Monday, October 23, 2006

Baguio, quo vadis

A city designed for 30,000 is now occupied by about 300,000 people. No wonder Baguio has lost most of its allure... at least in the eyes of the common bakasyonista. Fortunately I'm not one of those. Yes its full of smoke now and the scent of pine is not as readily experienced as before but it still has a few good spots. Its just too bad I couldn't go there later this year. I really wanted to go and pig out on strawberries.

We went there on a Saturday and stayed until Monday. We were lucky enough to get 3 whole days of good, no, excellent Baguio weather! Our day started at 4am when we all woke up to prepare for the long trip up to Baguio. Sadly, not everyone woke up as one of our designated drivers, si ELIAS "BADONG" CONDRILLON SANTOS JUNIOR got too drunk from the previous nights Oktoberfest and not even an intesity 7 earthquake could wake him up. What should have taken 30minutes to organize took us 1.5hrs and we ended up leaving the house at 5:30am. I had to ask my dad to drive and rearrange seating arrangments and supplies.

(photo, above: scene on the way to Asin Hot Springs in Tuba, Benguet. below: 5am at NLEX Balintawak. Taken by AllanBarredo on Olympus C4040Z 10/21/2006)

At last, off we went! Everyone was glad we were on our way. However, our enthusiasm was quickly dampened by a loooong bumper to bumper congestion along NLEX (apalit, pampanga). Cars were being diverted to the opposite lane --- AT 6AM !!! Upon getting closer, we saw that the people in charge of directing or redirecting traffic were all ASLEEP - galing talaga. They probably should have removed the diversion signs a few hours before but were literally sleeping on the job. bobo

Just before we hit Kenon road we chanced upon some folks selling what I first thought were birds because of their size. Upon closer inspection, I was aghast to find out they were not birds but HUGE PRAWNS!!! Some bigger than my hand! I had to stop and buy a few kilos. The blue crabs were very fresh too so I got some of those as well. I was able to get the freakishly large prawns for 300 a kilo but I doubt their scales are honest. We cooked them hilabos style but with a twist - i added lots of crushed garlic in butter and slowly sizzled it in the sauce until it was dry - delicioso! Dad forgot he had uric acid problems and pigged out on the prawns.

I've been reading about the ASIN HOT SPRINGS but never got around to actually visiting it because I really didn't know where it was. SO, after we checked in at Villa Al Pino , a cheap but extremely cozy apartment just above the stores in MinesViewPark, I checked google earth, got my GPS and sequestered one of the cars.
(photo, above right: Kenon Road Lions head. left: prawns on steroids - bigger than mom's hand! below* Scenes on the way down to AsinHotSprings, from left to right: rickety one-car bridge, hot spring pool, isa sa dalawang gabi [two cave-like tunnels on the way to the hot springs. Taken by AllanBarredo on Olympus C4040Z 10/21/2006)

The road to asin hot springs was not as easy as I thought. Basically, we went down session road then beside maharlika building. Take that road from the side of Maharlika building and just go straight. Stay on that road until you get to a department store building( forgot the name ). There is a street going down on its left, take that road and keep going down for about 45minutes. When we asked the locals how far it was to asin hot springs, they all give us this "hay naku!" face and say MALAYO PA! plus... "dadaan kayo sa dalawang gabi" ... what the heck does that mean? "dalawang gabi?" ??? The only DALAWANG GABI that I've ever seen is when I look into the nose of one of the students - hehe - you know who you are.

The hot spring pools abound here in Asin, Tuba, Benguet. Choose one that has no karaoke please!DON'T choose that one at the side of the street. Go down further on the rough road on your left until you reach the building that houses the pumps for the hydroelectric power plant. This facility has two pools, one hot spring pool and one regular pool. The hotspring pool water has a temperature ranging from 27degrees to about 35degrees at its hottest part (near the hot water spout) . Water here is so abundant that they never bother to close their showers. Its amazing. We all soaked up the hot spring water and cooled down in the big pool. It was very relaxing.
(photo, left : Hot spring pool sign. Notice what #1 says... ? Taken by AllanBarredo on Olympus C4040Z 10/21/2006)

We stop on the way back up to baguio to look at the local handicraft. They make those seats that are shaped like a hand as well as small to medium sized woodcraft here by bulk.

The next day, Sunday, we all decided to go up and check out that road to the Radar station.
(photo, below* Scenes taken from MinesView ViewPoint, from left to right: dawn, sunrise and early fog dissipation. Taken by AllanBarredo on Olympus C4040Z 10/22/2006)

We took the Marcos Road and turned left where there was a sign saying "Radar", along the road going to GreenValleySubdivision. When I was in highschool, I vaguely remember hiking this trail all the way up to the radar one summer. All 150 of us kids attending summercamp left at 4am and was at the peak at 6am to watch the sunrise. I remember eating wildberries I found along the way. There were not many houses around then - back in the 80s, now there is electricity and even a school halfway up the mountain. Despite that, going up Mt.Santo Tomas peak where the radar is situated was a very good idea. The road was rough and there was fog everywhere and this at only 2pm! We had to go slowly as visibility dropped to about 10meters. Portions of the road were just wide enough for 1 vehicle so if you meet someone from the opposite direction, one of you have to backoff else be stuck there forever. We saw this toyota altis car on the way down and driven by a foreigner... now how the heck was he able to get that up there (looked like a rental)? Someparts of the road were at a 40degree incline! The road just before the reaching the Radar is particularly steep even for a 4x4. I suggest y'all park and walk the 50meters to the AFP gate that blocks entrance to the radar facility. The scenery was eerily beautiful. I'm sure its beautiful when you can see Pangasinan from this vantage point but having all this fog has a beauty of its own too.

(photo, below* Scenes on the way up to the RADAR, from left to right: eerie scene like something from silent hill, road to nowhere, radar station Taken by AllanBarredo on Olympus C4040Z 10/22/2006)

Time really flies when your having fun. Especially here in Baguio when all your systems simply want to shut down and you feel like going back to sleep within 5 minutes after you wake up! The weather is really excellent for resting. We did the obligatory tour of all the common "tourist" stops like JohnHay, Burnham, Wagwag, and the Market. We even went to the botanical gardens and let the local piranhas disguised as "old women in igorot attire", empty our pockets after they force their way into our picture taking.
(photo, below* Scenes on our last day, from left to right: view of the radar station from GoodShepherd, Botanical Garden with natives, BahayPawid Restaurant at the foot of Kenon Taken by AllanBarredo on Olympus C4040Z 10/23/2006)

Now its time to go back down and face the forces of evil --- actually, just back to reality. Going up Baguio, we noticed that the usual place where we eat lunch on the way home, RIVER VIEW, was closed. We found another place called BAHAY PAWID just after you decend Kenon and before you go onto the national road. They really had great food. Unlike the food in RiverView, the food here in BahayPawid had a very distinct and personal touch to it. The owners hail from QC but thought it wise to setup shop there 10 years ago. Ordinary filipino dishes that tasted extraordinarily delicious. I fully recommend that place.

Monday, October 02, 2006

take two, all together now!

One would think I'd be wise enough NOT to attempt a second shot at going to the beach during the rainy season... well, attempt I did and I'm glad I went through with it. I wanted my family to feel and see, even for a few hours, what I experience when I go out on one of my trips. Experience it they did albeit a very "toned down" version. One cannot really expect my mom, creator of heaven and earth (and me on the side), to sleep in an room without airconditioning. After emailing everyone a very detailed agenda of activities and nagging all concerend to go view my previous blogs on the place, every family member turns to me on that day and blames me for "not telling them what to expect"... err... okay, maybe I should have made them kneel on rock salt or put a candle under their hands until they read every last word of both the agenda and the writeups. Short of that, I don't know how else to make them read what they should have. Anyway, the day started at 4am for everyone. I had a quick breakfast of tocino, eggs and rice. Of course, after insisting that my brother eat breakfast because of the long trip ahead, he refuses for some reason and blamed me later for not giving him breakfast.... 'hirap talaga maging kuya ha...
5am, all the essentials are packed into the two cars and we go fetch mom, dad, k.mel and sarah. On the way , turning right to get some ice in 7-11 my big fat brother obstructs all view of the right-side side-mirror as well as blocks out ALL view of the right windows (what can I say? he's titanic!). I motion him to give me a clear line of sight and he shouts something like "eh di mag ingat ka tanga!" and then goes into a hissifit complete with tears and a litany of woes... as I said, 'hirap talaga maging kuya ha... The things I put up with eh? We finally stop for ice so mel goes to the back to continue his bitching there while my youngest sister goes up front to be my co-pilot. (remaining 99.999% censored out)
So finally, with ice in the cooler, we convoy to Tignoan beach in Real, Quezon. Red and family ,had a nice little last-minute complication and could not convoy with us to the place. They decided to go find it by themselves and , of course, I then get blamed again for not warning them of the zigzag road that cuts through the sierra madre hills. Even though that detail was mentioned in my blog along with the name of the resort, contact numbers, contact person, DETAILED directions on how to get there and even time estimates and distances, I get the blame because, apparently, everyone suffers a lack of reading ability. One may conclude that reading instructions are strictly only for engineers. The rest of the world just looks at the pictures. My parents and siblings will probably view this blog and look at all the nice pictures without reading any of this. Thats why I think its safe to write anything and everything here, don't you worry (wink-wink). So, okay, I get blamed because my brother fails to read and follow instructions - everybody say it with me... once again with feeling ... 'HIRAP MAGING KUYA HA... amen, ramen, somen.
(photo, above: Balagbag falls after typhoon milenyo, below: Paul, mom and dad at the OceanBlueResort , all photos taken by FrancisAtendido with a Panasonic Lumix FZ20)

We arrived at the Ocean Blue Resort and settled into our respective rooms. They still did not have power in Quezon so Mrs.Celia, the manager, apologized and said the most they can do is run the generator at night to power some electric fans. Of course mom was in distress over this news but theres nothing we could do about it. Dad, Paul and I wen to the nearby talipapa to get a look at what was available. Unlike the last time I was here, fish was plentiful and much cheaper. We bought kilo after kilo of LapuLapu, Shrimps, Prawns, gigantic BlueCrabs, Blue Marlin, kitang or spade fish, fresh galunggong or round scad. The spade fish was particularly delicious. I didn't know about this fish until my father introduced me to it that day. Kitang, or "spade fish" is otherwise known to divers as "bat fish" because of their wide shape. I recall seeing a school of giants in one of my wreck dives with Gunter in Coron.

After putting everything on ice, we head back to the resort and unload all the stuff we bought. This time we brought cooking materials so I instruct the cook to make hilabos from the live prawns, spicy ginataan alimango out of the 5kilos of crabs, fry the kitang and cook some rice. I haul mom, dad, paul, k.mel and sarah into the car and we proceed to balagbag waterfalls.

(photo, above: yellowfin tuna at nearby talipapa, below right: Paul at Balagbag falls , all photos taken by FrancisAtendido with a Panasonic Lumix FZ20)

Now, I was impressed with this waterfall during my first visit but it was even more beautiful now! I force my mom to walk the 300+ meters or so to the falls (she's so lazy and abhors walking) because I knew she needed the exercise. She complained every inch of the way but actually thanked me later because she felt stronger and lighter from all that walking. Paul went bonkers and immediately explored the different parts of the falls. The water was much more abundant now oweing to the recent deluge from Typhoon Milenyo. This abundance of water made the falls look more majestic and certainly more fun. Its too bad we could only stay a short while as it was nearing noon and we had to start heading back to the resort (mom walks really slow).

Back at the resort, dad was so famished that he was incoherent. I had to constantly assure him we were eating in a few minutes so he'd settle down and keep still again. As usual he started his "tikim rounds" and was soon happily settled in one of the bamboo huts munching away at all that food. The huts are located close to the beach so we hear the waves pounding and feel the slight moist breeze from the ocean as we eat. I was surprised and very happy when my brother Red actually arrived at about 12:30pm and joined us for lunch. It was a good thing we cooked so much food! Mom was elated to see her grandchildren and was soon fussing over them. We all had a great time slowly eating the rest of the food while catching up and swapping stories on the trip to this place.
(photo, above: mom in a hut beside the falls, below: Sancho and Chino enjoying the water , all photos taken by FrancisAtendido with a Panasonic Lumix FZ20)

After lunch, I again haul Red and his family into the car and the driver took them to the waterfalls where I joined them later. Me, mom and my brother went the opposite way to Real town proper. My mom wanted to sleep but, since there was no aircon in the rooms, went with us so she can stay cool in the car. I bought some more fish, some sasa lambanog and freshly baked spanish bread before going back to the falls to meet Red. This was my third time to go to the falls, twice this day na, but I am again awed and enticed by its beauty. I join my brother and his kids swimming in the lower pond while we eat all the delicious spanish bread. It was a very precious moment.

We head back to the resort at around 5:30pm as it was quickly becoming dark. Me and my brothers were just drinking some beer, fooling around while dinner was being prepared. The kids never tired of running around the pools and screaming their heads off - ah, to be young....

The only thing I didn't like about this trip was the sleeping arrangement. Everyone was afraid of getting dengue so they wanted the doors closed. It was freaking HOT in that room. I tried sleeping but finally could not stand it so at around 2am I opened all the doors and windows. Cool air at last! Unfortunately the occupants of the other two rooms thought it wise to keep their rooms closed and so had to endure the sauna-like sleeping conditions until morning.

On the way home we stopped at the newly constructed statue in honor of the brave soldiers who rebuild the city after the great mudslide of 2004. We left at about 10am and was in Valley Golf at noon for lunch. Its been a long time since I tasted garlic chicken and sizzling gambas! Delicious!

This has been another very successful trip. I truly hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. To Ate Beth and Liezl, lets plan something similar very soon okay?
(photo, right: Mel, Paul, Mom, Dad and Sarah pose infront of the statue commemorating the soldiers that helped rebuild the city , all photos taken by FrancisAtendido with a Panasonic Lumix FZ20)