Baguio City and I were never friends. Baguio is that place families seem to be obliged to visit every year (at least in our case) when the kids are still, well, young and their participation in decision-making is as little as their financial contribution to vacations. And so, the small ones have no choice but to be shepherded from Burnham Park to Mines View to Camp John Hay, year after year.
After decades of going up to Baguio to see that lake full of plastic swans, that rocky cliff always packed with too many tourists, and slopes of distant pine trees, I whispered apologetically to Baguio one time that it bores me–until last week. Of all the places in the Philippines, I picked Baguio to visit because it’s about time that I offered reconciliation.
My travel buddy and I took a bus on a Sunday night. I called him up that morning; told him to meet me in Cubao, where we first met; waited for the 11pm trip to the City of Pines. We arrived at 5am and Baguio welcomed us with a queen bitch coldness that challenged the function of our jackets. Our jackets were embarrassed. We held hands.
Mike and I had no booking yet, and we didn’t want to look like lost tourists at the Victory Liner station so we politely excused ourselves from the men offering cheap lodging and cab rides. The icy walk from the bus station to Burnham Park could’ve been creepy if there were no joggers. The darkness would spit them out, joggers, then swallow them in seconds. Houses standing since 1909 and trees that witnessed the Killer Earthquake of the 90s stared at us, not sure if they’ll say hi. Finally, I said hello, as I felt that it was going to be a different Baguio experience.
By 6am, we found what would be our home for three days, the lovely Holiday Park Hotel near Burnham and steps away from Cafe By The Ruins. We ate pancakes and filled our cold tummies with hot choco while watching the morning unfold and duties performed: mothers taking their kids to school, college students walking to their universities, office workers quietly waiting for their rides. It was a cool morning of duties. Our duty, I assigned, was to observe without interrupting the precision of things.
Mike and I just had a simple list to accomplish in Baguio:
1. rest our beach tanned bodies
2. breathe fresh air from real pine trees (not those pine tree air fresheners)
3. eat good food (we tried 50s Diner, Cafe by the Ruins, Pizza Volante, Tam-awan Cafe, Mommy’s Restaurant, and others–I blogged here, which ones were disappointing and which ones delighted our hearts)
4. see BenCab museum
5. visit Tam-awan Village
We left Baguio knowing we’ll do these again. Disappearing into empty museums, eating at diners, sipping frozen margarita (beer for him), walking the slopes of the city of mountain people, going out after midnight for a steaming bowl of mami, buying strawberries at the market, haggling for a pretty dress, beating the cold, hugging the trees, breathing, living.
At Camp John Hay: