Sunday, December 22, 2013

Baguio in December

I currently live in one of the most humid provinces in the Philippines. One of the few wishes I have every Christmas is to have holidays with at least a mild semblance of the cold cheer that comes with the holidays. Sadly, my wishes are not always granted. I realized that I had to improvise.

This December, a small group of people and I made our way up to Baguio to experience what this Christmas city had to offer for us. Here's what transpired during our very eventful trip.

The first shot is of the huge Christmas tree in the middle of Session Road. The tree is located on a small concrete island in the middle of a rotunda. I thought a shot of the tree would look interesting with the swirling red and yellow tail lights around it. To get this shot, we had to climb up the roof (and by roof, I mean inclined metal sheet roofing) that was slippery with fog in order to get an overlooking view of the tree.

We visited Mines View Park (pictured below) in hopes of a scenic view of the majestic mountains of Benguet. We were very lucky that cloud cover was minimal, hence the shot below. Tourists were literally swarming over the place though. Hard to get a good shot.

Also visited the iconic Burnham Park (pictured below) to get a shot of the little swan shaped gondolas that they float in the middle of the man made lake. If I'm not mistaken, Php 250.00 gets you a one hour ride on the swan. I'm not too sure just how many people they allow on though.

Headed to the Tam-awan Village too. Located upon a lush hillside, this native village contains straw huts, native arts and installations that speak volumes about Cordilleran craftsmanship and culture. This village offers visitors to Baguio a glimpse at what life is deeper inside the mountains. They also have a mini-trail there which we proceeded to hike on.

The village is open everyday from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM and charges an entrance fee (for adults) of Php 50.00. You can check out their website here: LINK

No Baguio trip would be complete without horseback riding. We headed over to Camp John Hay to hit the trails. To rent a horse for an hour, we paid Php 350 per person. If you are in a small group, or even if you're alone, it is required that you hire a guide as well. The guide cost Php 350 per hour too. This trail was different from the previous ones I've been on since we tackled a very steep hill. Our horses were panting and bounding up the slope while we tried to keep up right in our saddles and refrain from falling off! 

One of the best restaurants we went to in Baguio was the Oh My Gulay! Restaurant in VOCAS (Victor Oteyza Community Art Space). This restaurant is a mix of both art exhibit and vegetarian cafe. Located on the top floor of a 4 story building, this cafe has all the elements of an eclectic wooden art showroom with quirks and oddities all around. (Refer to the second picture from below). Struck me as a large Hobbit hole.

The food was some of the best vegetarian fare I have ever tasted. They had us eating flowers and leaves. But, damn, they were delicious plants. Here are some things they served us. Their specialty, Anak ng Putanesca (around Php 150), which was vegetarian putanesca, Bulaklak Tempura (second from top, around Php 130, made from real flowers!) and Lumpia Salad (bottom, Php 130)

Here's a link from one of my favorite food and restaurant bloggers in the Philippines about Oh My Gulay! (LINK)

Took time to visit the Ben Cab Museum for the second time this year. (Actually, I need to write a separate post about this. Soon, hopefully.) The Ben Cab Museum is home and gallery of the national artist Benedicto Cabrera himself. "BenCab" as he is fondly called is a master at the visual arts. His paintings of his muse called 'Sabel' are beautiful and ethereal in my opinion.

His museum is located on a rather large farm lot along Asin Road near the town of Tuba, Benguet which is around 45 minutes away from Baguio City proper. This is one of the most beautiful museums I've been to. The museum is located on a hilltop overlooking a valley which has a river running through it. They have terraced gardens which grow organic vegetables along the hillside as well as ponds where fish and ducks roam free. Truly a beautiful place that goes together with beautiful paintings. (I need to write a post about this soon!)

BenCab Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays with Mondays off from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. They charge a fee of Php 100.00 for entrance. You can check out their official website here: (LINK)

Visited the famed Straberry Fields of La Trinidad, Benguet too. I wrote another blog post about that, you can check it out here: (LINK)

Basically, it's a 30 minute drive from Baguio and strawberry picking costs around Php 250-350 per kilo of strawberries.

Lastly, Christmas in Baguio wouldn't be Christmas without experiencing the beautiful decorations of some of the swankiest hotels in the Philippines. For me, the award for this year's most festive hotel would have to go to The Manor in Camp John Hay. Here are the decorations in their enormous garden.

It was a great trip. I can't wait to do it again sometime soon. Next Christmas perhaps? :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Baguio: The Strawberry Fields of La Trinidad

The Strawberry Fields of La Trinidad

Probably one of the most iconic things to do while around Baguio City is to go and pick strawberries. The town adjacent to Baguio called La Trinidad in Benguet province provides travelers the opportunity to do just that. Fresh strawberries can be picked at your leisure and promptly eaten afterwards. Read on to find out more.

Okay, so you're in Baguio and you've done ze horseback riding in Camp John Hay, you've already gone to Mines View park and had your picture taken with those ginormous St. Bernards, and you're tired of riding around on those little swan boats they have in Burnham park. Question... What do you do next? You go pick some strawberries of course! (Na-na-na-na-na)

When one thinks of Baguio, one will definitely think about strawberries. These delicious little buggers are what moistens the taste buds of even the hardiest of food lovers this side of the country. It doesn't help that Baguio people make all kinds of stuff from these fruits like Strawberry cakes (Viszco's comes to mind) and Strawberry jams (Mountain Maid, anyone?) Heck, I've even seen some strawberry wine and I wouldn't mind trying that out either!

But have you ever wondered where they grow most of these things? Well I have. During my recent trip to Baguio, our little group found out just where we could pick these red treats ourselves.

Located around 15 minutes away from Baguio City proper lies the little town of La Trinidad. This little town has the honor of carrying the title of 'Strawberry Capital of the Philippines' and it does carry it proudly for a good reason. Nestled within the center of this town lies the Benguet State University Strawberry and Vegetable Farm or the BSU-S&VF (just kidding, I totally made that acronym up :p). This sprawling farm is located in the heart of the valley. It is as though a large carpet of vegetables and strawberries are growing right in the center of a bowl of hill houses and mountains that form its flanks.