That Thing Called Baguio Food Trip Weekend

It has been a  very hot summer in Metro Manila. And at least one day in the Summer Capital would be a delight. So, the Baguio Weekend happened.

It was not really a tourist kind of break. And apologies, I didn’t really take a lot of photos in this trip. Because we stayed in Baguio for some years for college, so it was like merely visiting “home” for the weekend. So we skipped all the tourist-y items and just went straight to the food trip. Because that’s what you do when you come home for the weekend–enjoy home-cooked meals, watch TV, eat take-home dessert in bed and squeeze in a massage.

A little warning for those who want to go to Baguio via Victory Bus Liner: get your tickets as early as possible. And by early, I mean days before, or even weeks. There are A LOT of people going to Baguio. I got our tickets for the Saturday trip three days before. We wanted to leave at midnight but the closest time with available seats was at 2 AM. There was a long queue for chance passengers when we boarded the bus. So if you don’t want the hassle, get your tickets from the bus station early. Online reservation is not yet available.

Kiwing na Kahoy Food Community at Ili-Likha Artist Village
We arrived in Baguio at around 8 in the morning. It was too early to check in our hotel, and a good breakfast after a long bus ride was a must. I stumbled upon this food place a month ago and the moment I learned it’s an artist haven (read: arts all over the place), I knew I have to go there.

I learned that it opens early, so it was the perfect place to commence the Baguio Weekend. Unfort11169994_10152973102923842_1697687131801777942_nunately (or is it fortunately?), the only food spot that was open that early was Balbacua at Urban Kamote. It boasts of organic food at very affordable prices. We ordered balbacua, of course, and longganisa with red rice. The balbacua was tasty. I would have preferred a slightly toasted longganisa, but it was fine, together with the refreshing Fresca Chia drink. They also serve this interesting coffee concoction called Bulletproof Coffee that has grass-fed butter. It was a bit bitter for my taste, but it seemed oozing with healthy goodness.

I was wishing to see blue-eyed Kawayan working10408737_10152973095668842_4601074600567719223_n on one of his masterpieces, but no, he wasn’t there. We saw lots of artworks, though. It made me remember the Ponce Suites Gallery Hotel in Davao, which was covered with Kublai’s artworks. There are other shops in this little community and they are set up strategically and artistically to look like a tree house. It’s not the safest place to be especially in a high-altitude city like Baguio, which is prone to tremors. But it is worth a try.

Ili-likha Artist Village is located at Assumption Road. From Victory Liner, walk to Lower Session Road. Stay on the right side of the road where your landmark would be the Bohemian Cafe, which was featured in That Thing Called Tadhana. It’s a long walk (we could testify), but you’re in Baguio. Walking should be fun!

North Haven Spa
Okay, sige na, burgis na kung burgis. Eh, gusto ko talagang magpa-massage because the past few weeks have been tiring. Good thing I wasn’t the only one who wanted to de-stress. And so we went to the North Haven Spa in Ferguson Road, a bit farther away from the city center. Opted for this main branch instead of the one in Casa Vallejo (Upper Session Road, which was featured, too, in That Thing Called Tadhana) because of the location. It offers a more relaxing ambiance because it’s located inside a village and a prettier view that is more like the Baguio I fell in love with. You can see the mountains from this area.

11180311_10152972750618842_4850506291217109454_nWe got there early. I actually called in advance to make a reservation, and because I am OC, yes. It turned out we got the whole spa to ourselves. We took time in choosing what treatment we would want. The friendly staff was very eager to help and recommended that we try this particular massage that I forgot the name of (sorry!). But it’s 1 hour and 45 minutes long. It was almost two hours of bliss! Which was capped off with cups of refreshing lemongrass tea.

I would have really wanted to try the Strawberry Bliss package, which involves scrub and jacuzzi (bubble bath!) but I just couldn’t at that time. Well, it’s a good reason for me to go back.

Ozark Diner
I discovered this place last year. I was curious about the dark beer cheesecake. I’ve told him about it and he was able to try the place when he was in Baguio for work. It’s fine, was what I gathered from it. Plus the location is far from the city center. So, I was actually ready to skip it. Good thing he insisted that we go here for lunch.

We got lost because Manong Taxi didn’t know where the place is. But here’s a tip, tell your cab driver that’s it’s near SLU Mary Heights Campus. It’s in Bareng Drive. The 100-peso taxi fare is worth it, I tell you. Look for this red door. But that’s not the entrance. It’s downstairs, via the side door.

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I was not that hungry when we got there, so I ordered a burrito–the most inexpensive and humongous burrito I’ve ever had. The beans are real. Hindi sila nagbibiro. We also ordered half spring chicken with biscuits, which were heavenly. I would go back for those biscuits and those spiked milkshakes (they call it “adult milkshakes”). I managed to take a sip of the Grasshopper, and I liked it. I was just wary to order one for me. Baka kasi hindi sila friends ni beans.

The location is good. But there was an ongoing construction outside, so the noise could be disturbing. It bothered me a little because diners tend to talk in loud voices. Dining out means chatting over good food so it really bothered me. Buti na lang walang nakaisip mag-date dun at mag-propose noong mga panahong maingay dun. Major bummer kapag nagkataon.

Anyway, of course, we had to order a slice of the dark beer cheesecake, but unfortunately, we had to have it to-go. No more space! I only managed to eat half of my burrito, and I was so full. I was able to taste the cake in the hotel. It was fine, nothing very fantastic about it. I still don’t like beer after eating it.

Holiday Park Hotel
There was a downpour when we were on our way to our hotel to finally check in at half past 2 in the afternoon. Checking in was a breeze because I have booked it a week ago. I chose this hotel over Veniz Hotel, which I have stayed at before, because of the location. It tends to be noisy at Hotel Veniz. The first choice was actually Baguio Holiday Villas, which I’ve stayed at last year (a bit noisy, too) but they didn’t have a room that’s good for two. I was so glad I booked Holiday Park Hotel. It is the best one in Baguio so far. It’s a bit pricey at P2,200 for a de luxe twin room, with free breakfast for two, but I love it.11036528_10152975369393842_1892662631988847053_n

I love the room. It’s spacious for two. There was already an extra pillow inside the room, I love it. The bathroom is nice and clean. Basic toiletries included; no hair dryer, though, but it’s available upon request. I have a thing for hair dryers. Dapat lahat ng hotels sa Baguio meron kasi malamig. The location is good. It’s not too far from the city center, but not in the busy part of Kisad, so it’s quiet at night. Plus, the staff is great. I would love to stay here again. And the longganisa is da bomb, by the way. Cooked just the way I like it. Free-flowing coffee, too, all day!

Mt. Cloud Bookshop+Cinematheque
We were supposed to watch some documentaries by UP Students at the Baguio Cinematheque, but it was raining. And the bed was so conducive to sleeping. We missed the 4:30 showing of the six documentaries that I am sure are worth the while (go, UPB!), but we still went to the place after resting in the hotel, on foot. I repeat, on foot! I don’t think I would do that again, but let’s just say that it’s in preparation for an upcoming major travel, practice lang. Goodness, I thought I would faint walking from Kisad Road to Lower Session to Upper Session. I used to enjoy walking up and down Session Road thrice non-stop. It’s a sign of aging, I know.

Canto at Ketchup Food Community
We’ve both been here before, but he hasn’t tried the baby back ribs and I was craving the freshest greens there was in Baguio. And so it’s Canto for dinner.

The Ketchup Community comprises of different restos. I’ve only tried Canto, so I cannot say anything about the other ones. It’s located in Romulo Drive, near the St. Joseph Church, in Pacdal Circle. I don’t know how to get there via jeepney, but the cabs are all familiar with this popular place.

11027468_10152973345153842_7827106855259876124_nAnyway, we ordered half slab of the famous lomo ribs. It’s better than that of The Pilgrim’s daw. But RUB’s is still the best. And we also had the Veggy Pizza with lots of alfalfa, arugula and basil goodness. When in Baguio, eat vegetables because you can’t go fresher than anywhere else. Skip the burgers, please. Manila has lots of those.

By the way, the Garapon Craze has invaded Baguio, too. It’s very hipster, but it’s forgivable. The Lorna Iced Tea was unforgettable. And with some jazz on the side, it’s one of the best dinners I have had.

Choco-late de Batirol
10985373_10152973371023842_7503041242537294092_nWe dropped by this little cafe near (or was it inside?) the Baguio Country Club, which I think would be perfect for breakfast or afternoon snacks because it’s actually a garden. It was dark, so I couldn’t really appreciate the ambiance. But they serve good chocolate de batirol drinks. I had the strawberry-infused one called Baguio Blend. It was good, but too strong, I wasn’t able to finish it. I would want to go back to try the Kahlua, though.

Cafe by the Ruins
11060452_10152975267303842_8952798194308259360_nTo cap off what has become a Baguio Food Trip Weekend, we had lunch at Cafe by the Ruins (which was also featured in That Thing Called Tadhana, why not?!). We ordered pinikpikan because it’s fun to enjoy torture sometimes. Hehe Good thing I’ve overcome my allergies, I can eat chicken now. It was delicious. I’ve had a cheaper version of it, and it wasn’t that delectable. Mas masarap pala talaga kapag mahal. I chose Gado-gado for salad, and boy, it was nagado (a lot, in Ilocano). It has fried tofu bits and is served with interesting peanut dressing. I would have loved to try the strawberry cake we saw from the other table or the Pavlova for dessert but I was full. My tummy was very happy about all the green goodness I’ve consumed by this time. For drinks, we ordered a strawberry milkshake and ginger fizz, which comes with a stalk of lemongrass. This established the theory na ayaw kaming lubayan ng tanglad.

It was a fun travel. Looking forward to the next one!

Zombietches in EK: The Podcast (That is Not Really)

So we went to Enchanted Kingdom to celebrate Jan Marc’s birthday. And these things transpired, in no particular order.

On the way to Market! Market! (na kailangan talagang may exclamation points!), Jan Marc called asking where we are because he’s already waiting at the parking lot.
Jan Marc: Hey, where are you?
Arlene: We’re on our way na. Margaret, nasaan tayo?
Margaret: Nasa may billboard ni Angel Locsin.
Arlene: Si Angel Locsin ba ‘yan? Hindi naman yata.
Margaret: Ah, hindi ba? Basta papunta na kami.
Arlene: Nasa tulay na kami. Pasig River.
Margaret: Hindi Pasig River ‘yan. Marikina River yata.
Arlene: Eh, nasa Pasig na tayo, ‘di ba? So Pasig River ‘yan.
Jan Marc: [beep]
Arlene: Ay, binabaan tayo.

At the parking lot, as Margaret is parking the greatest parking of her life, so it seems.
Jan Marc: Do you realize you were driving on the wrong way back there?
Margaret: I know! Parking lot naman ‘to, eh. Wala namang MMDA.
Arlene: Margaret was so confident and cocky finding a parking slot until you came along.

Going out the parking lot, in Jan Marc’s car.
Jan Marc: (to the car in front of us) Ano ba ‘yan?! Antagal naman! Walang pambayad!
Margaret: Oh, my gahd. You’re so bad.
Arlene: That’s what he gets in playing online games.
Jan Marc: Yah, I get too violent.
(to Ate Parking Cashier) Walang pambayad ‘yun, no? Antagal-tagal.

At McDonald’s, whining about the sloooooow service despite having a lot of staff.
Arlene: Ambagal nila, ‘no?
Margaret: Oo nga, sa Makati hindi naman ganyan.
Jan Marc: Pero andami-dami naman nila. Bukas na ‘yung Enchanted Kingdom, nandito pa tayo.

After eating a very healthy brunch of fries and burgers.
Margaret: Gutom pa ako. Can we buy food when we get to EK?

At the toll gate…
Jan Marc: (to the car in front of us, again) Wala na namang pambayad ‘to! Antagal-tagal!
Margaret: Oh my gahd. Ang sama mo.
Arlene: You know what, Margaret? ‘Yung combined good points natin, nauubos ng bad points n’ya.

At the Enchanted Kingdom entrance…
Margaret: Let’s ride that! Ano’ng pangalan ng Nanay mo?!
Jan Marc: Myr-nuuuuuuuuh! The Myrna Ride!
Arlene: Please no judging if I don’t ride all the rides you want to ride.

In Enchanted Kingdom, finally…
Jan Marc: I hate this. It’s so hot! And so many J People!
Arlene: Eh summer kaya. Sino ba nakaisip nito?! How much did you pay to get in?
Jan Marc: None.
Margaret: Don’t complain.

At the Rialto line.
Margaret: Can we buy food?

After lining up for Rialto and finally got in.
Jan Marc: This better be worth the time we spent under the freaking sun.
Arlene: How long is this? One hour? Can we let people ahead of us for like an hour para nandito lang tayo sa aircon?

After experiencing the Rialto’s sorry excuse for a 3D ride.
Jan Marc: That was it? What was that?!
Bading sa Tabi Namin (in a more exaggerated disgust): Oh my god! That was it?! Such a waste of our fucking time!
Margaret: Let us go back to the line and warn the people.
Jan Marc: Yes, we should. It is not worth it, people!

At the souvenir shop to get Jan Marc a change shirt.
Jan Marc: Help me find a shirt.
Arlene: O, Margaret. Help your boyfriend find a shirt daw.
Margaret: We are all conceited at one point, no?

At some point while wandering around.
Margaret: Can we buy food?

Before the Wheel of Fate ride.
Margaret: Wala magi-spin habang umaandar, ha?
Jan Marc: Yes, no spinning.
Arlene: Frienship Over ang mag-spin.

While queuing for the Rio Grande Rapids.
Margaret: This kid is annoying! (pertaining to the kid at her back)
Arlene: Switch places with Jan Marc, dali!

While queuing for the Rio Grande Rapids… still.
Jan Marc: This kid is annoying!

While waiting for the rubber raft at the Rio Grande Rapids, where we got in via the “express” lane, which is a fucked-up system, really. Go there to find out why for yourselves.
Ate Attendant: Dalawa?
Us, three: Tatlo kami, Ate.
Dalawang Guys sa Likod: Kami!

Jan Marc: Couple. Hashtag alam na. Ayan, o, gusto pang magkatabi sila!

During the Rio Grande Rapids ride.
Arlene: Oh my gahd! Basa na ako.
Margaret: Upuan pa lang basa na!
Jan Marc: Oh my gahd! Huwag kami! Huwag kami!
Arlene: Shit! Waaaaah!
Jan Marc: Fuck! My falls! Huwag kami. Sila naman!
Margaret: Oh my gahd! ‘Yung bag ko!
Jan Marc: Tangina. Bakit ‘yung mga lumalabas kanina hindi naman basa?!

At the “magic drying station”…
Arlene: One hundred fucking fifty pesos??! This better work!
Jan Marc: I wasn’t expecting to get so wet like this!
Margaret: I told you we’d get wet!
Jan Marc: But not this wet! Pati underwear talaga?!
Arlene: I have to buy shorts and tsinelas. Ang gastos ng birthday mo.
Jan Marc: Only because we got wet!
Arlene: But it was fun!
Jan Marc: Yah, it was fun! But we got wet!

On the way to the parking lot to get our change shirts.
Batang Nagtitinda ng Espasol: Ate, bili ka.
Arlene: May shorts ka ba dyan? ‘Yun bibilhin ko.

While lining up for the Air Race.
Jan Marc: Parang binabalahura ka lang, o. We have to ride this, Margaret!
Margaret: Arl, may bata. You have to ride this!
Arlene: No way. Ayokong mabalahura.

On the way out.
Jan Marc: Let’s go. Let’s eat on the way.
Margaret: Chowking! That Milky White Halo-halo!

My Easter Sunday and Father Sanjay

For more than a year now, I have faithfully attended the 9 AM Mass at the National Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes in Quezon City. Well, not really faithfully. There were some Sundays that I’ve missed because of unavoidable circumstances like out-of-town trips, family obligations, etc. Waking up early on Sundays is not really too big a deal for a morning person like me. But for someone who’s not very vocal nor showy about her faith in the Catholic Church, I admit it was at some point a struggle for me to go to Mass every Sunday. However, that was before Father Sanjay.

He had me at his visual aids. No offense to other Catholic priests I have encountered (with the exception of Father Sonny Ramirez, Nanay’s favorite priest who used to say Mass in Sto. Domingo), I get bored with their homily most of the time. Some tends to be preachy and others seem like scolding me for something I am not really sure about. With Father Sanjay, it feels like he’s communicating with me through his AVPs and stories. During his homilies, he is not just delivering sermons. He is telling stories, much like Jesus did with his parables.

I learned things about Alexander the Great, Oprah, Bill Gates, etc. He told stories not just about famous persons but unnamed people as well. There’s the story of the two brothers’ love for one another that made me wish I have one (and then I immediately took it back, because I actually have one!). The story of how a professor taught his students that “life is like a cup of coffee” is something I would surely tell others when the chance comes up. There’s also that amusing first-hand anecdote about the mute kid who received a miracle.

There were videos with kurot sa puso that made me shed some tears (that I had to creatively wipe away). There’s this video in Chinese about a son and his senile father that Father Sanjay had to translate for us. He said that it may be in a language we don’t understand, but we’d probably end up getting the gist of it. True enough. It may be in a foreign language, but the message of love is universal.

And, of course, how could I forget the fact that Father Sanjay introduced me to the music of Matisyahu through “One Day”?

There are a lot of good stories I’ve heard from Father Sanjay and I regret not writing about each of them. Besides his creative way of delivering homilies, I also enjoy his meditation included in every celebration of the Mass. He would ask everyone to close their eyes and focus on Jesus. Surrender everything to Him and trust that everything will be all right, he would say.

Today was a special Sunday. My family woke up early at 4 AM to attend the “Salubong Mass” in the nearby church, while I decided to stay behind and catch some more sleep. They’re used to me not joining them to Mass, anyway, since I continued going to Lourdes for Mass even after we moved to the new house.

It was a cool summer morning and the Church was packed probably because it’s Easter. Father Sanjay’s homily was about a US soldier and a boy named Tad. The story goes like this: once there was a soldier who went to the White House to ask permission from President Abraham Lincoln to go home to be with his wife who was sick. Naturally, the guards didn’t permit him. While he was outside the gates looking upset, a young boy approached him and asked what was wrong. He told this young boy that he wanted to speak with the president to ask for permission. The boy told him to hold his hand and he would bring him to the president. The soldier hesitated because he, a soldier, couldn’t get past the guards, how could a kid do it? But he mustered courage and hold the boy’s hand. Much to his surprise, when they were at the entrance, the guards open the gates, waved to the kid and let them in. The boy holding his hand was, none other than, Tad Lincoln, the youngest son of the President.

Father Sanjay used this story to convey the message that we only need to hold on to the hand of Jesus who will take us to the Father.

It was before the Final Blessing that Father Sanjay said his goodbye. He said that after four years, he has now finished his studies. Apparently, he has been officiating the 9 AM Mass since 2011. I wish I have gone to hear Mass led by him since then.

I was so sad, I had to fight back some tears. My heart was breaking.

The congregation gave him a round of applause, and when the Mass has ended, the usual number of people who approaches him for his blessings, tripled. I was one of them.Trying to fight my emotions (because one usually don’t cry when a priest says goodbye, really), I joked to myself while walking towards him that I should probably say to him, How could you leave, Father? Ikakasal mo pa ako, eh!

When he placed his hand on my head, I was only able to say, Thank you, Father.

Truly, I am grateful for him. He made me go to Church to hear Mass. He taught me a lot of things through his homilies. He even made me want to get married someday, with him officiating it. (Well, a particular Veluz gown did that to me, too.)

Kidding aside, I was changed because of him. I may not be very vocal about my faith and beliefs, but through him I have learned that the way to do it is to put my whole trust in God. I am a work in progress, and I’m happy about it.

I will surely miss anticipating hearing the words “Our Mass will be presided by Father Sanjay” next Sunday. I will surely miss his usual “Magandang umaga! Kumusta kayo?” greeting with sweetness and slang. I will surely miss his stories, his videos, his personal views on things and his inspiring meditations.

But Easter is for new beginnings. And new beginnings should be full of delight. So, I sincerely pray for a fruitful new chapter for Father Sanjay. May he continue to collect stories for him to be able to tell them during his homilies, and change lives like he has changed mine.

As for me, I pray that someday I will encounter him again and attend a Mass officiated by him. Sana sa India. 🙂