Baguio

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For several years now, we have been visiting Baguio every last weekend of November. We would often look for transient houses for accommodation since it is a lot cheaper. This time, however, we opted to try High Point Boutique Inn and Restaurant, which was located along Kennon Road. We paid just 3,000 pesos for 3 days and 2 nights. I have written a review of the hotel here.

It was a couple of minutes before 4 am when we went to the terminal of Victory Liner in Cubao. We were surprised to know that their next available trip will be 8 am. We did not purchase tickets in advance, leaving us with no choice but to walk to the nearby Dagupan Bus Terminal. We left past 5 am and arrived in Baguio at lunch time.

From the time we stepped out of the bus, we were already preoccupied with thoughts of where to eat since we were all hungry. We first needed to spend some time looking for a place where our friend could stay since he did not book his accommodation in advance. After taking a look at one of the hostels just near the bus terminal, we went to eat at Good Taste Restaurant. Upon seeing the place, I thought that it will be quite a while before we can find a table since it is packed with people, considering that it was lunch time. Luckily, we were immediately seated. This place offers good value for money. If there’s one good thing about this restaurant, it would be that if offers cheap food. We shared a meal good for three and paid only around 700 pesos. Food isn’t only cheap, but also good-tasting, living by the way it is named. It has two floors of dining area and a very busy atmosphere. It is one of those places where you would immediately like to leave after eating as it does not offer an ambiance that is good for having conversations.

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Food from Good Taste

We headed to High Point after lunch. It wasn’t 2pm yet when we arrived, so we needed to wait before checking-in. When we finally got settled inside the room that we booked, we had a quick rest before heading to Camp John Hay. The only reason why we went to the latter is to check out their line of outlet stores. We ended up buying nothing. Most of their items are still expensive. Some are even more expensive than what you will find in the mall.

For dinner, we went to Ketchup Food Community, which was a compound of various restaurants, each serving their own specialty cuisines. We decided to try Happy Tummy. They specialize in Thai food, which was surprisingly cheap and good. We had Fish Fillet, Chicken Curry, and Chicken Satay. Once you had a bite of their food, it will be easier for you to understand why this place always gets full.

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It’s almost impossible for me to go on a vacation without having drinks wherever I am. In Baguio, Rumours remains to be one of my favorites. I first tried this place when I was strolling along Session Road finding a place to drink alone. The place is quite small and it gets crowded easily. We first sat on the bar and began drinking before we were finally transferred to a vacant table. I recommend ordering Oriental Meatballs to go along with your favorite drinks – beer, in my case.

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By the bar at Rumours

The next day, we woke up early to have our free breakfast and soon headed to BenCab Museum. We asked some people from the hotel how far is the museum supposed to be and we were informed that it is an hour away. I checked Google Maps and it shows that it is actually closer than what we were informed, so we still decided to pay a visit. You need to pay 100 pesos as donation upon entry. The place has several galleries showcasing works from different artists, including Ben Cabrera, of course. From time to time, it also serves as a venue for exhibit of more recent works from various artists. While the museum is composed of different areas, one of the most notable is the Erotika Gallery. Its name in itself is already enough to fuel curiosity and to prompts guests to check it out.

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Erotika Gallery

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From different galleries

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BenCab is not just all about artworks. It is a place where you can commune with nature and enjoy good food, though not necessarily exceptional. Before checking out the different galleries that it houses, we had lunch at Café Sabel. This is the museum’s in-house restaurant and its best asset is not its food, but the good view that you can enjoy while you are eating. From the tables outside, you can see the garden and the pond, serving as the perfect backdrop for the meal that you are about to enjoy. The restaurant has a welcoming homey ambiance that will make you satisfied even before you had the first bite from your food. It’s great for taking panorama shots! While eating, we even had the chance to see Ben Cabrera just walking around and checking on the guests. Of course, we did not miss the opportunity to have a picture taken with him.

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With Ben Cabrera

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Cafe Sabel

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The view from Cafe Sabel

It took us a couple of minutes before we were finally able to find a cab from BenCab going back to the city proper. Our next stop for the day was Mt. Cloud Bookshop and Hill Station, which we also never fail to visit during our recent Baguio trips. At Mt. Cloud, guests can buy not only books, but other items as well, such as a kaleidoscope. Guests are allowed to bring their coffee or beer and just read the titles that are available.

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The Hill Station

While there is an abundance of choices when it comes to some of the best places to eat while in Baguio, one that stands out from the rest is Forest House. When we went there for dinner, a couple of guests are waiting in line. We thought that we might wait as well, until we were offered to eat at the basement area, which is the restaurant’s extension. I find the extension to be actually better than the main dining area. It is not that crowded and only a few people are there.

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Forest House

For the night’s drinks, we went to Rumours again and stayed there for a while after checking the night market for the second time. I also spent some alone time in Nevada. Compared to the first time I’ve been to Nevada, the place is quite toned down now. Some of the drinking places I have seen before have permanently closed. You still need to pay 50 pesos as entrance. Paying 5 pesos per entry to the wash room is no longer mandatory. I had a couple of drinks at Friday’s, a small club with old and not-so-good music. Since I was alone, I opted to grab a seat outside where I can have a good view of other people. I saw a lot of Koreans. Many of them were having a good time, and some, drunk.

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Nevada Square

We checked out before 1pm and met with our friends who were staying at Baguio Palace Hotel to leave our things. For lunch, we went to Ketchup Food Community again and tried Ruma Sate. We ate at this place twice during our last visit and we enjoyed the food a lot. Same story this year. Food is still good and I had no regrets choosing this among others within the area. We visited Good Shepherd Convent and the public market afterwards to shop for some pasalubong. We had our tickets booked and ended up having a ticket for the bus that leaves an hour later than what we originally intended to take.  

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Chicken Satay

The Lantern Parade, which I guess was a sign of welcoming the holiday season, was held that night. We checked it out for a bit and found nothing special about it. We had dinner at Café by the Ruins, which is another favorite of mine in Baguio. The place is being considered by many as already being an institution in the city’s restaurant scene. I had their carbonara and pandan iced tea. The place is good for romantic dates and intimate conversations, especially as there is good music playing on the background.

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As we made our way out of Baguio, I can’t help but think about the next time we’ll visit. It may be a year again from the said trip. For sure, we’ll be again trying the favorites that I have mentioned, as well as some new good places to eat. Food is perhaps one of the city’s best assets, and I am happy that we had the opportunity to try some of the best that it has to offer.

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High Point Boutique Inn and Restaurant, Baguio City

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Situated along Kennon Road, High Point Boutique Inn and Restaurant is most probably the best place where I stayed in the last years that I have visited Baguio. Initially, we wanted to stay in a hotel along Session Road since it is near where all the action is. However, given the short amount of time that we have before our travel date, prices proved to be high. Given such, we settled with High Point instead.

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While searching for hotels online, I found this deal from High Point where they are offering a discount in all of their room rates. We booked a Standard Room for November 29 to December 1. The normal rate for this room is 2,500 pesos, but we were lucky to have booked it for a discounted rate of only 1,500 pesos. The room is good for two and has one double bed. I was expecting the room to be small, given that it was the cheapest that they have. Surprisingly, it has a generous size and it was more than what I expected. It has air conditioning, TV, comfortable overstuffed arm chair, and a small wooden bench. I asked them before thru text if the room has a balcony and they informed me that all of their rooms have balconies. When we were there, however, it turned out that there really is no balcony. I did not complain at all. You just need to open the window and you can have a good view and savor the cool Baguio air.

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It has a small bathroom with a divider that separates the toilet from the shower. One of the major problems that we encountered was that the water pressure was quite low. Also, it takes quite a while before water heats up. When it is heated, it becomes scorching hot and you have to play with the knobs to set it at just the right temperature.

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The Bathroom

Even if the room was at a discounted rate, we were still given free breakfast. You have to choose from four of their available meals and I opted to have toast, butter, and egg for the two days that we were staying at the hotel. There is nothing much that can be appreciated from this meal, especially as the serving size is minimal. However, it is for free and we got the room at a really cheap price, so I should not be complaining about that at all. Breakfast is served at their restaurant that is located at the ground floor and serves food and drinks until late at night.

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First and second day breakfast. Notice the difference?

The location of the hotel is one of the issues that you might possibly have if you decide to book with them. It is located around 15 minutes away from the city proper, which was already quite far. It is ideal, however, if you are looking for seclusion from the noise that the city offers.

I was surprised when I saw that they have an elevator, considering the fact that it only has three floors. I ended up being more surprised, however, when I learned that the elevator is not functioning. To get to our room, we needed to take the spiral staircase, which was then beautifully adorned with Christmas décor.

Separate from the main building where the rooms are located, they have one big covered area where you can hang out and eat and there is another area that serves as the venue for the events that they host. The latter is a glass-walled greenhouse, as described in the hotel’s website. One night during our stay, there was an 18th birthday party being held at the said venue and that was perhaps the only time that the hotel was crowded.

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View from our room’s window, staircase, dining area, and the elevator that’s not working!

In sum, it was an experience worth the price that we have paid. The hotel looks well-maintained, including the rooms. The employees were attentive of our needs and you can see how they exert effort to give their guests a pleasurable stay.  There were not too many people during the time that we were there, which makes it even better.

Baguio Thanksgiving Weekend

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Baguio holds the charm which I would say is comparable to Boracay. No matter how many times I set foot on such place, it will always feel like it’s the first time. This trip to Baguio was our third for the year. However, this time, we decided that it will be different in the sense that it will not involve any of those Baguio cliches. By this, I mean not visiting traditional places like Camp John Hay, Burnham, Mines View Park, and The Mansion, among others. Instead, we will go hopping on different restaurants and cafes within the vicinity.

The first place where I ate was at The Flying Gecko along Session Road. I was alone on my first day, and on that day as well, I ate on this place thrice. I had a portion of carbonara and iced tea twice, and had their hot chocolate once. Also tried their Beef Tapa and Apple Custard Pie. The good thing about this place is that they have their food served in portion or whole, depending on how much of an eater you are.

On the first night, while I was alone, I also had the chance to have a quick alcohol-sip all by myself. I went to Ayuyang but could not find a seat, so I decided to walk along Session Road to find myself a decent place to have a quick drink. I landed at Rumour’s, located at the far end of Session. I sat by the bar and had my Jack. The place is like Baguio’s own Distillery or Reserve, less the party atmosphere. I was quite small, but good enough for a glass or two.

On our second day, I had breakfast alone at Cafe by the Ruins. This place in one of my favorites and I would not definitely mind going back the next time I’m in Baguio.  The place is cozy and artistic. At one of the dining areas, you can see the ruins of a garden theater which has been later transformed into a residence and now serves as one of the major pieces in the cafe.

Cafe by the Ruins Menu

For my breakfast, I had Carbonara, Chocolate de Agua, and iced tea.

Carbonara                                                                       “Home-cured bacon, egg, and cream in hand-cranked noodles, made w/ fresh eggs. Served with focaccia. 

Chocolate de Agua                                     “A mug of pure, bittersweet chocolate tablea dissolved in water, the Mexican way, with a touch of sugar. Served with cinnamon toasts made of brioche”

Pandan Lemon Grass Iced Tea with Honey

For lunch, we decided to try the Slaughter House. We heard this place from some friends and we decided to give it a shot as we received good feedback about the place. Slaughter House does not refer to the name of a specific establishment. Rather, it collectively houses a line of carinderia which serves good food at a cheap price. We had Sinigang na Baboy, Inihaw na Liempo, Inihaw na Pusit, and Talong for lunch.

Sinigang na Baboy

Inihaw na Pusit

Inihaw na Liempo

Talong

After having lunch, we went to Mt. Cloud Bookshop, located at Casa Vallejo. We chanced upon a small talk in the place but did not stay long. The shop is a perfect place to read some books while sipping a cup of coffee or drinking a bottle of beer.

Bookshelf at Mt. Cloud

Near the bookshop, also at Casa Vallejo, there is a restaurant called Hill Station. We decided to have a quick stay in the place. It is marketed as one of the best restaurants in Baguio, and even voted as one of the best in Asia. The place hosts a collection of framed photos and is nothing beyond any other cafe in a hotel lobby.

A wall of framed photos at Hill Station

Hill Station Iced Tea

Cafe Mocha

Death by Chocolate Cake

We then headed to Mother’s Garden Panorama Cafe after a stay at the Hill Station. The place, no wonder, is tagged as a panorama cafe because of the amazing view it offers its guests. Apart from being a cafe, the place is also a garden. There are various herbs grown indoors and outdoors, and various animals including rabbits and birds. They also offer free pottery and wood carving workshop, as well as free face painting, if the artist happens to be there. While there, we met Cel, a Fine Arts student from UP Baguio working at Mother’s Garden as the resident artist of the place. He does sketches and other works of art to help entertain the guests.

For this trip, it was already my second time in the place. I was lucky to have met the owner on my first day. She is a kind lady, maybe in her 60s, and obviously, with passion for gardening. Aside from the magnificent panoramic view of the city, you can also enjoy privacy in this place. On the two times we were there, we were the only guests. The place has a cafe, herb conservatory, petting farm, plant nursery, kindergarten, hobby shop, and souvenir shop.

Panoramic View of the City from Mother’s Garden

Petting Farm at Mother’s Garden

Green Tea

Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberry Coulis

We also tried their beef burger twice during this weekend trip.

The house which we rented was ;just near the place so we decided to have a quick nap first before heading out for dinner.

We had dinner at Forest House. It was a bad idea to go there without reservations as the place is small and often full. We waited for a few minutes before we were finally seated. The place is also tagged as one of Baguio’s best restaurants and prides itself for offering reasonable (not low) prices, given the quality of their food and service.

Forest House

Forest House Iced Tea

 Potato Chowder Soup in Bread

Vegetable Kebab Served on a Bed of Java Rice

Forest House Wine Sauced Chicken “Grilled chicken breast marinated in white wine and served in creamy white sauce with vegetables on the side”

Fireplace at Forest House Entrance

Another thing which is unusual about this trip is that there’s not too much beer involved. After dinner at Forest House, we went to Cafe Will for coffee and beer, short walk at Session Road, and coffee and beer again at Zola.

Will’s Best Coffee                                     “Hot coffee with Ice Cream on Top”

Zola

Entrance at Zola

On our last day, we went to Oh My Gulay for breakfast. We were quite disappointed when we found out that they have limited items on the menu. Nonetheless, the place is artistic – an evidence of having Kidlat Tahimik as one of the owner’s. It is located on the top floor of La Azotea along Session Road.

Oh My Gulay’s Menu

Oh My Gulay Entrance

Limonada “Freshly-squeezed native lemonade”

Oh My Gulay Club Sandwich “Two-decker sandwich of plump tomatoes, crisp cucumber and egg, served with green salad”

Kung Fu “Sweet and succulent Mandarin orange segments with chocolate and cream drizzles, stuffed in hot buttered crepe”

The view from the second floor

One of the dining areas inside Oh My Gulay

Inside Oh My Gulay

After going to the public market for a quick pasalubong shopping, we had our last meal for the trip at Jim’s Retro Diner which is also located at La Azotea. The place is like 50’s Diner and Bambenny’s, with their milkshakes and giant burgers. I just find it quite off that there’s Pancit Canton in a retro diner.

Jim’s Retro Diner Menu

Inside Jim’s

Pancit Canton

Cordon Bleu

For this trip, we stayed at Our Place Bed and Breakfast. It is a house with three bedrooms, a common bathroom, kitchen, fridge, dining area, living room, and fireplace.

2010 Destinations

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2010 was a good year for me, especially because I have had the chance to visit and explore a number of local destinations. It was, of course, even made more special by the company of my beloved friends. Below are the places I have visited last year.

1. Bauan, Batangas.

With my then fellow Corporate Accounts Specialists from San Miguel, we stayed at Coco Hills Beach Resort. A quite  quiet far-off place. One thing which I cannot forget with this trip (well, remembering is hard for me because I was drunk and all recollections were based on stories) was that I woke up wearing a friend’s shirt and used boxers I have worn the day before. That was definitely one trip to remember.

2. Caramoan, Camarines Sur.

This was a trip with my fellow orgmates from the Commerce Journal, the official student publication of the College of Commerce of the University of Santo Tomas. This is the inspiration behind the formation of the CJ Travel Club. The long trip and gigantic waves made the trip more memorable. The highlights of course included the islands (clear water and amazing rock formations) and the food. The trip ended with a day tour at CamSur Watersports Complex.

One of the Islands in Caramoan.

An old church in Caramoan

The Shrine. An activity I would not recommend.

At another island in Caramoan

Jump shot!

AT CamSur Watersports Complex

3. Potipot Island, Zambales.

After CJ Travel Clubs Caramoan trip, the destination which followed was Potipot Island in Zambales. Long trip. The island was not at all that superb making it not worth all the effort. We stayed at a nearby accommodation, Dawal Beach Resort, which is about 5-minutes away via boat ride from Potipot.

* Photo from Theejay Natividad.

* Photo from Melissa Sue Molina

4. Boracay

Definitely one of the best destinations for me. This marked my fourth visit to Boracay. But then, Boracay remains number one on my list of beach destinations simply because it got all in one place. I will definitely visit this island again. I was there with three of my friends and we got a boutique hotel for only 2,300. One of the best thing we did while there was helmet diving. Definitely, a must-try for everyone. Snorkeling site was not that good. Puerto Galera’s corals and fishes were much better for me. It was rainy when we were there so the waves were huge. A lot of people were into kite surfing. Of course, do not forget Jonah’s Fruit Shake. Calamansi Muffin from The Real Coffee is also worth a try. And 15 shots from Cocomangga’s which we did not try.

Milflores de Boracay

Helmet Diving in Boracay for only 500 pesos for 30 mins.

Snorkeling

AT the boat during island hopping

Sandcastle

Boracay’s shoreline unusually crowded with paraws.

Guilly’s Boracay

5. Baguio

Another memorable trip from last year. I went there, with four other friends, last week of November, so it was quite cold already because of the Christmas season. Not too much cultural activities were accomplished (against what was planned). Much of the time were spent drinking (even ’til 8am). Cafe by the Ruins should definitely be given a visit. 50s Diner as well. Baguio is like Boracay for me: one place which will always be worth visiting, even for countless times. In fact, early this year, after less than two months, I was at Baguio again.

In Igorot costumes at Mines View

Cafe by the Ruins

At one of the churches in Baguio

Baguio nightlife at Nevada