Taking a page from Anthony Bourdain's show, I asked myself "what can I do in Baguio given my 24 hour stay?". My last visit in Baguio had me visiting familiar places and trying out new things, given that my last trip was a decade ago. Since I didn't really have that much time, I decided I would pick out my favorite or at least the best places, and work my way from there.
My first stop was the 50's Diner, simply because I've never ever tried out the place. I have heard of its reputation for its American sized servings. The place isn't easy to miss out, it's the only restaurant in the whole city that looks like it was plucked out of some American boulevard. The interiors are a clear throwback to the times and lives of greasers, Elvis, Marilyn and rock and roll. Their food was great, though my burger felt a little bit on the dry side, but their fries are absolutely great. Working on a budget 50's Diner is great for those who don't want to spend to much but don't want to spend so little, for my meal I only spent Php. 110, not bad given that I could have gotten the same albeit more expensively in a fast food place. Just a word of caution, don't bother going during the lunch hour, lines are notoriously long and given the biting cold, not exactly a great place to wait it out.
Next up was a quick drop visit to ut , Mines View Park, known for its sweeping vistas of the mountains plus the nearby Good Shepherd center (famous for their Ube Jam and among other pastries), this is the place to get your souvenirs. Picking up a bottle of Ube Jam from the sides (time's too short to line up at Good Shepherd) and a couple of mixed choc-o-flakes, I certainly saved time. Money wise not so much since each Good Shepherd item had a Php. 10 charge to it, the cost of not lining up. Apart from the baked goodies I snagged a nice looking scarf for my coordinator. With nothing else, I just enjoyed the stunning views of the mountain inside the park. Apart from the great views of Baguio's landscape, the park is nothing more than just a continuation of the stalls outside of the park, with the addition of other tourist trap-esque activities like picture taking options of the following: St. Bernard's and flamboyantly colored horses; and the chance to dress up like an Ifugao.
Along the way there was the infamous White House or the Laperal Mansion (this is different from the one in Manila). Famous for being haunted it's really a dilapidated house styled in the manner of old American plantations of the south. Though old and quite run down it actually serves two purposes: an exhibit on Bamboo art and a house tour for curious visitors. At Php. 50 the scare factor is lost among the art displays, and left to ones imagination of how really haunted the mansion is.
Speaking of art and quite far from the city center, I took a quick tour of Tam-awan Art Village. The village is made to look like traditional Ifugao living spaces. Huts litter the side of a hill housing art pieces from local artists. Up top is a quaint cafe where I took the time to gather my senses and my thoughts while enjoying the sounds of traditional Ifugao music and a glass of mango juice.
Like most places I visit, the first thing I ever search for is a unique bookshop. I didn't have that chance when I went to Vigan, but a year prior I was lucky enough to discover Mt. Cloud Bookshop. Its unique and indie like quality made me fall in love immediately. It was love at first sight, with its dark wood and eclectic interiors akin to the bookstores we only see in movies. Since then, which is only once, I always make it a point to drop by and check out their selections. Last time I saw this really nice but very old book on the history of Japan, this time I saw another book written by Bhutanese author Kunzang Choden about a dog. The varied selection makes it endearing and a far cry from the chain bookstores we're accustomed to. It also helps that local crafters sell their products in the store.
For dinner I decided to try my luck at the oft-mentioned Cafe by the Ruins, it has been acclaimed as a beautiful and romantic spot, and that's probably the only thing about it. I have heard also that their lines get MRT-like long as well, but when I arrived at around 7pm the lines were practically non-existent and I was seated at once. It is true that the ambiance is romantic but I was a bit disappointed that the "ruins" itself weren't highlighted. With layers of renovations and everything in-between, it felt all too commercialized. With nothing else, I just enjoyed my meal of sinigang ribs and brown/red rice.
Capping off my night was brisk walk across Burnham Park to Beans Talk, while going there I managed to see the beginnings of a night market renowned for cheap overruns and the sight of one of Baguio's famous ukay-ukay. Unlike some of the coffee shops I've covered, Beans Talk is more like Cafe de Seoul than lets say Magnum Opus. Since I'm not exactly a coffee person I bought a beignet, Beans Talks' Berliner Beignet. Beignets came into my consciousness after watching Disney's The Princess and the Frog, I have been curious ever since. Soft, with a sugary crunch and super light I really enjoyed the beignet, but I purposely left out the ganache in the whole mixture. Not a fan of the whole dark chocolate in my pastry fad.
My name is Alfonso your nerdy history teacher, bookworm and lover of all things cultural and exciting. You can find me in a weekend market, in a bookshop, or eating in Japanese restos during the weekends.