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BaguioApril 17 to May 24, 2006


With no permanent address since I left UP last March 31, I'd been on a free-fall and seem to find myself in unexpected but interesting places - chilling in Boracay, sampling dimsum in Hong Kong, snorkling in Anilao, and now Baguio.

Baguio seems to be a throw-back to the art-deco days when mami and siopao were the most satisfying food for a quick bite. There's still lots of these places around - 465 House, Tea House, Star Cafe, etc. I'm a mami/siopao guy, so I should be on cloud 9, right? Surprisingly though, none seems to stand out. The bigger chains in Manila seem to offer better - North Park, Hap Chan and David's Tea House.

The best dish I had was the pizza at Ayuyang's. That's something I would certainly go back for. Ingredients are rich and generous, and the taste is up there. They're true to their advertising tagline: enjoy pizza the way it should be prepared...or something like that. I got the feeling the owner enthusiastically prepared the dish with pride and joy (instead of a disgruntled hired hand).

As I walked along Session Road, I encountered the new face of hunger that can replace the smokey mountain poster - pagpag. People scavenge food trash from the garbage bins of fastfood places like Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonald's. They sort out garbage from discarded food. They then boil the food and either have that for dinner or sell them to neighbors as goto. This happens under the glitzy lights of big cities but nobody seems to notice.

Eve's Garden
Interestingly enough, Mimsy got wind of Eve's Garden, an organic garden offering a fixed-price lunch alà Sonya's Garden. Eve is an amiable lady who takes to heart, the quality and attention she gives her cooking and preparation. Everything is fresh. The salad, specially with the edible flowers, was the show stealer. Reservation - a must.

Music Scene
The folk houses in Baguio retain their signature sentimentality - Jim Croce, James Taylor, America, etc. Hey, it's my time-zone. I'm glad these things remained the way they are. It's something like a Norman Rockwell-old world-charm that offers the comfort of a well-worn shoe. Of course a little diversity wouldn't hurt - a little psy-trance music there, and a little blues's all good.

For jazz, Friday nights at Breathing Space is the place. Ironically though, I left the place early because the smokers' 2nd hand smoke was overwhelming, I couldn't breathe. Maybe they shouldn't call the place, Breathing Space?

Again, Ayuyang takes the cake for being the place for a good time and good music. Some nights, the place really comes alive with the audience partying like crazy. One such night was when the Space Flowers rocked the house. Even MTV's Tim Yap and Parokya ni Edgar were there to add excitement.

Together with Mimsy, some UP faculty and friends, we got around to doing yoga during the weekdays within UP itself. Mimsy headed the class with her style of Sivananda yoga. One thing good about yoga is its universal appeal and portability...just bring a mat. Interestingly, in every place, there's always a soul or two interested in joining a class.

New Friends
Mimsy and I met with old friends who in turn, introduced us to their friends. It was a great time for chilling, meeting new people and hanging out.


Market Scene
In all of Baguio, the thing that calls out to me the most is the market. It's colorful, intriguing and offers lots of diversity. It's a pleasure to wander and get lost into its narrow alleys until you stumble into something unusual or rare (like pine nuts!). I need to practise on my 2 Ilocano lines...'how much' and 'can you lower down the price?'. It seems that asking in Tagalog causes an initial jump in the price.

Punks Not Dead
After I wrote about the plight of the wrongly-accused group of 11 punks, I somehow developed an affinity for them...even though I haven't met with any of them...until Baguio. Strangely enough, I felt no trepidation in approaching them, introducing myself and talking about the latest turn of events relating to their incarcerated comrades. Given how they look, they are probably one of the most misunderstood of the counter-culture groups.

I was never a punk but I see a bit of myself in them. In my UP yearbook, I was described as, "...a free spirit envied by many for his devil-may-care-attitude. He explores the mysteries of the universe...but never quite comes back". I didn't seem to belong, not unlike the punks.

Carrot Juice
Since discovering the dumping site for carrots at the Baguio market, I'd been able to negotiate a whopping P5/kilo. I buy up to 5 kilos at a time and juice them like there's no tomorrow. Massive doses of carrot juice for 3 months caused my sight to be 20/15 - better than 20/20!

Ending Thoughts
Staying longer in a place reveals more of itself. With 3 weeks, the longest I've stayed in Baguio, I discovered a little more of the place, like layered skins on an onion - landscape, peoplescape and foodscape. The people I know of here, and the ones I've just met are totally chill. You can party every night if you wish to. I'd been taken to bike trails that remind me of Disneyland...pure pleasure. Indeed, Baguio offers much more than can be experienced as a passing tourist. It's almost perfect. The only thing on my wish list for Baguio? Clean air.

--- TheLoneRider

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