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Friday, May 25, 2012


They say that a worthwhile Baguio sojourn is not without dropping by the Good Shepherd Convent along Gibraltar Road (near Mines View Park) for pasalubong (homecoming gifts) shopping. And so, as our way of subscribing to this pitch, we made sure to have a stop at this place on our second and last day in Baguio.

The Good Shepherd Convent, established here in the Philippines in 1912, is being run by the Religious of the Good Shepherd nuns. In deference to their vision of “helping the most neglected and marginalized,” they founded the Mountain Maid Training Center. Chosen youth of the Mountain Province receive educational and livelihood assistance through the profits generated from the sale of Mountain Maid products, most famous of which are strawberry jam, ube jam, peanut brittle, and lengua de gato.
The store is said to be always brimming with buyers, and the time of our visit was no exception. To my recollection, there were others who even bought in quantities that they would leave Good Shepherd carrying two or more boxes of Mountain Maid products. I’m sure that meant more aid for the Cordillera youth.approve photo 1-good.gif

 (photo credits: manilamarketdotcom)
Our next stopover was at 50s Diner along Gen. Luna Road. To say that this joint is a favorite among diners -- tourists and locals alike -- is an understatement. To me, it seemed to be swollen with people any time of the day. We didn't even need to go inside for me to say that. Having waited for our turn to have a table for five for at least 20 minutes or so was a proof. And that’s not to mention the scores of other diners who were trailing behind us in the queue.

As its name suggests, 50s Diner has the ‘50s theme in its interiors. Posters of movies and photos of some well-loved people of the entertainment industry during the ‘50s and ‘70s adorn its walls. The music is likewise from those eras. But what really draws people into the place must be its food -- surprisingly inexpensive yet extremely satisfying and generously served. Definitely the kind that is worth the wait.yumyum photo 1-nyam.gif

It was good that we had stuffed ourselves before venturing into our next destination, the Chanum Foundation's Tam-Awan Village. Requiring P50 as entrance fee for adults and P30 for students/ senior citizens, Tam-Awan Village is a "model village" set on the slopes of a mountain that gives trekkers the chance to have a glimpse of the culture and heritage of the Cordillera people.
Ifugao huts and Kalinga houses can be found as one makes their way to the top. Guests can even rent a house if they're in for village life immersion. The place is also a venue for some local artists to put up their works for sale, that's why paintings and drawings abound everywhere. And if one gets tired of climbing up steep pathways, there's a coffee shop as well.

As for our Tam-Awan Village adventure, sadly we were unable to reach its top, where they say awe-inspiring sights of the South China Sea and the nearby lowlands can be seen. Well I guess I just have to be thankful that at least I was able to unleash the highlander in me. photo 1-gigglez.gif

It is said that the best time to go to Baguio -- although I believe its charm never wanes all year round  photo gdaydream_zps078d5378.gif -- is during the Panagbenga Festival. Our visit didn't fall on the dates when the celebration for this year was at its peak. But luckily we were there just in time before the hustle and bustle ended -- the last week of the month-long Panagbenga festivity, during which the Session Road in Bloom is customarily observed.

Stalls of different kinds of products and food outlets were set up along Session Road, which was closed to vehicles. I remember feeling like a kid in a candy store then, overwhelmed by the seemingly endless possibilities of things to discover. photo ikot15_zpsb8092a5a.gif

We spent long hours walking up and down the busiest road in Baguio that day, stopping occasionally whenever we chanced upon something interesting and worth buying. And then the time came that we had to call it a day.

As we were having our self-prepared delightful dinner at our rented transient house, the grand fireworks display began to light up the night sky, signalling the end of 2012's Panagbenga celebration, and our own Baguio adventure.

But maybe, it was just the beginning.

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...)
Tuesday, May 22, 2012