In the City of Pines

We tested the car’s mettle, tested the hubby’s endurance for driving, and basically had a blast during our trip to Baguio last month. In an earlier post, I already mentioned that we started that trip paying homage to the Lady before all else. Around lunch time, we checked in here.

Ma and Dad had their honeymoon here some five decades back, and the hubby and I had one of our office’s teambuilding here. Also, we had one of our rare childhood vacations when I was 10 in this city. So it was the kids who are first timers here, and we did all the touristy stuff. For about 80% of the time, it was raining but that didn’t dampen our moods and went go, go, go! Even if Maxine caught some bug and threw up one night and had a slight fever, it was all systems go for all of us.

First of course is the obligatory stop and pose at the Lion’s Head, the icon of tourism in Baguio City, which welcomes everyone to the city.

As soon as we’ve settled our stuff, we didn’t waste time and went to our first stop: Wright Park. Mischa saw in one TV show the horses people have painted pink so it was really one of the things in her bucket list.

We didn’t have the energy or the inclination to go up the famed steps to the reflecting pool and The Mansion. So we took off for Burnham Park where we went on a boat ride (when Maxine slept the whole time!) around the man-made lake. The gardens here at also something to look at. And capping our day was a family bike ride.

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The morning of Day 2 was spent going to nearby La Trinidad to visit the strawberry farm. Unfortunately there were no strawberries to pick much to the chagrin of Ate Mischa. We just went around and bought homemade food like jams and fresh vegetables being sold by the locals.

Cafe Volante (where there was a long line) beckoned us for lunch.

Then it was Mines View Park where we had so much and which drained all our energy hehe. We had to walk a long way back because there was too much traffic and too little cabs.

Before calling it a day, we heard mass at the Baguio Cathedral.

SM Baguio was a good idea for dinner as it affords a great view of the city.

The last day was spent lying in and enjoying our beds. Maxine wasn’t feeling well that night so we just took it easy and had a late breakfast at the hotel.

Thank you Baguio, we loved you!

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Cafe Terraza

Over a month ago, during an official trip to Roxas City, we went up to Pueblo de Panay, a newly reinvented/reconstructed business district in the city for dinner. We were recommended to go to Cafe Terraza, which is situated all the way up a hill, which overlooks the city. It was stunning to say the least, especially at night when all the city lights are open. There was an exhilarating feeling right in the center of your chest akin to watching a feel good movie.

The setting was set for a feel-good evening anyhow. There’s nothing better than comfort food coupled with breezy air and magnificent view to cap a working day. It erases your worries and stress for a while. And Cafe Terraza did just that.

However, as it is on top of a hill, you usually have to have your own private car to come and go. But since we’re visitors, we contracted the services of a good old manong and his tricycle.

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KBL or kadios, baboy at langka

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Seafood kare-kare

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Calamares frito

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An assortment of cakes, clockwise from left: blueberry cheesecake, red velvet and dulce de leche.

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Austere Aklan

Working in the city, and living in the suburbs often times drains one. So once in awhile, it’s good to stop and smell (and enjoy!) the flowers in the countryside. As tiring and stressful my work is, I am glad that it has given me the opportunity to travel (whether local or international). And after the official work is done, I am free to go as I please! This has lessened considerably though in the last couple of years because I am always itching to go home to the kids.

Anyway, earlier this month, I was able to go around Kalibo, the capital town of Aklan, and the nearby towns of New Washington and Numancia, when I and some colleagues had time to kill before our flight. We were lucky to have my “seatmate” who hails from the town tour us around. Before Caticlan was fully developed, Kalibo was the gateway to Boracay. Now, the sleepy town is still an option but since it is further away from the famous beach destination, there is less people traffic here. Kalibo, despite the progress, cannot be a city, I was told, because it lacks the minimum land area. Maybe this has contributed to the somehow relaxed ambiance of the town, preserving its old-fashioned ways where people lived simply but happily.

Some of the places we visited:

St. John the Baptist Cathedral

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Monument of New Washington’s well-known son, Jaime Cardinal Sin

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Shrine of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary across Cardinal Sin’s monument

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Aklan’s Pink Sisters Convent

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The Yard Grill and Restaurant, where we didn’t eat. We just wanted to see the place because we were told that this is a jump off point for a newly opened river cruise.

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We also went to the Sampaguita Gardens, which deserves another post. But all in all, I am thankful for this trip. Despite the hot sun on our faces that afternoon, it is always nice to commune with nature, and the good-natured people in the provinces untouched by the craziness of city living. I would always take the chance to pack my bags, ride a tricycle and roam around the countryside in a heartbeat.

Tootsie’s

During our last trip to Tagaytay City, we had a late lunch at Tootsie’s per the recommendation of my aunt. It is one of the restaurants that have sprouted all over Tagaytay in the last few years that made the city one of the go-to places for people who is into food tripping. It sits right on the main highway but really doesn’t have a good vantage point of Taal Lake. The decor was simple and warm, and they serve comfort Filipino food. Specifically, most of its offerings are Southern Tagalog fare, which for a true blood Tagalog like me, is really comfort food. Everything just brought me home since I realized that I miss so much what we serve at my grandma’s home.

Pork with kadios
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Deep fried tawilis
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Sinigang na maliputo (what Ma craved the whole time)
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Tilapia cutlets
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And the best version of Turon halo halo I ever had in my entire life! I will go back for more for this!
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Balay Negrense

Okay, I’ve been wanting to visit the famed ancestral houses that line up the streets of Silay City in the province of Negros Occidental. I find ancestral houses really fascinating if properly maintained. They speak so much of lives well lived, and people like me who are able to go through them are given glimpses of their families’ rich history. It is like reading my favorite novel, only it has come to life.

During my last trip to the province, I only got to visit the Ruins in Talisay City. And on this trip, although I wanted to do the rounds for most of the houses in Silay, I was fortunate to go only to one – the Balay Negrense, or the home of Don Victor Fernandez Gaston.

My photos here are not of top quality as I was only using an iPhone. I had not done justice to the ethereal beauty of the house. It was overcast on the day of our visit, and if anything, the weather made it all…spooky, if you will, and kind of romantic. The Gaston family is one of the pioneers of the sugar industry in Negros, and I think, the Philippines. Their home speaks of their affluence, and one could almost feel the vibrant activity going on when it was full of children, adults, helpers and probably those who are in the business with the patriarch. I could imagine it on full throttle during its heydays.

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Next time, I vow to visit the other houses, even if I have to extend my stay.

Baker’s Hill

While I have been to Palawan numerous times before, this is my first visit to Baker’s Hill, one of the must-see places at these times. I must say, it is new concept in a theme park that combines a bakery, an aviary, restaurants, gardens, playgrounds and pasalubong center. The center of it is the bakery, which is what started it all. We didn’t get to eat in any of their featured restaurants, and I didn’t sample their products but we roamed freely in the gardens and the aviary. Recommended for those partaking of the city tour of Puerto Princesa, although I wouldn’t go back on a really hot summer day (like we did!). But it was a cool feast for the eyes.

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Paradise Island Davao

After our official trip to Davao City (I was with one of my staff, Yumi), we went on a side trip to nearby Samal Island. I booked us at Paradise Island Resort, which I chose from among the hotels and resorts on Agoda. And I was glad I did. No regrets here.

I was surprised that it took us only 5 minutes to cross from the private pier of Paradise Island to Samal. And from the get-go, I was truly satisfied by the way the resort’s personnel took care of its guests. If I had ten thumbs, all would be up in approval for service.

Since we arrived around noon, we had lunch first in their open air restaurant right by the beach, while they were cleaning and preparing the rooms. The only teeny, tiny disappointment during our overnight stay was it took more than 30 minutes for them to give us our bill. And we were raring to go to the beach by then.

Otherwise, everything was A-okay!

The de luxe rooms were in separate airconditioned cottages, which have their own porch and garden. We had to walk a bit from the beach but it turned out to be a good thing because the areas where the cottages are are quiet, and the noise from the beachgoers were muted. The room where we stayed was large and comfortable enough. Of course, we didn’t get to sulit the room because we practically stayed at the beach the whole afternoon until evening during our first day. On the second day, we just had breakfast then we had to catch our flight to Manila before noon.

They also had a spa where I availed of a massage. It was good enough for the price of Php450 (with discount). I badly needed that. It seems like I haven’t had one in ages. When you have two needy kids below five years old, you tend to put yourself last in your list of priorities. So this was a good break for me. I was definitely recharged.

The beach was clean although they built the restaurant too close to it. It decreased the swimming and lounging area by a large margin, and it was short enough to be begin with. But a beach is a beach is a beach. And I love it. Period.

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I was a little miffed that it was cloudy on our first day there but I still had fun, of course. Next day, when we were about to leave, Mr. Sun shone in all his glory. Didn’t get to enjoy the beach by then but the summer-ness of it all lifted my spirits anyhow.

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