut down, and it remained that way for many months. It was one of the strictest lockdowns anywhere in the world, and one of the lengthiest, too. And though in recent weeks the lockdown has been slowly and steadily relaxed, it has not been totally lifted – not yet, anyway.

But now, even as I stood here on the edge of Burnham Park central, it seemed to me as if the pandemic was nonexistent, that Baguio never really shut down. For the park was alive, wonderfully, animatedly, exuberantly alive, and thronging with numerous people while the cold morning air throbbed with zestful and dynamic music.

It was not yet even 7 A.M, but over all of Burnham Park there was already an atmosphere of activity, energy, and contagious enthusiasm. The paved pathways were filled with people clad in colorful athletic gear and wear, running, jogging, and at times walking along, completing laps around Burnham Lake. But nearer to me were three or four sizeable groups of people – mostly women – carrying out a vigorous Zumba routine to the accompaniment of upbeat music – mostly Western and Korean pop songs. Then there were a few other people who were simply strolling around, or sitting on benches, content to watch those who were engaging in physical exercise.

I could not believe it! It seemed as if the pandemic had altogether vanished, or as if it never happened at all!

But that was only initially. For even as I looked, I became aware of the tell-tale signs that the pandemic was far from over. All the people here were wearing face masks, and many had even donned face shields for added protection. Even as they moved along, the joggers and walkers kept a respectful distance from one another: they mostly kept to their small groups or to themselves. Meanwhile, the Zumba dancers were arranged in neat rows and ranks with wide spaces between them. A couple of armed policemen in fatigues kept watch nearby, while several of Burnham Park’s guards were patrolling around on foot or on bicycle, all to ensure that physical and social distancing and other protective measures were not being flaunted, all to ensure that these newly reinstated freedoms that Baguio’s citizenry has been enjoying for a few weeks now would not be curtailed again.

Almost taken aback by everything I was seeing, I suddenly remembered the purpose of my visit, and promptly I hastened to where I could glimpse water shimmering in the morning sunlight, where Burnham Lake lay waiting.


A Scene of Serenity

A short walk, and then I reached the edge of Burnham Lake along its northern corner, and immediately my longing gaze was met by a spectacular scenery. All before me was spread the beautiful expanse of the lake. Its surface, which on any other day before the pandemic was a visible commotion of rippling waters, numerous colorful boats, and the shouts and loud chatter of enthusiastic tourists, now lay silent and still, calm, undisturbed, mirroring with stark clarity the deep blue sky overhead and the luxuriant verdure along the shoreline. The waters of the lake, though not quite crystalline, were visibly cleaner and clearer, for without the incessant stirring of paddles and constant motion of the boats the mud, sediments, and algae that lend the lake its greenish and brownish hues had finally settled.

Fleets of boats floating on the calm and clear surface of Burnham Lake beneath a blue morning sky
Burnham Lake in the morning light…

The rental boats, which were normally laden with passengers and scattered all over the lacustrine surface, lay empty, and were tied fast together and moored to the docks on the northern (and southern) side of the lake, or close to them. Immediately before me, for I stood near to one of the docks, was a fleet of pink wooden boats with blue wooden roofs. A bit further floated two other flotillas of boats with prows and sterns carved into the heads, necks, and tails of diverse animals, all painted in pinks, greens, and blues. In the distance, on the far shoreline, there lay upon the shimmering water yet another fleet of boats shaped and painted in the likeness of swans, all brilliantly white, all beautiful.

Fleets of boats floating on the calm and clear surface of Burnham Lake beneath a blue morning sky
A picture of peace…

Along the four sides of the rectangular lake, all of which are bound by concrete embankments, stood a line of trees, made up almost entirely of weeping bottlebrush trees with hairy, shaggy, droopy canopies that verily resembled those of willows, their boughs and branches pliant and overhanging and draped with trailing foliage that hung close to the water surface. Shrubs, herbs, bushes, and flowering plants grew beneath them, while beyond them stood pines and taller trees of other species. In the distance, the line of bottlebrush trees was interrupted by a raised observation deck built on the western shoreline. Overhead, a few, faint wisps of white drifted lazily across the blue sky.

Fleets of boats floating on the calm and clear surface of Burnham Lake beneath a blue morning sky
A little tranquil lake is more significant to my life than any big city in the world.” – Munia Khan

It was indeed a lovely vision, a picture of peace, a scene of serenity. All around Burnham Lake, the whole of Burnham Park stirred with life and energy, a veritable hive of activity. But the lake seemed far removed from it all. Over its surface was cast not only the golden light of the rising sun, but also an aura of tranquility, as if the lake was lost in wistful thought, or perhaps in a pleasant dream.


September Weather

Elated by the scenery that greeted me, I was now eager to walk all around the lake and see more of its beauty, certain that I would discover even more spectacular views from different vantage points. So I drew away from the water’s edge and from the dock, but not without some difficulty, for the scene was simply too lovely to let go of. But all the same, I made for the paved pathway that runs in continuous fashion all along the four sides of Burnham Lake, forming some sort of a circuit – albeit a rectangular circuit, if there is such a thing – around the lake.

The calm, brown surface of Burnham Lake in the morning sunlight
A golden hour…

I was on the northern portion of Burnham Lake, so my plan was to continue walking along its northern side, then along its western side, southern side, and finally along its eastern side until I return to where I started, thus making a complete circuit of the lake.

I began walking along the paved pathway, joining the runners, joggers, and walkers completing laps around the lake. But because I walked along slowly and leisurely, and would now then stop to take pictures of the lake scenery with my phone, I kept to one side of the footpath, so as not to impede the passage of other people and become a nuisance – a rather large nuisance, mind you, for I am somewhat of a tall person, standing at over 183 centimeters or over 6 feet high.

People jogging along a paved pathway lined with grass, plants, and trees
Joining the joggers…

It was a fine morning for a pleasurable stroll. All the sky was painted in perfect blue: it was a deep blue directly overhead, but it was a shade fainter to where it met the horizon, or brighter and whiter where the sun rode high. Only a few clouds swept by, and they were all feathery and wispy and were so far up. Everything was cool and clear. The sun shone brightly and warmly, but not uncomfortably so, and not blazing hot. In the mild morning air, the sweat that had drenched my body a while ago, for I had already walked nearly 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) to get here (in a rather stifling face mask, no less), now began to cool and dry.

I could not ask for a finer weather, and that’s saying something. For weathers such as this are difficult to come by in Baguio. The city, after all, is notorious for its highly temperamental climate. What begins as a promising day of sunshine can quickly become drenched in heavy rain, falling hard and falling fast, but dissipating just as soon as it had come, all in the space of an hour or so; and the rest of the day will then devolve into a nasty struggle between sunbeams and showers, so that one minute you are warm and sweating, and the next cold and soaked in freezing rain.

People jogging along a paved pathway lined with grass, plants, and trees
A fine day for a walk…

Baguio is a very rainy city, the rainiest anywhere in the Philippines, but what makes it worse is that the rains are utterly unpredictable: they can come at any time of the day; they can come strong and heavy, or light and gentle; and they can stay for just a few minutes, or last throughout the day and the next. But Baguio does get a reprieve from the rains during the colder months of December to February, when, instead of the wet monsoon winds from the South, it’s the dry, wintry winds from the North that are blowing hardest and fiercest. During then, the weather is more consistent, and the days in the city are usually defined by clear, blue skies; bright sunshine; cool breezes; and temperatures hovering around a mild 15°C (59°F).

But because it is only September, and the rainy season is yet to end, every day in Baguio is still a rainy day. But the mornings are often clear and sunny. In fact, I had actually planned to visit Burnham Lake in the morning mainly for two reasons: one, because the morning hours, especially just after sunrise (or the late afternoon hours before sunset), are more conducive for photography, provided that the day is sunny or that the sky isn’t dark and overcast; and two, to spare myself from getting drenched by the rains that at this month usually make their first appearance of the day at around 10 A.M.

The calm, greenish-brown surface of Burnham Lake, with boats moored on the shoreline, seen through a frame of leaves, branches, and flowers
Along the northern shoreline of Burnham Lake…


A (Literal) Walk in the Park

Along the northern side of the lake I leisurely ambled, through the paved pathway still wet from last night’s rain. On my left was a row of weeping bottlebrush trees with red flowers and overhanging foliage. Beneath these trees were the low and large concrete garden boxes and raised beds that formed a wall on all sides of the lake, with gaps on the otherwise continuous line mostly only where the docks are located. On these grew a variety of flowering herbs, shrubs, and bushes, chiefly a long, continuous hedge of wild sunflowers or tithonias (or so I think) bearing numerous, cheerful, yellow flowers, interspersed with the long, red blossoms of scarlet sage and with the colorful flowers of other plants. The line of garden boxes and raised beds had regular indentations on its side facing away from the lake, and in these nooks were built concrete benches. Beyond all these, the Burnham Lake glittered in the morning sunlight.

The calm, greenish-brown surface of Burnham Lake, with boats moored on the shoreline, seen through a frame of leaves, branches, and flowers
A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” – Henry David Thoreau

To my right were more bottlebrush trees that stood on rectangular patches of grassy lawns cut through at intervals by paved pathways; bordered by more concrete garden boxes and raised beds filled with plants and flowers; and furnished with concrete benches, concrete trash bins, lampposts, and even one large aviary teeming with kalapatis or pigeons (which, along with the small, brown mayas, or the Eurasian tree sparrows, were being fed birdseed at that time). Beyond all these was the road (permanently closed to vehicular traffic) that separated the Burnham Lagoon cluster from the Rose Garden. On this road were arrayed the three or four classes of Zumba dancers moving in remarkable unison to the beat of Blackpink and Selena Gomez’s Ice Cream and to other pop songs.

A paved pathway lined with people, trees, garden boxes, and raised flower beds
In the distance lies the Rose Garden and, beyond it, City Hall.

Runners and joggers rushed by me, but I kept to my slow and relaxed paced. The northern shoreline, along with the southern shoreline, are the shorter sides of the rectangular Burnham Lake, and the paved pathways built along them stretch for only about 60 meters (197 feet) each. The pavements on the western and eastern shorelines, meanwhile, extend for much less than 200 meters (656 feet) each. In a couple of minutes, I reached the end of the northern side and drew near the western corner where another wooden dock was built.

Boats floating on the surface of Burnham Lake as seen through a frame of foliage
A frame of foliage…

This is the dock that harbored the swan boats, the most photographed out of all the boats available for rent in Burnham Lake, and the most in-demand among the tourists. But today, the dock lay empty and quiet – there were no excited tourists queuing up and clambering on and off the boats, and there was no exasperated conductor trying to manage them. A few swan boats were tied on the dock itself, but the majority of the swan fleet were moored a short distance away, made fast along the western shoreline of the lake.

Boats floating on the surface of Burnham Lake as seen through a frame of foliage
Swan boats…

I passed by the dock and rounded the corner, and soon found myself along the western side of Burnham Lake, walking through the concrete pavement overhung by rows of weeping bottlebrush trees. I drew near the small fleet of swan boats that were moored to my left, on the other side of the line of concrete garden boxes and raised flower beds, and then passed by them.

As I walked I took pictures of everything around me. In fact, it seemed to me that for every ten steps I took I snapped as many pictures – an exaggeration, of course, but I did take a lot of photos. I didn’t mind, however. I had just finished cleaning and clearing my phone’s storage and now had plenty of space for new photos.

A row of boats moored on the side of the surface of Burnham Lake underneath a blue sky
More swan boats…


The Observation Deck

I soon reached the observation deck built halfway through the western shoreline, a large concrete structure raised upon concrete pillars, and leading up to it are a flight of concrete stairs on the one side facing me, and a concrete pathway on the other. I climbed the stairs to the observation deck, hoping to get a more picturesque view of the lake with the higher vantage point. However, the view, though commanding, less obstructed by the foliage, and quite lovely, was not greatly more impressive than the views I had had of the lake when I was standing below.

A concrete structure built over a paved pathway
The observation deck…

But from up here, though the glossy lake surface reflected very clearly its lush surround and the skyline beyond, the brownish tint of the lake waters – apparently caused by the growth of algae and accumulation of mud and sediment – was more distinct and unmistakable. It has often been touted by some that Burnham Lake once boasted crystalline waters. I’m not sure about that, to be honest. Perhaps that was many decades ago, for as far as I know, and as far as I can remember (being, after all, born and raised in Baguio), Burnham Lake has always had discolored waters – brownish, sometimes, but greenish for the most part.

Regardless, there has been much talk about remedying the turbid hue of the lake waters and ‘restoring’ the lake to its original ‘clean and clear’ state. And not just talks – there had been serious action, too, with the lake subject to dredging twice in the past. But for all these efforts, Burnham Lake remains as brown and green as it was the day I first laid my eyes on it – and that was back when I was still a toddler.

The still, greenish-brown surface of Burnham Lake beneath a clear blue sky
A view of Burnham Lake from a higher vantage point…

As I stood staring down at the lake, gazing at the boats tied along the shoreline, it suddenly dawned on me the realization that I had never even been on any one of those boats. I was born here in Baguio, and here in this city I have lived my whole life, but I don’t think I’ve ever tried boating here in Burnham Lake. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve never been adventurous while growing up. Maybe because boating just never really appealed to me then (it does now). Or maybe because when I was young, I felt extremely apprehensive of Burnham Lake, or of any huge, deep, and dark body of water, for that matter (Burnham Lake seemed exceedingly vast and unfathomable to me then), being, after all, unable to swim. In fact, I still haven’t learned how to swim today, and I still harbor some manner of thalassophobia up to now, so that though I wholeheartedly love the scenic sight of seas and oceans, and of lakes and other bodies of water, I shudder at the thought – however irrational it may be – of the terrors that lurk beneath the surface.

A small group of people standing upon a metal platform fronting a body of brown water
The ‘pier’…

I climbed down the observation deck via the concrete pathway on the other side and proceeded to the ‘pier’ built just underneath. It was a small and short platform fashioned into a heptagon, with metal railings and metal flooring, jutting out into the surface of the lake, fronting the now-defunct fountain system built in the middle of the lake and that once spewed and spurted massive jets of water to the delight of the boaters and everyone within sight. However, the ‘pier’ was occupied by a small family, so I simply took a picture of it, then left the observation deck and resumed walking thereafter.


The Price of Beauty

On my left side, beyond the row of bottlebrush trees and the line of garden boxes and raised beds laden with green plants and colorful blossoms, there flashed and sparkled the brownish waters of Burnham Lake. To my right, all along the western side of the lake and the path beside it were bottlebrush trees, well-tended grassy lawns, and manicured hedgerows and flower beds. Beyond them was a concrete road (also permanently closed to vehicular traffic) lined on either hand with pines and other tall trees, and, on its far side, with shops offering bike rentals. This road, once filled with people – tourists and locals alike – riding rented bikes but now lay almost empty, is connected to the road that separates the Burnham Lagoon cluster with the Rose Garden. Across this road are the Children’s Park, Orchidarium, and the Avong Ibaloi Heritage Garden (another cluster of Burnham Park).

A concrete pavement lined with grass, trees, and plants on garden boxes and raised beds
Along the western shoreline of Burnham Lake…

I had sweated profusely on the walk from home, for though I am quite used to long walks, it has been some time since I last stretched my legs. I think the last time I ventured outdoors was in July, when I hiked the Yellow Trail in Camp John Hay with my brother. Moreover, I was wearing a very uncomfortable cloth mask that fairly smothered me, and that forced my breath to keep fogging up my glasses, so that for every twenty steps I took, it became mandatory for me to stop for a moment just to wipe clean and clear my misted glasses, lest I lose my vision altogether and trip and fall, or stumble onto another person, or even get hit by an oncoming vehicle. And as I paused walking, I also spent considerable time and effort readjusting my face mask, figuring out a way to don it without my breath steaming up my glasses and blinding me.

A concrete pavement lined with grass, trees, and plants on garden boxes and raised beds
A walk in the park, literally…

But now, as I walked along the latter half of the pathway that runs along the western shoreline of the lake, I was feeling more at ease. I was breathing through my face mask more comfortably, for I had finally fitted it in such a manner that my breath wasn’t fogging up my glasses as much and I need not wipe my glasses for every twenty steps I took. Besides, it has been a very pleasant walk in the park thus far, and I was feeling particularly glad this fine morning, grateful to be alive to take delight in all the wonderful things in the world.

Boats floating on the clear, calm, and mirror-like surface of Burnham Lake underneath the clear, blue morning sky
A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” – William Wordsworth

In leisurely pace, it took me no more than seven minutes to move from one end of the western shoreline of the lake to the other, and that’s counting my brief stop at the observation deck. I had now rounded the southern corner of Burnham Lake and was already on its southern shoreline, where more docks are built and more fleets of boats are moored in wistful silence, perhaps wondering why the many excitable tourists they used to bear to and fro the lake have not come calling recently.

Boats floating on the clear, calm, and mirror-like surface of Burnham Lake underneath the clear, blue morning sky
The view from the southern shoreline of Burnham Lake…

From this side, Burnham Lake looked incredibly cleaner and clearer, a vision, perhaps, of its reported former condition. Beyond the rows of boats shaped, designed, and painted into various figures there stretched the lake, its brown tinge no longer noticeable, for over all its surface was perfectly mirrored the encircling wall of weeping bottle brush trees and a few distant buildings, all irradiated by bright sunlight and set against the azure and unclouded (on this part) expanse of the morning sky.

Green trees and blue sky reflected on the still and clear surface of Burnham Lake
A vision in blue…

It was an incredibly gorgeous scene, to say the least, and I felt even more gladdened that I had taken the time to wake up early and come here. The discomfort of having to walk a long distance on an empty stomach, drenched in sweat, clad in an unbearable and stifling face mask, and ever wary of the threat of coronavirus now seemed to be too small a price to pay for all the beauty laid out before my eyes.


Around the Lake, and Thrice More

Along the southern shoreline of Burnham Lake I now made my way, slowly and idly, snapping pictures, keeping to my side of the footpath, while all around me the unending file of runners and joggers went by, and all the world went about its business, or at least as best as it could in this time of pandemic. To my right, the road that in happier and virus-free days teemed with people in rental bikes and toy cars now lay peacefully quiet. On its far side stood the public Skating Rink, right alongside an amusement park that once thrived with lights and life, but is currently shuttered.

Green trees and blue sky reflected on the still and clear surface of Burnham Lake

Further away, across to the south and southeast, not visible from where I stood, are the Athletic Bowl and the City Library. Far beyond them is the Pine Trees of the World, a secluded wooded area that is said to have been intended as a natural gallery or display area for the different pine trees found across the world, but apparently none of the foreign pines planted there survived. I’ve seen the place many times in the past, but only from a distance, and never once have I set foot in it, nor have I known or suspected it to be an actual part of Burnham Park (I always thought it was privately-owned land, but now that I know that admittance is free, I’m thinking about paying a visit very soon).

A concrete pavement lined with grass, trees, and plants on garden boxes and raised beds
Along the eastern shoreline of Burnham Lake…

In only a short while, I had already reached the end of the southern shoreline and rounded the eastern corner of Burnham Lake, and even now was walking along its eastern side. The view of the lake from this side was also very beautiful, and the brownish-greenish discoloration of the lake waters was hardly perceptible. Beheld through a frame of green leaves and yellow wild sunflowers, the lake lay very still and mirror-like, and upon its surface all the western shoreline, with all the shaggy bottlebrush trees, the observation deck and the ‘pier’, and the fleet of white swan boats was reflected. So, too, was the blue sky that on that part was now streaked with many a sliver of floating white.

Green trees and blue sky reflected on the still and clear surface of Burnham Lake
Balance is the perfect state of still water. Let that be our model. It remains quiet within and is not disturbed on the surface.” – Confucius

To my right stretched the length of Lake Drive, whose northern end I had crossed some twenty minutes ago to get here. Beyond the road was the Melvin Jones Grandstand and Football Grounds, host to many of Baguio’s largest gatherings and celebrations, including a particularly momentous one in 1981, when Pope John Paul II held a Mass there. Of course, that Mass happened nearly fourteen years before I was born, and I only know of that event because I had read of it somewhere. But what I do know is that I’ve spent many a happy day on the vast, grassy expanse of the Melvin Jones Football Grounds (and the Athletic Bowl), dribbling, chasing, passing, and kicking a black-and-white ball across the rain-soaked and muddied field, all in the company and camaraderie of college classmates who share a passion for football.

Green trees and blue sky reflected on the still and clear surface of Burnham Lake
The western shoreline of Burnham Lake, as seen from the eastern side…

Between taking pictures of the magnificent lake scenery and reminiscing fond memories, I soon found myself approaching the northern corner of Burnham Lake, where I had begun my leisurely stroll. That meant that I have completed a full circuit of the lake, and walked for nearly 500 meters (1,640 feet) in total, apart from the 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) I walked from home to here.

Green trees and blue sky reflected on the still and clear surface of Burnham Lake
The fleet of swan boats…

But the day was still young, the weather splendid, and my longing for Burnham Lake was only partly sated. So once more I set forth on another lap around the lake, and when that still wasn’t enough, I went for two more. Four times I walked around the lake, taking its scenic beauty all in with both my eyes and my phone camera, and by the end of my fourth circuit, I was ready to head home, convinced that I had seen all I could of Baguio City’s veritable crown jewel to last me for many days to come. But even as my desire for Burnham Lake became fully satisfied, a new hunger grew within me: my stomach grumbled and my thought – and my feet – hurriedly turned towards home and breakfast.


The Flowers of Burnham Lake

Burnham Lake in itself is very beautiful, but its lush and picturesque surround deserves equal praise, especially the numerous flowers of diverse sorts, shapes, sizes, and shades that grace the gardens all around its shoreline. In fact, I was utterly delighted to see so many a colorful blossom that I deemed it only fitting to make an entire section on this article devoted solely to the flowers of Burnham Lake. Below is a gallery of the photos of only the flowers and florets I came upon on my walk around the lake – I wasn’t able to discover and photograph all, so please note that these comprise only a fraction of all the blossoms that are found in the vicinity of Burnham Lake. But those that I found I have tried to name and identify as best as I could. However, please also note that my flower-lore is very limited, so if I wrongly identified a flower, do let me know.

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About the author

Hi. I’m Jared Jeric dela Cruz, the creator and author of this blog. I'll help you start your own blog, work from home, and make money online. Also travel. Maybe. We'll see. If you find my work helpful, please donate so I can keep doing more .


About the author

Hi. I’m Jared Jeric dela Cruz, the creator and author of this blog. I'll help you start your own blog, work from home, and make money online. Also travel. Maybe. We'll see. If you find my work helpful, please donate so I can keep doing more .

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