September 23, 2010 (Thursday)
I’m glad the trip to Baguio only took 5.5 hours with the new expressway. It’s also a good geography lesson too as we passed by the provinces north of Manila one by one. You know you’re almost halfway when you start going through the endless zigzagged roads of the Cordillera mountain range.
I was ready to be proven wrong. For me, there’s nothing in Baguio except that I get to wear my jacket in natural cold weather. My two or three “uneventful” Baguio trips were regular family road trips to escape the Manila heat. We would normally rent a house, go to a few places I couldn’t remember and prepare to sleep in the car for the long 8-hour drive back home. The latest was only a stopover from our Sagada trip since we were already there anyway.
What was different though about this trip is that I am going on my own with people I don’t really know and that I had researched the day before and came up with, surprisingly, A LOT of places I wanted to go to and things I wanted to do in Baguio. In the car, the stories from back in the days started to intrigue me more about the Baguio I never knew. There was talk about people giving out promotional freebies such as food and shampoo near the crisscross roads to Baguio during Holy Week and the time when the prehistoric Internet Relay Chat helped connect eager Baguio students with Manila students like us.
I was pretty psyched, hyped and awake when the Welcome to Baguio lion-head statue appeared.
This is my inside story about this wonderful brief overnight stay in Baguio.
The Healthy Buddy Experience
We arrived in Mines View Park Hotel in time for lunch. There in the buffet table, I met Buddy with his warm smile handing me a generous cup of watercress soup. I also got a healthy serving of Baguio’s crunchy and fresh greens. I never had a creamy watercress soup before and I liked it so much that I had a second serving. As for the service, I am guessing everybody was endeared to Buddy from that first day. It is definitely rare to find such a great and personalized service and he can only be found at this particular hotel.
The Ambiance and Feel of the Place (Mines View Park Hotel)
I bet it has never crossed any traveler’s mind to consider including a trip around the hotel in their itinerary. This could be the case if there is nothing to see or if it’s not as exciting as a Disneyland Hotel. Since it was an open house, I was glad to have that glimpse of the things I can do and places I can escape to if ever I want to stay here again. They had WIFI and these cute dorm-style rooms you see on TV in the attic of the hotel.
The general feeling I got was of quiet calm and peace. The weather and breeze were also just right for this afternoon. I was looking for the pine tree scent all the while because I saw pine trees everywhere. They say I would probably have more luck in Camp John Hay.
In the meantime, I could hide away and relax or they have lots of customized activities I could join in to keep me busy. Note: If you choose to relax, you can have all the peace you need because this hotel is located in Baguio’s quiet side but it’s a short distance away from the party areas if ever you’re ready to shed that shell. If you want to do the latter, go to Baguio and the hotel WILL customize it for you and your friends’ trip. This place makes me feel special and they can make it a different bonding Baguio experience with friends. I never thought of squeezing a hotel out of every service they are willing to offer before. Hey, they’ve tried it at least once with us. Here they have made it part of my experience.
Customized Experience 1: Cold Yoga
Back in Manila, the fad today is to do some yoga in a sauna-hot place where you will lose weight in the process. It did not work out for me and I never went back because I couldn’t even breathe. Ever fancy doing the opposite? Yoga in a cold place is so much FUN. This time I could concentrate with proper breathing and I felt very relaxed instantly with the temperature and fresh air even if I sweated a little. I guess the greatest advantage since I was serious about learning and doing the right positions was the overdue stretch for my muscles. As for the long-term effect of this experience, I believe the stretch from yoga also gave me that relief in the spine whenever I correct my posture and straightened my back after I got back home from the trip. I hope other people would stop torturing themselves in hot yogas but I guess you will not find a cold yoga here in Manila that easily. Of course, you could only get fresh air in places like Baguio. Kudos to Elmer for pushing my body to its limits and making the experience worthwhile!
Customized Experience 2: Fortune-Un-Told
I would run out the door before I scare myself with a fortuneteller. This time though, he left me confused and doubtful. As always, it was not a good experience. It was funny though how I told my own fortune. Outside, the fog was heavy because it had started to rain.
Customized Experience 3: Cooking & Eating Bibingcrepe
I wasn’t hungry yet when we got called to cook and eat our creations. We were taught how to make the Bibingcrepe, which is bibingka recipe cooked in a cast-iron pan like the way crepe is made. After making the batter mixture, you would have to run the ladle lightly on the edges to produce a crispy Bibingcrepe. When it was ready, I put sugar, margarine, condensed milk, cheese and a LOT of marshmallows unlike the original chocolate mallows and cheese flavor. It was good although I wished I hadn’t put that salty cheese.
Customized Experience 4: Cordillera Natives and BBQ Dinner
They called some native Igorots to perform for our outdoor BBQ dinner. They faded into the background though somewhere in the middle. It was probably because they seemed pretty young and non-Igorot-like with their fair complexions, tall stature and that English song. My attention was with the dinner selection and my mind was with the experiences I had so far. The kebab was great but my favorite was still the fresh Baguio greens on the table. The option to eat healthy did not come from any urge to go on a diet. In Baguio, it just came naturally because the fresh lettuce and yummy cherry tomatoes I ate just tasted so good, light and refreshing (I think I tasted strawberry vinaigrette…). Plus, I still had space for our next treat!
Customized Experience 5: Something’s Roasting in an Open Fire
What I liked about Baguio ever since I was little were the high pointed ceilings and the possibility of the houses having fireplaces like in the States. I like the feeling that it’s always Christmas in a way. I was thrilled to find a fireplace near the dining area. I wished there was one in my room too (it was getting SO cold by 9 p.m.)! Only a few braved the cold from their rooms and roasted limited marshmallows in the fire in the main hall. I was content with taking some “holiday” pictures, sampling the burnt mallows, hearing the crackling pinewood and feeling all cozy and warm. The only thing missing were some Christmas songs in the background.
Customized Experience 6: Singing Til’ Dawn
Karaoke is such an integral part of overnight bonding trips and company outings, especially here in the Philippines. I wished there was a stage for the performers for full effect and more microphones. It’s really easy to get carried away especially when you all agree that the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls songs are karaoke must-sings with matching dance moves. The activity is always a hit wherever you are.
The stamina of the group died down at around 12 a.m. and we all went back to rest for the next busy day. I was not a fan of the cold so I woke up in the middle of the night. The thin blanket did not help as well as the incessant barking of the dogs outside. I forced myself to sleep but I woke up three more times wondering if it was 7 a.m. already. I would probably invite more people in the room in my next trip here. I don’t like the dark, the cold and eerie sounds mixed together.