When one of my bosses asked me if I wanted to go to Baguio I didn’t hesitate to say YES. Who does not want to spend a day or two in the Philippines’ summer capital? Even though I was feeling under the weather (I have been sniffling from the common colds and the incessant rain showers here in Manila the past few days did not help my condition), I grabbed the opportunity to visit Baguio again. The best part of the bargain was that I’d be able to spend the night in one of the new hotels there for free!
It was actually an invitation for press people to check out Mines View Park Hotel, a relatively unknown hotel just a few meters away from the famous Mines View Park (yes, that place where you have a breathtaking view of Benguet’s mountain ranges).
That Thursday morning (October 7, 2010), I got up at 2 AM to make sure I won’t be late for the 5:30 call time. I was the third to arrive and after the getting-to-know-yous over breakfast with the other writers and editors, we set off for the long drive to our destination.
The group I belonged to included Cosmo mag’s Irish and Chalk’s Kate. Our ‘guide’ was Lot, the girl from 55 Events Place and Toyota Innova’s driver, Kuya Rodel.
Since we all got up super early and because we were all full from the breakfast we had, it wasn’t a surprise that we eventually dozed off, leaving our driver, traversing the SCTEX in silence.
I woke up in the middle of the drive and found ourselves along the roads of Tarlac (it was only an hour after we left Quezon City). It was a stretch of talahiban. After a few stopovers in Shell stations, we set off to the zigzag roads leading to the City of Pines.
It’s my third time to go to Baguio but it was the first instance that I got to see the blue skies. The first time I went up there I took the bus that left Manila in 2 in the morning and the last time although I was boarding a private car, I had to brave the heavy rains because there was a storm when I took the trip.
So I took photos of the mountains and the skies as we sped off Kennon Road. There was even a time that we turned off the car’s aircon and rolled the windows down so we could breathe in the cool air.
Boy, was I not thankful that I am not one of those who get byahilo easily. I enjoyed the zigzag drive and as we passed by the familiar landmarks (The Mansion, Wright Park, Camp John Hay) I couldn’t contain my excitement over checking the hotel out where we would be spending the night.
Then we saw the white edifice of a villa-like structure. It was high noon but we were greeted by the very cool breeze upon stepping out of the respective cars that we giddily reached for the warm towels offered to us by the welcoming staff of Mines View Park Hotel.
Me and my ‘car mates’ managed to arrange to be together in one big room and after checking in our luggage, we proceeded to the hotel’s function room where our lunch buffet was.
The lunch included the mini press conference with the hotel’s VP for Operations Gillette Garcia. I had to juggle eating and asking questions to Gillette, grabbing the chance that I was seated next to him. We were served chicken, vegetables, sea foods (which I avoided because of allergic reactions) but the highlight of all the food was the homemade refrigerated mango cake which everyone loved and if I was not having hoarse voice and sore throat, I would likely helped my self a second serving.
We proceeded to the tour of the hotel, taking the stairs as there were no elevators available yet (Gillette said they plan to install them in half a year’s time). By the time we reached the fifth floor, we could swear we didn’t need to go to the gym anymore to work out. Exhausted by the long drive, we went to our rooms and took a short nap afterwards.
A call woke us up. The front desk was reminding us about joining the yoga session. We wouldn’t miss it for the world! It would be my first time and I’d like to try it out even though I knew my body is as stiff as a stick. 😛
So we went to the yoga session and I must say I enjoyed it, some of the poses were hard to do but since it’s my first time to really try it, I think I did a good job.
We then proceeded to bibingcrepe making. Bibingcrepe is a toss between bibingka and crepe. It is like the Indonesian martabak, a sweet, thick pancake topped with anything from cheese, chocolate, crushed peanuts, condensed milk, and sesame. Bibingcrepe will leave you asking if it’s a pancake or a bibingka.
I was tempted to try cooking bibingcrepe as we were encouraged to make our own but there were a lot of finished products already and we all wanted to grab a piece and sample the finished products. Just imagine if all of us (I think a dozen participants) made our own bibingcrepe and we had to eat them all considering that dinner was about to be served after the activity.
I had to beg off from tasting the succeeding bibingcrepes as I didn’t like to spoil my appetite for dinner.
I really feel bad that I didn’t take photos of the food I had been eating right there. I just took pieces/ morsel of food to my plate and tried to eat my dinner amid the distractions. I say distractions because aside form the usual chit chats among us guests, there were Igorot dancers performing during the dinner.
My room mate and I were pondering on going out after dinner to check out the bars nearby but decided to stay with the others as the group went on to have a videoke session at the function hall. The others, on the other hand, decided to get room massage.
I was dying to sing but with my hoarse voice, after two songs I relinquished the microphone to much deserving people and suit myself singing by the sidelines.
We were about to head to our rooms to call it a night but we remember the fireplace and the marshmallows. So we went to fireplace and for the sake of having a bonfire, we tried roasting the marshmallows. The fire was so hot, it burned the marshmallows on stick. After a few more tries and not so successful outcomes, we abandoned our mission.
But we were not about to call it a night, not yet. Irish, my room mate needed to take photos of the gimmick places so I offered to go with her. Together with the hotel manager JP and Gillette, we drove to Gen. Luna Road and checked out 50’s Diner and Red Lion Bar.
On our way back to the hotel, we passed by Session Road and saw the throngs of vendors and their ukay-ukay products (I would have liked to shop right there and there knowing that the prices are much cheaper but of course I couldn’t). We also passed by the lot where the former Hyatt Hotel stood before the 1990 earthquake. It was dark but if you think about it, it was still spooky, especially after hearing the haunted stories about the hotel.
I didn’t have a hard time sleeping, didn’t wake up in the middle of my slumber and was up and about by 6 am the following morning. It was really something to wake up with the sunlight peeking through the window (although the blind was drawn, I couldn’t resist taking photos from our balcony.
I took a bath afterward and after struggling with the heater, I was ready for breakfast.
And what scrumptious breakfast they have! I can still taste the Alabanza longganisa and the Espadang daing (dried swordfish which was so crisp yet not too salty!) and that special vinegar with their homemade chili flakes. Their special coffee completes this wonderful feast (now I’m craving for the longganisa and the daing!) Yum!
We have two places of choice for our free time that morning — a trip to ukay-ukay or Mines View Park. Since majority of the girls wanted to go to ukay-ukay and we were waiting for the others to go down, some of us took this opportunity to go to Mines View and check out the St. Bernard dog.
And just as we ascend the park there he was, Bummer. We were told he is already the son of the Doglas (?).
I took more photos of the overlooking mountains and some items sold there.
We went back to the hotel to go to the city and do some shopping! But since we have limited time (we had to go back to the hotel for the lunch) I was not able to buy a lot, just two pieces of tops (it was also hard rummaging through the dusty clothes with runny and sensitive nose).
We also went to Oh My Gulay, a restaurant and art gallery located at the fifth floor of La Azotea Building along Session Road. It’s my first time to go there and I can’t take my eyes away from the fixtures, the walls, the structures —all screaming of artistry.
After taking photos of the place, we all sat down and ordered our food.
I chose the house specialty Oh My Gulay salad over the pastas and desserts since we were also looking forward to the strawberry sinigang waiting for us back in the hotel.
While we were eating, we were entertained by the waiter who turned out to be doing magic stunts back in Manila. At first we were hesitant since we thought he was going to ask for an additional fee for the magic stint but when he made it clear that he’s showing us his tricks for free, we gladly watched him perform. He claimed he’s training from the same group where Berwin Meily trained and I must admit he was good. We decided to give him additional tip for that.
We were supposed to pass by the Tea House and Restaurant still along Session Road but we were running late so we didn’t push through with the plan. I heard they have this best seller Chona’s Delight, a refrigerated cake consisting of layers of chocolate cake frosting and fillings of creamy custard and whipped cream. That would have been heavenly! Just the same it was a good thing we didn’t go since I was still recuperating from my colds.
Back at the hotel, we finally got to taste strawberry sinigang, MVPH’s own concoction of the well-loved sinigang. Nothing shockingly different. Instead of using sampaloc to achieve the sour taste, they used strawberries. The result was a sweet tangy fruity flavor.
That sinigang was something to try out when you go to MVPH. But personally, I would still prefer the original sinigang because it has the strong, solid sour taste.
A trip to Good Shepherd to buy some pasalubong ushered in the drive back to Manila. As I bid goodbye to the cool weather, the pine trees and the green lush forests, I took home with me snapshots of Baguio memories.