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Wednesday, May 23, 2012



The moment the bus we were on switched gears to take on that first incline to Baguio City, I knew in my heart that I was going to be in for another memorable trip to what is singularly touted the "summer capital of the Philippines," "city of pines" and "city of flowers." Looking out the window, seeing some familiar sights along the way, I smiled and told myself: "I'm sure this will be more memorable than the first!"

My first brush with Baguio was about nine years ago, an experience I would always owe to my high school. We had a limited time touring around the city then, given that we were there to attend a training.

However, I remember that we still managed to go to the Mines View Park; the Philippine Military Academy; and the Mansion House, though it was closed and we were restricted to just have our pictures taken outside the gate.

Fast forward to March 2012 and yet again I found myself taking in the enticing place that is Mines View Park. My new experiences this time?

A photo shoot with an impressively large St. Bernard...Photobucket

Seeing what's beyond the park...ok

Snapping up souvenir items...forgetful

And, yes, having my first taho with strawberry syrup!yumyum

But revisiting didn't just end with the Mines View Park. Unlike before when we just had to make do with seeing the perpetually photographed sign "The Mansion" through a shut gate, this second trip to Baguio rendered us, me especially, the opportunity to -- finally -- capture this pose-worthy moment.Photobucket

Beyond offering new memories in its familiar places, Baguio of course has so much in store for those seeking first-time experiences in its unfamiliar must-visit locales.

Like the Camp John Hay, the city's opulent golf course and country club, and our trip's first destination. It is its well-preserved natural ambiance that I think will make everyone relish even just a simple stroll along its paved and pine tree-lined sidewalks. No wonder that it figures on almost every Baguio travel itinerary.

Tucked away in this former base is Choco-late de Batirol. Billing itself as "a garden-resto," this rustic yet cozy place serves chocolate-based drinks and snacks, while Filipino folksongs and classical tunes play in the background. Also dotting its walls are paintings by local artists and decorations bearing inspirational sayings, on which your eyes can feast.

And for someone like me who automatically shuns chocolate drinks (but not for this tripno no no), I can say that a cup of Choco-late's Almond blend was definitely worth a try, and so were this resto's other offerings.

Meanwhile, considered the top tourist attraction within Camp John Hay is its so-called Historical Core, which houses historical landmarks such as the Bell House, the Bell Amphitheater, the Cemetery of Negativism, the History Trail, the Secret Garden, and the Liberty Loop.

Partaking in this going-back-in-time experience, we invited ourselves inside the Bell House and toured around this erstwhile vacation abode of then Commanding General of the Philippines, J. Franklin Bell, who is also known to be the driving force behind Camp John Hay's transformation into a military resort.

Remarkably well-kept, this eponymous "museum" basically showcases the history of Camp John Hay and the way of life during the American occupation in the Philippines. Its every room was also inviting that I had to suppress the urge to sit in one of the chairs around the dining table and dive into the seemingly comfortable beds. Even more so frustrating was keeping my fingers away from the keys of the off-limits piano by the front door. Maybe next time.Photobucket

The Bell Amphitheater, on the other hand, can be easily described as an ideal venue for weddings and other intimate gatherings. But for us, it served well its purpose of being a good spot for picture takings.

Wrapping up our Camp John Hay visit was our brief stop at the Cemetery of Negativism, a "symbolic burial place of negativism, said to be man's greatest self-imposed infliction, his most limiting factor, and his heaviest burden." And though it somewhat fell short of my "high" expectations, reading each of the epitaphs was still fun. Having with us a combination of sharp eyesight and quick wit at that very moment, I guess, helped in making the experience a worthwhile one.Photobucket

Dropping by the quaint Mt. Cloud Bookshop found at Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road before having our dinner, meanwhile, came as something of a wonderful treat for all of us in the group, as we are decidedly one of those people who "know and seek out the giddy pleasure of finding, buying, and taking home a good book," for whom the book store says it exists.

Locating its entrance was quite a rub though. I was even led to think that perhaps we could just enter through its open window to save us time.Photobucket Turned out we should go inside the Hill Station Restaurant and take the narrow hallway on the left.

After a few minutes of being absorbed in examining the shop's literature-filled corners and later on purchasing what caught our interest (and in my case what fitted my budget), we decided that our eyes were full but our stomachs were not. Luckily, we were just a stone's throw away from Hill Station resto.

Hill Station has tasteful interiors and relaxed ambiance that created a great impression on me. It is also conducive for get-togethers, as it is big enough to serve such. The accommodating waiters are also notable. And of course my Short Rib Ragu With Fettuccini, along with the time I spent here with my friends, tops the things I would definitely miss about this place. Indeed, dining in this restaurant made for a satisfying conclusion of our Day 1 in Baguio.Photobucket

(To be continued...)