Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Philippines: Baguio

Janet got a last-minute invitation from a friend in Manila and invited me to go with her. But rather than spend 3 hours there and 3 hours back, I decided to go forward by myself to Baguio, also six hours traveling time. Janet and I rode together to the bus station in Dau, where she had picked me up the day before. Then she got on a southbound bus to Manila and I headed north for Baguio, also Victory Liner with free wifi.

The wifi shut off after a short while, due to poor reception, and it was pretty sketchy the rest of the way. So I contented myself to look out the window at the view and take photos, most of which were too blurry to keep. The bus made two food stops, so I bought sweet sticky rice and real milk, something you don't see often in Asia. Even in the huge supermarket called Cash & Carry in Manila, which has an entire aisle devoted to soy sauce and another to ramen noodles, they offer little milk for sale and quite expensive.

It was early afternoon when I arrived in Baguio. I'd heard about it in my childhood when our neighbors the Smotherman's moved to the Philippines for a year. Their father was in the Navy and got stationed there. I was so jealous. They brought back a photo of a huge moth, talked about their Filipina maid, and laughed about their mom's constant plea, "Come on, Air Conditioning." Once, on vacation, they visited Baguio and bought lots of monkey pod wood souvenirs. It sounded like they really liked Bagiuo because it was up in the pine mountains and cooler than most of the Philippines.

I spotted a tourist information booth across from the bus station. When I asked the guy for a cheap room he recommended a room in a family home. It was only a few blocks away, but he sent a young man along with me to show me the way. Tuvera Pension was very clean, the room was adequate and the bathrooms were small but clean. The only downside was the family that owned the place. They were the first unfriendly Filipinos I've ever met. It wasn't until after I paid that I found out that the wifi was "temporarily out of service." They all said the same thing, which gave me the impression they'd been saying it a long time.

Afternoon rains, combined with an unplanned nap, prevented me from doing anything that first day. So the next morning I got up at 6:00 a.m. and started walking. The town was already up and buzzing. I was able to visit the central market, Baguio Cathedral, and Lourdes Grotto with a nice city view. Afterwards, I caught a cab with a driver who was nice enough to stop along the way at Durham Park, The Mansion, Wright Park before dropping me at Miner's View. There were tons of little souvenir booths along the way to the view. There were several old white guys with their Filipina wives and kids. I tried to walk down to the Botanical Gardens, but it was nearly noon and I didn't want to overstay the check-out time. My hosts had asked me several times if I was checking out at noon. I got back in time for a quick shower, bought a nice grilled milk fish wrapped in banana leaf from a street vender, and boarded the bus.

After five hours I was back at the Dau bus station where Janet was magically waiting for me again. I was happy to see her because it was getting dark and I might not have been able to figure out where to get off the jeepney in Bamban to walk to her family's house. Everyone was there to greet me, even an aunt and some cousins. It was great to be with friends again.
 I was surprised to come across this 50s Diner in Baguio, Philippines

They served burgers and milk shakes, but also pork, fish and rice.

Most Filipinos are Catholics

My room was small but clean and nice.

The Tuvera Pension is nice, affordable and centrally located. If only the wifi worked and the family was nicer.

These statues are part of Igorot Stairs.

Somehow hot candles on my back didn't look like fun.
These are the same people who actually nail someone to a cross on Good Friday.

Baguio Cathedral

An angel offering holy water

Inside Baguio Cathedral

More women than men are graduating in professions like dentistry, teaching and law

Baguio has a nice university and lots of college students

Cell phones and cell phone accessories are a big seller. Ismelda Marcos inspired shoe sales.

As long as it's fried and/or sweet the Filipinos will love it.
This boy is excited about his fried bananas, but also wants some fried potatoes.

Baguio City Market

I love these brooms. Wish I could fit some in my suitcase.

There are no bathrooms or restrooms in the Philippines, only Comfort Rooms or "CR"s.

First time I've seen red eggs. I wonder if they're laid by red chickens or the Easter bunny.

Attractive display is everything. Even dried fish look delicious in Baguio.

I'm always amazed at how much thought and time goes into their displays.

Even the chicken legs and feet are nicely displayed.

I watched a guy cutting these beautiful spirals around a pineapple. This method removes ever little spot of husk.

Outside the city market

These yummy sticky desserts could be the end of me.
I'm trying not to eat too many, but just yesterday I had fried sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf for 7 pesos (17 cents).

Ox tails and pig's feet. Not sure what delicacy is on the far right.

Jeepneys will take you almost anywhere. I took one to Lourdes Grotto.

The first of many steps up to Lourdes Grotto.

Entering a holy ground. Even the sign looks like it was made in Biblical times.

The view along the way is wonderful.

I like how Tagalog is a phonetic language. Notice the spelling of Hesus, which would be pronounced like "Jesus" in Spanish.

Taking the family pictures in front of the virgin. Every virgin seems to be in a grotto here in the Philippines.
Probably trying to get out of the heat.

I asked these girls if we could take our photo together since I'm traveling alone.
Not only did they oblige, but I got four email addresses to send them copies.

Burnham Park in Baguio

The Mansion in Baguio

Another excuse for dozens of souvenir shops, horses with pink manes to pose for pictures on,
or you can dress up in traditional tribal outfits for a photo with the view.

Nuts are very popular in the Philippines. They can do anything with a peanut.

I actually broke down and bought 6 small key chains for 50 pesos ($2), so if anyone wants one, just let me know.
The vendor and her friends were trying to convince me to get a big one. Is bigger better?

I'm not sure if this American-Filipino family was visiting or living in the Philippines.

I got more suckers to pose for a picture with me in front of Miner's View.

This guy can even speak Tagalog. He must have been living in the Philippines a long time. 
I wonder what the attraction is for him.

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