Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baguio Holiday

The last time Ted and I went to Baguio was about 6 years ago. We were newly-weds. It was December and the weather was nippy. We didn't have a car yet, we took a bus and we just commute around the city.
Last Christmas Day, we packed our small SUV with the 2 kids, my nephew johnrick and my mother-in-law Nanay Luming and joined the thousands of city slickers making the trek to the city of pines.

I was a bit apprehensive on the journey. I know how treacherous the roads are, and the danger of landslides. But my apprehensions were unnecessary. My husband is a confident driver. He reminded me that we've driven the longest route to Pagudpud last summer 2008. He's also has not a stranger to zigzags. The road to his hometown, Quezon has steep rounding climbs also.

The journey up was long and beautiful, especially the going up. We took the Kennon Road. I'm sure this route is not safe during rainy season. There were plenty of erosion prone areas. The steep climb only took about 45minutes.

We stayed at The Manor at Camp John Hay (CJH). I think it's one of the best hotels in Baguio. The city itself is very crowded. I don't want to make the same mistake of getting a hotel, like last time, right smack in the city. If you're in Baguio and want to experience the beautiful pine trees, the grass and of course, the cool weather. You have to book yourself inside the Camp John Hay or the nearby Teachers' Camp. That's where you can still feel the Baguio of long ago.

The Manor is beautiful, theme is country. However, unfortunate incident happened when Ivan ran after me going to our room. He bumped his head / eye into a table, which was haphazardly strewed about, being fixed for evening diners. Good thing, Ivan had the strength to use both his arms to prevent his head from bumping on the floor. I was so shocked, and we brought him to the clinic. Thanks God, it was just a small cut, but his eye area was swollen.

Our room is a two-bedroom number at the ground floor with a simple veranda, that overlooks the beautifully-manicured garden. The cool weather doesn't call for air-conditioning. We only have a lovely ceiling fan, dispersing the cold air.

Across Camp John Hay is a strip of restaurants and retails shops called Mile Long. We were looking for a place to eat, but the place is too crowded with people. So, we decided to go out to the city and go to Cafe by the Ruins, a friend recommended the place. However, it was either closed for the holiday or has folded-up.

We decided to go back to CJH. There was a shakey's and figaro inside near the arts center. While eating our manager's pizza and some capuccino. We listen to the bonggo players jamming it out near a bonfire.

On our first day, we had a yummy breakfast at Country Waffles. A breakfast plate of Baguio Longganisa, 2 eggs and Rice cost about 250 Php and there's no coffee with it. The flapjacks are huge. One serving is two pieces, served with sausages. No kid will be able to finish. Order to share.

After breakfast, we drove to the Mansion, the official summer residence of philippines presidents. We would have wanted to go horseback riding, but there were so many people. Fortunately, across the Mansion there was a guy who made his horse available for photo-taking & quick ride. The kids enjoyed the short experience.

We didn't want to go to the usual Baguio hotspots because of the crowd. So, we forego The Minesview Park. The last time we went there, we were not impressed because it was so commercialized. The view deck was so narrow, and numerous presistent vendors obstructed the view.

We, instead went to the Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad. It's about 20minutes drive away from the city, but the traffic is horrible. As soon as you're there, go directly to the fields. There are 'bantays' whom you can talk to directly, if you want to pick the berries yourselves. A kilo of strawberries that you've picked yourself cost 300 Php. If you buy them ready, it's 150Php. If you want to pick fresh lettuce, it's about 20Php a kilo. There are also cabbages and leeks.

Another unfortunate incident, when my son Ivan saw the juicy, red, berries. He couldn't contain himself, picked some and it went straight to his mouth! Then, someone told us, not to pick berries on that part, because it was just recently sprayed with pesticides!! Oh my! I was so scared. I was told that if one swallowed poison, you need sugar as first aid. So, we bought Strawberry Taho and made Ivan finish a whole cup. Well, he's ok. No after-effects :)

My husband wanted to see the Rice Terraces. We asked around how long it usually takes to get to Banaue. It looks near on the map, but actually it's another 6 hours drive! It's like going to Baguio from Manila, again! But still, we were insistent, we drove and drove for an hour or so, hoping to catch a glimpse of some rice terraces near the city. We did get some great views. The roads up to Benguet, are all hugging the mountainsides. We gave up our quest, when it seems the roads are endless. We went back to the city.

We killed time enjoying our hotel. Hans, wanted to have a picnic. He envies the group of friends, families having picnic in the grassy parks inside camp john hay. Ted wants to stay in the hotel and bum. I want to go to Mile Long strip and scout the shops.

We ended up strolling at the Bell Amphitheater, where the Bell House is also located. (I understand Bell, was the American who established Camp John Hay). We also went to The Lost Cemetery. It's a place where an American staff long ago, thought of symbolically burying negative emotions. I think it was a great idea. What a catharsis for him!

The Bell house is huge. It's like a mansion. It must have been really, really awesome during its heydays. We went around the nooks and crannies.

Ted and Nanay didn't want to have dinner. They went back to the hotel. So, the kids, Johnrick and I went to window shop at Mile Long. It used to be the concessionaire for the Americans. Now, it's just a row of shops and restos. They have Havainas, Crocs, Dencios and local restos. The souvenir shops are a bit pricey, not that we're interested to buy. We had dinner at the Diner something. Nice set-up ala 70s bistro, with a jukebox and all. But the food is so-so. We ordered steaks and some homestyle fried chicken. We should have stuck to club house sandwiches, which the other diners did.

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