Friday, January 4, 2008

My Weekend in Baguio

A little story about my visit to Baguio...

A little introduction is in order here... When I was looking for a place to live, I was recommended to look at AIC Grande for an apartment. It was there that I met Mr. Ed Villasis. I eventually rented one of his units and got to know him quite well. Early on, he took a liking to me and invited me to a celebration of his sons 27th birthday in his garden in Quezon City. There I met his wife Ming, his daughter Tria and her husband Peter, his son Rden, and his youngest daughter Trinette, baby Kalia and son-outlaw Neil.... They made me feel so welcome, and since that time have included me in many of their family activities. As my son-in-law has expressed "What is wrong with them..??"

Beautiful Baguio in the Clouds

More of Baguio in the Clouds

Well, in addition to their home in Quezon City (metro-Manila), they have a summer home in Baguio (as well as a beach front home in Roxas City in the Visayan Islands) and they invited me to spend the last weekend of 2007 with them up there. I say up there because Baguio is in northern Luzon at an elevation of 5100ft. It is the coldest city in the Philippines and while I was there it got down to 55deg F.... Brrrrr...... Baguio City is also known as the City of Pines as the top of the mountains are covered in a moist tropical pine forest conducive to the growth of mossy plants and orchids, very unique in the Philippines.... You can only fly into Bagiuo in the morning as the entire city is blanketed in heavy fog most afternoons..... All of the government officials live in "summer" homes here in Baguio, including the President. Other bits of trivia about Baguio: the indigenous population are called the Igorots and still practice many time-honored traditions - eating dog and worshiping animal gods.... I won't get into the specifics, but it is not for the squeamish......

On Friday, I was driven up to Baguio by Ming and her cousin, Sonny. This is normally a 5 hour drive, but due to the impending holiday, it took 6 1/2 hours. The roads are 2 lane and very narrow. Much of the traffic once you get out of Manila is tricycles which only travel at 20kph..... Not very fast, but they are everywhere as this is the main method of transportation for everyone.... And needless to say, once you get "stuck" behind one, it takes a while to pass....

The Tricycles

Once we arrived, I was treated to a wonderful meal of BBQ chicken (especially prepared by the maid whose family is in the BBQ chicken business) and boneless milk fish (Boneless Bangus)..... Yum... Much of the time spent in Baguio (and much of the time spent in any Filipino home) revolves around food.....

Typical Kitchen Scene at the Vilasis House

A minimum of 4 meals a day (many homes eat 6) called almusál (breakfast), tanghalían (lunch), and hapúnan (dinner) plus an afternoon snack called meriénda..... They even had some balut there for me to try but I did not have the requisite amount of courage to try that yet.... They called the balut "Egg no more, duck not yet"..... I thought that was a great way of explaining balut.......

I can't say enough about how the entire Villasis family treated me..... They all were so gracious and courteous.... They we always looking out for my welfare - "Steve try this, Steve try that"......
Green Valley - Home of the Villasis

Ed's Garden - He loves his Gardens

The Vilasis Patio

Ed enjoying a glass of wine on the Patio

More Beautiful Flowers in the Garden

Saturday started with food.... A wonderful breakfast of sinangag (fried rice), longanisa (native sausage) and daledon juice.... We then visited Camp John Hay.... The US base in Baguio that was recently turned over to the Filipino people....

Ed and Ming at Camp John Hay

Camp John Hay - Beautiful Landscaping

Ming, Steve, Ed and Sonny

Steve with the Cordillera Mountains in the Background

We had a mid-morning meriénda of BBQ bananas and then proceeded to have lunch at a vegetarian cafe in a building that was bombed out during the Japanese occupation... Very quaint.... Lots of mushrooms and soy product.... Delicious..... My daughter (vegan that she is) would of loved this place...!!!

As I had been tying some decorative knots for many of the family (earrings for little Kalia, wine bottles for Ed & Ming, pins for Sonny and others), they thought that I would enjoy visiting a local weaving company....

Kalia sportin' her Earrings that I made...

Easter Weaving Room has been in business for over 100 years... It is run by the local Episcopal Church. www.easterweaving.com The basement was filled with over 25 looms... Just like the ones I used to weave on when I was a child at my grandmothers.... Many of the weavers have been working there for over 30 years.... The work was beautiful....

Looms, looms and more looms....

Beautiful Weavings....

I bought a bedspread and a couple of placemats.....

My Bedspread

And Placemats

We finished the days excursions with a visit to the Baguio market place.....


Marketplace

More Market

For dinner Saturday nite, we had been invited to the home of a Korean friend of the Villasis.... They had 4 types of Kim Chee and traditional dry rubbed Korean BBQ ribs..... With my love of spices and vegetables, the kim chee was a big hit...!!!

Kim Chee - Yumm.........

After dinner we returned to the Villasis and I watched everyone play Mah Jong.... I had never seen it played before......

Intense Mah Jong Game...

Naturally, Cigars..!!

Sunday was Rizal Day.... Jose Rizal is considered a national hero and the anniversary of Rizal's death is commemorated as a Philippine holiday called Rizal Day.... We started the day with a large almusál consisting of sinangag (naturally, rice of one form or another is served with every meal), eggs, bacon, loganisa and Itlog na Pula (salted duck eggs. Literally means "red egg" in reference to the fact that they are often dyed red to differentiate them from regular eggs) made into a salad with tomatoes and onions.......

Neil and Trinette

As a requirement to graduate from University, Trinette had to observe local customs on Rizal Day, so we visited the local Rizal Park (there appears to be a Rizal Park in every major city)... There was a brief memorial and many flowers were placed near the memorial.....

Trinette, Sonny, Kalia and Ming

Rizal Park

We headed to the Philippine Military Academy and toured the grounds.... Their version of Homeland Security was code Red, due to the fact that the President was in residence in Baguio....

Steve at the Philippine Military Academy

We headed back to the house, ate another large meal - tanghalían, and everyone settled in for a nap... The fog reduced visibility to zero for most of the afternoon.....

Kalia and Trinette

For our meriénda, Trinette had suggested tradional hot chocolate so we headed to a quaint cafe appropriately called Choco-Late.... The tradional hot chocolate (very different from our version of hot chocolate) was accompanied by a few servings of bibingka (rice cake with butter or magarine and salted eggs). After that, we had a late dinner with Grilled (Inihaw) Milk Fish (very bony as compared to all the other fish in the Philippines) & lechón (whole roasted pig) with a condiment of shrimp paste (alamang) which is very salty and added to most dishes, much like ketchup.

I tried my hand at Mah Jong that night and actually won the first 6 games.... Beginner's luck.

Monday began with a breakfast of grilled fish, garlic rice (Sinangag) and calamansi juice (as the Philippines have no limes, the calamansi is the closest fruit to the "lime" taste).

Beautiful Breakfast Spread

Clouds over the South China Sea - Remember Baguio is close to a Mile High

Neil, Kalia and Trinette

The final meal (I told you everything was all about food) was a special lunch - fish sisig, tuna ceviche (called "Kinilaw" or "Kilawin" - cubes of raw fish pickled in a marinade of vinegar along with garlic, onions, ginger, tomato, and hot peppers). Those of you who know my eating/cooking habits know my fondness for ceviche.... I was in hog heaven.......

The Group Pose Before I Left

Back Row - Neil, Trinette, Steve, Sonny, Ed, Peter

Front Row - Neil's mother, Kalia, Ming and Tria

The bus ride back to Manila only took 4 1/2 hrs as I left on the 31st and no one was traveling that day.....

So there you have it..... My weekend in Baguio..........

1 comment:

the mom said...

love to hear about your adventures-marley and maddox were sitting here with me just now pointing you out in the pictures, they love their grandpa!! sounds like you had a great time and you look happy, too! we miss you! xoxo