Baguio or Bust
For the second year in a row, my husband and I have decided to spend our anniversary in Baguio, the City of Pines. It was convenient for us because we would be coming from Ilocos Norte, where we would spend the New Year with my side of the family. Baguio was our halfway stop en route to Manila. We love Baguio, what with the climate and the good food. Zoe had one thing in mind when it comes to Baguio, and it was to “ride horse.”
We left Ilocos Norte on January 2 after 2 days of eating and being merry, and arrived in Baguio a little before 6 pm. We were fortunate to have witnessed the sun set in the horizon, although my husband could only take some stolen glimpses of this picturesque view because he was driving. The view from Baguio was amazing! It got me all the more excited of our bonding time there as a family. Like the previous year, we didn’t make any reservation at any inn or hotel. We figured that almost everyone would be headed back to Manila and it would be easy to find us a warm place to stay for the night. I’ve already listed some places in my mind which I wanted to check out, and my husband trusted me on this. We wanted to stay at a cheaper place for the first night because it wouldn’t be worth it to check in at some neat hotel at this time, only to check out by noon the following day. Sayang, so to speak. Inn #1 was a place we decided not to check anymore because a couple-friend who went to Baguio ahead of us went there and said it was rundown. Next on my list was Inn #2 along Leonard Wood. From their website, the inn looked inviting, like a cozy place with a Swiss touch to it. I opened the car door and giddily exclaimed to my husband, “Can you smell the pines?” The lobby, made of wood with cozy seats everywhere, looked homey enough. It was when we were brought to the rooms that our enthusiasm with Inn #2 waned. The rooms were, sadly, bare and cold. We mumbled some excuse of liking the place but wanting to check out more inns before deciding, and hurriedly left. Inn #2 will always serve as a reminder for me not to believe everything I see or read about in the Internet. Good thing I did not make an advanced reservation! Inn #3 was very much like Inn #2, but smaller. They didn’t have an available room for us; had they had one, we still wouldn’t have stayed there anyway. The steep price didn’t match the room they offered. We also went to two more inns which looked more like rundown boarding houses to us. Heck, we were in Baguio to celebrate and have fun. We wanted comfort and we wouldn’t settle for less. It was already dark and we were getting hungry, so we went to our last stop, Iggy’s Inn along South Drive. We’ve seen this inn last year and we were quite pleased with what we saw, so we headed there and kept our fingers crossed that they had a room for us. Fortunately, they had a cozy room available for the night that was priced at half (Php900!) what we were being offered in Inn #2 and the other “boarding houses” we’ve checked. Iggy’s Inn would be our home for the night. The staff were pleasant and the place was bustling with creativity, based on the local paintings on display from the lobby to the stairway. The room we stayed in had a warm touch to it. Now I’m no interior decorator, but I’m guessing there was a woman’s touch to how Iggy’s Inn was made–very homey. They also had bottled pickled mango (burong mangga), which we munched on before we went to sleep, and salad dressings on sale. Bestseller is Iggy’s strawberry salad dressing. Goes well with the freshest highland vegetables.
After depositing our luggage, the three of us went out to have dinner supposedly at Forest House, upon a cousin’s recommendation. We got lost and ended up in Cafe by the Ruins, which was ok anyway because it was still in our must-eat list. The place was very Baguio, very native. The diners were of mixed sorts, from foreigners who looked like artists to couples out on a date, to families like ours. Zoe was being difficult. She insisted on going to the counter to look at the breads on sale and did not want to sit down for dinner. Dinner consisted of Amapola Salad, which had different Baguio veggies and salted egg on a garlic mayo dressing. It was yummy! I ordered tofu while my husband got mechado, which was recommended by the waiter. The meals were so-so, not enough to leave us wanting for more, but their coffee and hot chocolate were definitely a must-try. We were a bit disappointed by their service. We noticed that the waiters never smiled, which got us to thinking if you’re supposed to keep that solemn face at the Ruins.
The following morning, we checked out of Iggy’s Inn and ate lunch at Mario’s in celebration of our 3rd wedding anniversary. It was our first time there and we couldn’t wait to try their ever-famous Caesar salad. The salad was, indeed, everything we had expected it to be, and more. It was Caesar salad at its simpliest, no-frills best, just the way I wanted it. Lunch consisted of corned beef and cabbage, and tenderloin steak. I love the corned beef; the broth was served separately and the beef was so tender. My husband prefers the corned beef at Breakfast at Antonio’s in Tagaytay. I wish I knew how to cook this type of corned beef. The only corned beef I could cook is the canned variety and there’s definitely no thrill in that, except when it comes to the eating part. Serve me any kind of corned beef anytime of the day and I’d be delighted! ‘Twas a hearty lunch indeed, although I found it too pricey. Zoe loved their rolls spread with butter, and the waiters were pleasant; they kept their smiles even when Zoe was throwing her crayons everywhere, and that made us happy, satisfied customers.
After lunch, we started our search for our next “home” in Baguio. We checked out South Drive Manor, a stone’s throw away from Iggy’s Inn. The room was decent, clean, and cozy, but it didn’t look like it was worth Php2,800. Our next stop was Ridgewood Residence near The Mansion. The lobby had a country feel to it and the staff were very accomodating. Standard room was reasonably priced at Php2,300 inclusive of breakfast for two, and they give a 10% discount to returning guests. We ended our search and checked in just in time for our afternoon nap. We had a great time at Ridgewood, so great that we preferred to hang out in our room instead of going out to where all the tourists went. Energized from our afternoon nap, we went to nearby Wright Park to let Zoe ride her horse, as promised. We chose for her a white horse named Genuine, and Zoe and her dad spent 30 minutes walking round and round the track. I was content watching them and waving at them from the sidelines, careful not to step on any horse poop. After Wright Park we went to the Baguio Cathedral to hear mass as thanksgiving for three wonderful years spent together. Zoe was really rowdy during the mass, running around and playing with another kid. Good thing we seated ourselves near the entrance and far from the altar, or else they might have kicked us out for causing all the racket.
The cathedral was a stone’s throw away from Volante, where we planned to have dinner. Big mistake, we opted to ride the car instead and find ourselves another parking slot. Session Road was bustling with so much activity and, you guessed it, there were no parking spaces available! We had to enter some side streets where we found a spot right beside a fishball cart. That got me yearning for Baguio’s chicharon bituka which I would eat during my childhood summers there. The manong pointed us to the top of Session Road. I couldn’t wait.
Volante serves Italian food and the place was crowded when we got there. We had to wait a few minutes before we got ourselves a table. We decided to try this Italian resto instead of the usual Don Henrico’s for a change. Besides, Don Hen is easily found in Manila. Thank God for the crayons and coloring book an aunt gifted Zoe, we were able to eat in peace. We loved their pasta in pesto sauce! The pizza was also delicioso. Prices were reasonable. A single serving of pasta costs Php70 at least. Volante is a great option if you’re looking for good Italian food at a cheap price. Sorry, we were too hungry already to take pics, but we were not that full after dinner to not eat the chicharon bituka. It was the first time for my husband to try this chicharon bituka I’ve been raving about. It’s different from the Manila chicharons because the Baguio weather leaves it dry and tasty. A bite of it will make you ask for more…Zoe, ever the stubborn one, insisted on tasting it. I gave in, thinking that she wouldn’t like it anyway, and also coz when you’re on a vacation, you kinda get lax with the rules and allow almost anything. She liked it and asked for more. I gave her tiny pieces but she spit most of it. Apparently, she found the chewing part tiresome.
If you’ve noticed, most of what we did in Baguio was eat. The crisp cool air seemed to have that effect on our appetites. Our eating does not stop. When we got back to Ridgewood, after an hour or so of being idle, Zoe and I munched on leftover pizza and Pringles. The following morning, on the day of our departure from Baguio, I woke up with diarrhea. Well, at least it was manageable, or so I thought. I still ate breakfast consisting of longganisa, sunny-side up, and garlic rice plus leftover pesto pasta like I was in control. Nothing much to it. We even went back to Wright Park for Zoe’s one last ride on a horse. She got Freedom this time, a beautiful brown horse. Her dad rode with her for 30 minutes. When it was over and they were walking the horse back to where I was waiting, Zoe started crying. She wanted more! Our hearts just melted and so we gave in, and this time I got to ride with Zoe. I have never been in love with horses. I remember riding them when I was young, but I couldn’t recall that I enjoyed. What I would always remember was the fear I constantly have when I’m riding, and that fear doubled when I rode with Zoe. I was scared we would fall off the horse, or the horse would runaway and gallop too fast. I couldn’t help but hold my breath everytime the guide would leave us alone. He assured me Freedom was a good horse and would sit in the sideline to rest. I know he must have been tired already from going round and round in circles with his horse but, after riding solo for a few minutes, I would panic and call the guide’s attention. Zoe was oblivious to my fears as she was just cherishing the moment and enjoying every minute of it. Alas, it was time to say goodbye. Zoe was already in tears as we approached her dad. She knew she couldn’t take the horse with her. Her dad had to distract her with ice cream. I heaved a big sigh of relief that we made it in one piece. My worries for nothing, tsk, tsk. Back at the hotel, I was starting to feel queasy. My tummy hasn’t returned to normal yet and I felt sick. Nevertheless, I dismissed whatever I felt. We made our last Baguio stop at 50’s diner along Leonard Wood. The interior was indeed very 50’s, like something from a Hollywood James Dean movie. Food was cheap and servings were BIG. I got the shock of my life when the chicken sandwich I ordered was thrice the size I pictured. I was really not in my best appetite here and my stomach was acting strange. I still enjoyed their watermelon shake as well as the strawberry milkshake and took tiny bites from my sandwich while I deliberated on postponing our trip back to Manila. I wanted to go home and crawl in bed. I couldn’t wait to be home and I’m starting to miss Bailey, our dog. But my tummy got the better of me and I asked my husband that we go back to Ridgewood. I didn’t have the energy for a 6-hour drive. It would be hell for me and hell for my husband. If I get sick and helpless in the car, my husband would have to drive and take care of Zoe. Now that’s something I will not allow. So off we went, back to Ridgewood. I must have been as white as sheet when we approached the front desk coz the staff sensed that something was wrong. They assisted us right away and got us a room. I was feeling so so sick I didn’t have the strength to talk. I wanted to curl in bed fast. My stomach was churning bad that I headed to the toilet upon entry to our room and puked. I could still taste the watermelon shake and chicken sandwich I had for lunch, hehe (pun intended). Zoe stood by the bathroom door, shocked at seeing me hugging the toilet bowl. She later on did her version of how I threw up. I felt horrible. I had chills and slept for what seemed like hours. When I woke up I felt a lot better. I didn’t throw up again but I did frequent the bathroom many times throughout the night d.t. diarrhea. I felt all the energy I had was flushed down the toilet and I didn’t have the urge and strength to eat at all. I wanted to cry, I wanted to be held, and I felt like a walking zombie. My husband said I must eat something, and so we headed to Rosebowl near Burnham Park for dinner. The food did me good but I still felt weak. I wanted my ordeal to end and I was getting impatient. Imagine, being in Baguio but not eating. That’s a nightmare!
I woke up the following morning feeling a whole lot better. I was still weak but I could manage. A quick stop at the city market for some pasalubong and we were on our way home.
The memory of my Baguio experience still haunts me up to now. What happened to me in Baguio did not end there. Back in Manila, my husband suddenly had the same attack as mine (nausea, vomiting), and then Zoe a few hours later (this I will blog about next). We’re guessing it might be the chicharon bituka that caused it. Another is the drinking water which, many say, Baguio is notorious for. We’ve asked for purified water in the restaurants we’ve gone to, but we’ve learned that purified doesn’t really make the water safe. Lesson learned.
Despite our vacation ending on a sour note, I still leave Baguio with fond memories, and I am still looking forward to another trip to Baguio. This time, with more caution as before, more bottled water, and zero street foods. : )