Being a full-time employee in Manila is no joke. Every single morning, stress (in the form of horrendous traffic) greets you even before you step into the office. Then you spend at least nine hours of your day working your butt off. You end the day enduring another hour or two stuck in a sea of cars. When you get home, you just collapse into your bed because you’re too tired to do anything else. The next day, you repeat the same routine all over again. No wonder we have an undying love for weekends.
But you know what we love more? Long weekends. When a non-working holiday falls just around a weekend, we know it means more time to relax, pamper ourselves, and do the things that we love. One of these: travel.
It is not difficult to forget that Baguio is high up in the mountains.
When I think of the City of Pines, what comes to mind is an image of, well, pine trees. Pine trees rising from red needle-covered slopes. Pine trees that sometimes hide behind sheets of fog in the early morning. Pine trees first, way before a picture of a mall standing atop a hill or blocks of apartment buildings dominating the landscape. Development is unrelenting. It seems that each step it takes toward a more commercialized future turns its rustic atmosphere into a thing of the past.
Cemeteries are not exactly the type of destinations that tourists write on their bucket list, and it’s not hard to see why. It is that one place we most associate with death. After all, this is where the departed are laid to rest.
Most of us only find ourselves here when we pay respects to a loved one who has left us for good. Or when it’s All Souls’ Day, the time that we honor their memory. Otherwise, many do not see a reason compelling enough to push us out of our way to visit a graveyard. And truth be told, aside from the creeps they give, most cemeteries look alike.
But there are exceptions. Here are eight unusual burial grounds that are worth braving.
I felt a strong presence inside the house.
Artful presence, nothing paranormal. Art has taken over the first floor of the Laperal White House, but most people are here to satisfy their curiosity about the feared and unexplainable.
Our cab stopped right in front of the hotel and a staff member opened the door for us. I have to say: since I had always preferred no-frills hostels over less budget-friendly hotels, I was not used to a service like this. But it was a welcome change, of course.
Azalea Residences is a favorite among travel bloggers in the Philippines. Many of my friends in the blogging scene have made this their accommodations of choice, so I was desperately curious about where the popularity was coming from. So when I was invited to talk at the Baguio Blog Conference 2013 and learned that Azalea was the official residence of the organizers and speakers, I got a bit excited to finally see it for myself.
“Do you know what people did in the old days when they had secrets they didn’t want to share?” Tak said to one of the android attendants of the train. “They’d climb a moutain, find a tree, carve a hole in it, whisper the secret into the hole and cover it up with mud.”
Tak is a character in 2046, a film by Wong Kar Wai. In that scene, he found himself wanting to share a deep secret and the attendant was to be his tree. It was a scene that played in my head repeatedly as I carefully walked on the broken platform and heard the music that twigs and pine needles made when they broke.
Strawberries may be heart-shaped but these sweet little things are heartless. I walked cautiously in between the rows of strawberries, all the while being reminded of tragic love stories. They are sinful temptations dangling or lying on the ground, taunting you to pick them but at a certain cost. They urge you to come touch and pluck them from their frail branches even when you already have a basketful and you know it is all you can afford. And they deceive you by pretending to be berries — heck, they’re not even real fruits — and you buy anything they want to make you believe because, well, they are pretty.
Nevertheless, an affair with strawberries can be highly rewarding.
My bowl was brimming with hot tom kha gai but the brewing envy inside me bubbled over through my eyes as I threw wanting looks at the other bowls and plates on our table. We were a big group, celebrating the recent success of the 2nd Baguio Blog Conference, where I gave a short talk. The organizers treated the speakers to dinner at Ketchup Food Community, a foodie’s haven that I had not tried before.
My fingers flipped the pages straight to their list of house specialties. One look and I knew I would be having my most expensive lunch in years at this restaurant. The prices were intimidating, almost threatening, and I was just used to the affordable meals of Baguio City’s most reputable dining establishments.
Still, after a long tug-o-war between the frugal and the piggish sides of myself, I allowed the latter to take over the decision-making. Pinikpikan, bagnet, and strawberry shortcake, please.
Nowadays, beaches are the most favorite destinations in the Philippines. Travelers rarely visit the highlands for a hiatus anymore. For whatever reason, people have somewhat lost their attraction to the mountains, choosing instead to frolic in the sea for their vacation. This is why in the summer, if you hit the beach (Boracay, Palawan, or Batangas), you should bid goodbye to the concept of personal space. Everybody is there that it’s pretty hard to move. It seems that they have forgotten that the summer capital of the country is Baguio City.
But we haven’t. How could we?