September 24, 2010 (Thursday)
My roomie and I hurriedly ate our breakfast to walk to Mines View Park before our scheduled Baguio tour. I couldn’t eat that much anyway because I had no appetite after a sleepless night. I filled my belly with a classic Filipino breakfast plate.
We got to the park in less than five minutes with a lot of time to spare. We had fun for our photo ops with the super big Beethoven (P25 for 3 shots per person), the Igorot costumes (P10 per person) and the beautiful view of the Cordillera. Good thing Mommy 2 caught up with us too and we posed away! It was very early anyway so there were only few people around.
Next time though I’ll take a picture with some pink-haired horses and elder Baguio ladies here (P10 per person). This park was supposed to show the former mining grounds that supported the Americans who first settled in these mountains and formed a small town. Eventually other settlers came, the town grew and it is now called Baguio, the City of Pines, the Philippines’ Summer Capital and sometimes, Little America. The town grew with houses patterned like their homes back in the States and exclusive structures such as Camp John Hay were built for the Americans.
Customized Experience 7: Stopovers
Strawberry Fields of La Trinidad
Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits and the only place in the Philippines where they grow is in “Baguio”. It should be corrected to La Trinidad, Benguet though which is near Baguio. I bought the Strawberry Taho sadly from a manong who did not make my wishes come true (taken from their sales pitch that buying the unique strawberry taho can make your dreams come true). Be picky when it comes to the vendors and choose the one that has a lot of pinkish food coloring. I heard you could haggle up to P15 too. Maybe it’s better than the strawberry preserve-like consistency I got. I refused to buy another one to make some space for some Strawberry Ice Cream. There was only a faint flavor of strawberry for both the taho (P20) and ice cream (P15) I bought. It was not strawberry harvest season too so the strawberries were limited and expensive (around P150 per 1/2kg). Note: you are supposed to open the plastic while en route to prevent moisture to form and bruise the strawberries. People were also not allowed to go into the fields anymore to pick their own strawberries. It’s sad because you could wave a strawberry at me at a cheap price and I would buy it. Picking my own perfect strawberries would be a treat too.
La Trinidad Greens on the Side
I turned my attention to the mountains and vegetation surrounding the valley. They were selling fresh and cheap vegetables in the area. For P40, I bought a kilo of Cucumbers (P20) and ¼ kg of some Organic Lettuce to take home with me (P20). They was also a chopseuy mix for P100 that had 9 different vegetables good for five times of cooking already. I remember there was a real bagsakan marketplace near this location several years back. I bet it’s cheap there too. All the vegetables in La Trinidad are PRETTY cheap and so fresh. I am going to tag Baguio, Benguet included, as veggie heaven for now. Sidenote: I read somewhere that Baguio was in the news a lot because the provinces beside it, particularly the mountainous areas surrounding it such as Benguet, get tagged as part of Baguio, especially the accidents, landslides and natural phenomena.
The Ukay-Ukay in Old Manila Session Road
I was not in the mood for some shopping but being in Session Road was like a blast from old Manila when I was young, only these streets of Baguio were so full of Ukay-Ukay stores. I wished there were some art theaters available and small coffee shops to complete the experience. Burnham Park was near and we walked a little to enjoy the Baguio breeze. SM Baguio though was too far away from where the van left us and we still had to find the pickup point. It was a good thing my roomie was not a first-timer here. Another feedback I got though was that the prices for Ukay-Ukay items here have increased dramatically over the years and it is a little far from the P10s and P20s of before.
The Strawberry Sinigang and Chopseuy Treat
I was looking forward to go back to the hotel for lunch with their original and unique specialty: The Strawberry Sinigang.
I have always loved sinigang with its tangy flavor and especially if it’s hot soup. Basically, the treat we had tasted like normal pork sinigang with a surprise twist every time you bite into the juicy strawberries. I had fun eating them one by one - sometimes I get sweet, sometimes sour but it was all right because it was sinigang and strawberries. I guess the strawberry flavor would come out and stick more to the soup if the strawberries were cooked like tomatoes instead of putting them after when you keep the dish warm. If I were to do this soup on my own, I would have to time it when there are strawberries to buy in the supermarket. In Baguio and Mines View Park Hotel, they serve it to you hot and fresh buffet style together with another one of their original concoctions, the Bibingcrepe. Note: Be the first in that line because the strawberries in that soup tend to run out quick.
I guess some people didn’t notice the chopseuy that was in the buffet too. It would suffice to say that I regret not buying that chopseuy mix for P100 in La Trinidad.
Pasalubongs, Take Home and The Good Shepherd Line
Again, my roomie and I headed over to Mines View Park for some last minute shopping and gifts. I figured that the merchandise they sold in La Trinidad can also be found here because we passed by the stores here in our early walk before the tours. True enough, all the knitted wear Baguio is famous for, the plants and packed food were sold here too (I think at almost the same price). I used to love the galapong treat they call “kulangot” too.
I bought the infamous Mika’San Choc’o Flakes (P65) for my family (cornflakes coated in white or brown chocolate, you can make this at home) and some Tartland Lengua de Gato (yummy mini white ladyfingers) for myself. I loved the Tartland Lengua (P80) so much that I finished it in around two sittings when I got home. It’s the perfect to satisfy that craving of sweets and you are allergic to cocoa like me.
We also stopped by The Good Shepherd store, which sells yummy purple yam (ube) but the oatmeal (P65) and butter cookies (P65) I bought did not taste so good. I say the purple yam is worth lining up for. They say you can only buy two bottles per person though due to the high demand (I’m not sure if that is still being implemented today because they have a lot of products already). Oh, and they accept credit cards now!
The Blogger Experience
Looking back, I guess what made this trip memorable and fun were all the people I met and spent time with. I was lucky that I was with such great company in what I call my reintroduction to Baguio. My interest was revived because of the experience and their stories of Baguio when they went there with their families and friends. It becomes more interesting when you see that there are people who share your passion to travel and are as happy as you are for the ride, for the food and for all the stuff you will discover in a place. The energy, enthusiasm, the rush and the laughter just wouldn’t die down even after you’re in the car on the way home with them.
To Az, Iris, Iris, Flow, Omar, Alex, Jori, Jeman, Jen, Jeff, Audrey, Mee-I, Gael, JayL, Fjordz and Arvin, it was nice to meet you all and I’m glad I got to know you better! Thanks for the memories.
This trip is a starter’s experience filled with common tourist spots and activities applied to a Baguio setting. It is good enough for that short overnight trip, bonding with your friends or a team-building activity. I am sure I will be back for the food trips and other incredible stuff to do and incredible sights to see. My old impression of Baguio is definitely almost gone now.
1 Apostol St., Corner Outlook Drive
Mines View Park, Baguio City