Forest House Bistro and Cafe- Baguio

When I entered the restaurant, I felt it was December.  I could only infer that the owners love Christmas season. I love the log cabin ambiance accentuated by red and green colors.  Everyday is Christmas in this side of the  Baguio city.

Luckily, we had a prior reservation ahead, so that we were able to occupy a space at the al fresco side of the restaurant that offers a good view of mountains,  tall pine trees and  urban scene of Baguio. The restaurant was literally full that day.

Pasta Negro with garlic bread sticks.

It was a feast eating in this place.  Nothing spectacular about the menu because most restaurant offers the same set, however the tastes made Forest Restaurant distinct. I tried their pasta negro as  recommended by J. This weird looking pasta, is stuffed with everything squid. The black “ink” color from the squid adds   salty- umami flavor to the pasta.  I liked it despite its appearance.

Creamy vegetable with mashed potato

Crispy Dinuguan

And how about their smoothies?   Cold, smooth, milky and downright refreshing.

Just one thing that i did not really like in this resto, their food attendants need to be more organized in handling orders and in attending to their customers.

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Balatoc Mines, Benguet

Balatoc Mines, the only mining attraction in the Philippines.

In my visits to Baguio, I usually drop by at Mine’s view park to see the view of Benguet’s gold and copper mines. From the viewpoint, one could see the Balatoc, Antamok and Atok mines. Last week I went to Baguio to visit the yearly Panagbenga Festival, and part of this Baguio trip is to visit the Balatoc Mines.

Balatoc mines is about 35 minutes ride from Baguio City proper, passing though steep and narrow roads. In Ilocano dialect, “Balitok” literally means gold. This mine used to be the largest in Cordillera, established by Benguet Corporation. BC is reputed as the pioneer of the first mining operation in the Philippines.It was in 1997, that the company launched eco-tourism offerings, with its main objective to share the gold mining heritage in Cordillera.

We arrived there in time for the tour, there were about 3 groups consisting of 17 people. We were given a token with a  numbers pressed on it, put on the mandatory boots and miner’s hat for protection inside the tunnel.

We headed to the mining territory, the tour guide talked about the stages in mining, oriented us with the basic tools used by a miner inside. She allowed us to have a feel and take home some rock samples.  Rock samples in native form before it becomes gold. As we went further inside the tunnel, we had experienced more thrills. To vividly tell the story of what happens inside the tunnel is to spoil the essence of the tour. For now I will not break the omerta, what happens inside remains a secret until you experience it yourself =)

LIFE OF A GOLD MINER

Being a quasi-miner for a day provided me a glimpses of a miners’ life. The miner goes to work early in the morning. It is mandatory for them to get a token- circular metal impressed with numbers, because this will serve as their identification. One is responsible for accounting the miners after the shift, when a token is missing, it would mean that a miner is left inside the tunnel.  They spent 8 to 9 hours inside a tunnel where visibility and ventilation is poor. They take their simple meals inside.  Their typical activities are centered on toiling the very depths of the mountain – digging, blasting, drilling, and use of explosives.  In actual mining, the temperature inside is hot, as a result most miners take off their clothing apparel except their underwear. They douse themselves with water to temporarily resist the heat. Chemical deposits from the explosives are toxic hence harmful to their health; Blasting will expose the miner with enormous dusts which can cause breathing problems.


Life inside the goldfields must have been difficult; A miner succumbs to homesickness, loneliness, isolation and  impending physical danger of their life and limbs. Accidents and fatalities await. All these with the hope of taking  few nuggets of gold for the mining company.  With all these dangers, are their wages enough to sustain their basic necessities? Aside from the mandatory health insurance, are miners given programs to promote their health? Programs to promote their healthy lifestyle, satisfying family life and safety conditions of work.

Balatoc mines has already closed its operations although there are still small-scale mining in the area. The area was once rich with minerals and unexploited mountains.   I wonder if after all the extractions of gold, is the life in the mining village improved?

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Panagbenga 2010: The Parade of Flowers

In 1990, Baguio was significantly damaged by earthquake, as a result the city’s tourism was badly affected.  The history of Panagbenga Festival dates back in 1995, the primary objective of this festival is to revive the tourists to visit Baguio City, after the catastrophic earthquake.

Panagbenga Festival is now on its 15th year, it is very successful and each year the number of visitors increase.  The festival ends on the last weekend of February, sealed by grand parade of colorful floats filled with beautiful flowers, coupled by  graceful street dancing.

After three years of longing to see, I have  finally witnessed  the grand float parade.

The Manor, Camp John Hay Baguio

It’s a fine Saturday morning,  the sun’s up and an idea of a perfect weekend getaway summons us.  But because I have papers to work on, I am a bit hesitant to go out of town, so after having breakfast, I am determined to go to Starbucks at Torre Lorenzo to write  my paper.  Two hours passed , I still cannot come up with a better pleading, I have already consumed my coffee, yet I feel my mind is not into my papers.   It was already one o’clock in the afternoon when we decided to go up north, where else but in Baguio City.

For me, Baguio is the place to go when things  here in the Metro is  not working in accordance to my likings. A new breath of a fresher air indeed. Along the way to Baguio, I called The Manor in Camp John Hay to reserve a room, luckily the hotel is not fully booked, paving a room for us in just a short notice.  We arrived at about 7:30 in the evening,  The Manor is quaint, lovely and idyllic. I consider it as the finest Hotel in Baguio City. We were given a  room with a garden view. Well appointed, clean and cozy. Five star service, polite, and warm staff.

Spending the night at the Manor is relaxing, it was so cold and foggy outside . At the lobby’s piano bar, we enjoyed watching and listening to the  lounge singers. Light and easy songs were sung, even our favorites too. Some local guests also rendered songs.

Aside from the romantic setting of this hotel, their Le Chef Restaurant is popular to give pleasurable gastronomic experience. The price is a bit prohibitive though. Great food and provides a choice of either local or international dishes.  Pastries are freshly baked, soft, sweet, and full of flavor.

The Manor is located within the premises of Camp John Hay it is surrounded by tall pine trees, shopping area, verdant golf courses, and Cordillera ranges.  There is also a  Starbucks within the premises of CJH, perfect!  Needless to state that this hotel offers almost everything to make our Baguio stay carefree and stress free.

We went back to Manila feeling recharged, energetic, and ready to face another work week. I am looking forward to go back and spent another weekend at the Manor.

SAGADA

planting rice“Simplicity is indeed often the sign of truth and a criterion of beauty.” Mahlon Hoagland
395 kilometers from Manila; 12 hours drive via Manila-Baguio-Sagada route- long and winding road.  Apparently, one would feel tired and uncomfortable reaching this place, but the reward one would get upon arriving this place is indescribable!  The sight is heavenly and surreal. It is already passed twelve when we arrived; the town is celebrating their fiesta.  There are numerous people witnessing the cultural parade.  Local and foreign tourists seem to be engrossed taking pictures of the ethnic presentation of each tribe.  We headed directly to George Inn, wherein we are offered a room that has a great view of verdant ricefields and pine trees standing tall in the mountain, that almost enveloped by mountain dews.
Cold breeze embraces, we just want to stay at our beautiful room but the itch to explore Sagada summons us.  Just a stone throw from George is the Calvary Hill; a place where the tomb of the departed love ones of Sagadenos lie.  More importantly, the famed hanging coffins of ancient people are seen from the Hill’s highest elevation.  It has been a tradition and custom of ancient Sagadenos to place the remains to a wooden coffin that were later placed at cave’s cliffside.
dan and cha
We trekked through the rice terraces in the mountain to reach Bomod-ok falls for one hour.  One could already determine that he is near the falls, because the sound of water falling down against the big rocks is apparent.  And when finally getting there, the magical sight of Bomod-ok washes away the tiredness and restlessness.  Just the sight of the falls provides a zest feeling and relieve one’s exhaustion. The water coming from the falls is extremely cold.  This falls is the major source of irrigation and domestic water supply of the village people.

Curiosity leads us to Lake Danum, since part of the movie scene from Don’t Give Up on Us was shot here.  To my mind this place is perfect for dreamy rendezvous.  The lake is calm and tranquil as surrounded by tall trees in the mountain, buffalos and cattle grazing around the lake.  On the other hand, a walk from the lake to a higher elevation, awaits a great view of sunset by the mountains of cordilleras.
lake danum side
Farming is the major source of livelihood in Sagada.  Cabbage, cauliflower, string beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, and other root crops are grown in the village gardens and hillside farms.

What struck me the most is that life here is peaceful and simple.  Sure it is hard to walk and trek through and through just to reach one’s destination; one has to wait for an hour before jeepney to arrive in order to reach town proper.  The thing is village people lives with it without complaint. Our stay in this place reminded of the profound and basic truth in dealing with life that is -SIMPLICITY.