IT HAS been four years since I last stepped foot on the pine needle carpeted paths of the country’s summer capital.
A quick stop, that one night was the only detour that my traveling group has agreed to. It would not only break the long hours needed to ply the Sagada-Manila route, but it was also the chance to feast on the food and shop for Baguio necessities—fresh fruits and vegetables, and the Everlasting flowers and famous walistambo for those who wanted it.
When summertime comes, expect an exodus of tourists taking to the winding road to seek solace in the cooler temperature of the Pine City.
The cold weather of Baguio was one of the reasons why my friends and I (I just tagged along actually) drove to the Cordilleras. Well, to be able to wear a scarf and tour a foreign guest is just secondary to the visit’s main purpose.
With all the excited exchanges about food and where to eat, it was easy to conclude that feasting was on the top of the list.
Luckily, my friends did not disappoint me, the three days and two nights together were spent dining out and revisiting the flavors that we’ve missed.
The touring and shopping filled in the time in between restaurant visits.
The Manor Hotel was our designated sleeping quarter. Its location at the Camp John Hay is the oldest hotel in Baguio City that is preserved.
The hotel sits amid hundreds of pine trees and its refreshing scent riding the crisp highland breeze, and the tranquility reminded me (and will remind anyone) of what feeling of Baguio City was way back in the 80s on my first visit.
Except for one breakfast taken at the restaurant on the early morning we arrived, the rest of the meals were enjoyed elsewhere.
Weight gain was inevitable.
Café by the Ruins has a new branch in upper Session Road, which makes its famed cuisine more accessible, I was told.
It has two levels, an open kitchen with an area where they make their fresh pasta noodles (exclusively for house use) and baked bread on a regular basis.
The take-away section displays freshly baked bread, locally made dips and sauces in jars, teas and even Malagos chocolates.
One must try is the fresh pasta dishes; from the bread section, the ensaymada; and the omelet with fresh cheese.
If you’ve dined at the Hill Station then you must have already listed your favorites.
On the table were plates of specialties my friends singled out from the menu. I can’t eat the meat dishes but the poultry had flavors that left an impression on my palate—the Crispy Duck Flakes served with Laing saGata and the Cambodian Coriander and Garlic Chicken, which brought back fond memories of eating out in Siem Reap.
Chaya Japanese restaurant is a residence turned dining place.
I left the place full but only one dish that stuck in my mind is the Matcha Ice Cream, very much the flavor I tasted in Tokyo that balanced the mild bitterness of green tea and hint of sweetness.
For some reason, Mario’s is a must stop place. My friends missed the Caesar’s Salad and the steak.
I went for a Chef’s creation, Three Mushroom Pasta with black truffle oil and bacon (took this one out), and a Casa Special, the Pollo Iberico.
Suffice to say, I didn’t have an early night of sleep because of the amount of food intake.
The tourist with us must see the sights, which we also enjoyed—the Summer Palace, Mines View Park, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Atonement, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) campus, a drive by at Burnham Park, and the BenCab Museum.
One must never leave the place without shopping for the Baguio necessities. Yes, my friends made sure they took home those jarred goodies from the Carmelite monastery and from Maharlika, the fresh vegetables, baskets of freshly harvested strawberries, and of course, the walistambo and a souvenir lei of Everlasting flowers for the French tourist.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 19, 2016.