Mountain Highs: Baguio
With our friends Olan, Mic, and Lal, we left Manila at around 1am and took a leisurely drive up, arriving in Baguio in Benguet province, just after sunrise. Hailed as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio is a favorite tourist spot for Filipinos because of its cooler climate and fresh mountain air. A typical trip to Baguio would probably consist of a comfy stay at the Manor or Country Club, souvenir shopping at Mine’s View Park and Good Shepherd, horseback riding around Camp John Hay, and hitting the infamous and expansive ukay-ukay (thrift market).
Those are exactly the things we didn’t do.
Instead, we opted for accommodations in Tam-awan Village, an artist community just outside the city with replica Ifugao huts as rooms. It’s also a tourist destination, with galleries and a cafe/souvenir shop. What we didn’t realize was that the huts are also part of the attraction and more than once, visitors tried to come into our hut while we were resting inside.
The best part about our stay in Tam-awan was how we were always surrounded by interesting people. Not just artists, but characters like Manang Josie, who sells antique beads. And Mr. Chi, the Malaysian psychic.
The worst part? C’s cellphone being stolen when she left in in the cafe with our bags as our huts were being prepared.
Lunch was in Oh My Gulay!, a vegetarian restaurant at the top floor of the La Azotea building on Session Road.
Food was great. We had the Waldorfesto (waldorf salad), Talong Parmigiana (eggplant parmigiana), Kabute (mushroom cream pasta), Pasta Primadonna (primavera), and Chow-Chow Noodles (an Asian inspired pasta dish).
For coffee and dessert, we went across the street and up a looooong flight of stairs to Pizza Volanté. Blueberry cheesecake was okay, the peach crepe was terrible. From what we saw of the orders of nearby tables, their pizza looked fantastic.
Next up was a visit the Sabado wood and antique shop in Camp John Hay. While siblings Mic and Lal scouted the store, Olan joined us outside where we saw some interesting carvings from old electrical posts.
From there, it was back to Tam-awan where we rested for the afternoon. Before nightfall, we tried coffee wine from the cafe. It wasn’t good. We suppose one shouldn’t expect coffee wine to be. The artists began to converge at this time, in the area just off our hut. They sat around, drinking, smoking, and talking.
Dinner was originally supposed to be at the popular Cafe by the Ruins but it was full, so we went back to Camp John Hay for a simple Filipino meal at Chocolaté de Batirol. Food was all right, and the native chocolate with a dash of cinnamon was a nice way to warm up.
From Chocolaté, we returned to Tam-awan to get some rest.
The next morning, after breakfast at the cafe with the artists, we set off for the next leg of our journey. With the exception of Olan, it would be everyone’s first trip to Sagada.