Posted by: Laya Isabelle Garcellano Florendo in , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I, my siblings and my cousins were kids, our families would schedule a clan trip just before or right after the summer peak season hits. Less people and lower prices. Besides, it was easier to cart around a gaggle of kids eager for the novelty of a vacation outing without the fear of one child getting lost in the crowd.

We went to all the standard places. Naturally we were in awe of the sights so different to the city scenes we were used to.

Mines View Park commands a spectacular view of surrounding mountains and valleys and of the gold and copper mines that formerly belonged to the Benguet Corporation. The promontories and the observation decks get pretty filled up with tourists so once you got a nice spot, it would be a good idea to hold on to it.

There are photographers that would take your picture for a small fee. There was also a pony you could rent for a photo souvenir as well. As a kid, they looked big enough but going back there when I was older, I couldn't help pitying the poor animals. They looked pretty enough with their colorful trappings with tassels and buntings, mane and tail with braids and sometimes dyed with shocking colors like pink or orange. Maybe it's just me and how I feel about horses . . . they looked so sad being tied up when they should be running free in all their natural glory! And all but for a few pesos. Sniff!

There are also bazaars and various shops selling native souvenirs and silver. Plants and walis tambo are also a staple along with Ifugao costumes for kids complete with feathered headdresses!

Back then, there were kids that would hail you from below the observation platforms. They would be precariously perched along the cliffside, daring you to throw them coins which they would scramble for, demonstrating their agility and speed. Buti na lang it's been outlawed as it was very, VERY dangerous! It was a crippling fall for anyone, more so for a young child, with one wrong move.

The Botanical Gardens was a magical fantasy forest for child. Even then, I found tranquility and peace sitting among the trees. Butterflies and dragonflies performed their graceful aerial dances among the lush growth and there would be fat bees every so often, drinking from vibrant dew-jeweled flowers.

I always fancied faeries vanishing away as the cloaking mists of early morning Baguio rolled away. How would the Baguio faeries look? I would hazard that they wouldn't look like English faeries, but rather like the diwata or enkantada of our heritage. They would have beautiful long black hair, thick as darkest night with merry twinkling eyes, almond shaped and long lashed. They would be brown skinned like the people of these mountains, but their light feet and quick steps would betray their other-worldliness. Yes, I indulged in such dreaming as a child. Walking along the winding paths in a quiet stillness that was more alive with sound than the noisiest city street, one would feel the sacredness of nature and you would watch your feet carefully, lest you tread clumsily on dainty unseen toes. (For which, many times, we were told to keep to the beaten paths or if going off it, instructed to say "Tabi tabi po!". It means a very respectful "Excuse us! We're just passing through" for any unseen nature spirits).

Camp John Hay is where we went for miniature golf. There's a real golf course newly designed by legendari Jack Nicklaus but for people who took the game less seriously, Mini Golf is the bomb. I thought I was going to be bored to death, but I came to love playing it. I was surprised by my own concentration and serious zeal to get the angle just right and hit the ball just so to get it into the little hole. You should have seen the adults' faces when they played in pairs, though. It was as serious a business as a round of poker with the stakes getting higher. us kids? We played for sheer bragging rights!

Horseback riding at Wright Park was a standard staple. Passing by the Riding Park, you couldn't help noticing the rows of stabled ponies and horses. And if you were a kid worth your mettle, you'd beg for the biggest, fastest, proudest, wildest stallion you could see. Brown, dappled and pinto horses were boring. Good if you got a pure white mount, you could fantasize being an other-worldly being, but the big black ones were the best pick of the lot. The proud, long-legged black beauties were the stuff childhood legends were made of. You would be legend among all your grade-school classmates come school days and you showed off your best vacation picture.

However, being eight years old has its utter setbacks. You were eventually set on the safest, slowest, tamest, non-kicking/biting/running/galloping, most uninteresting creature on the planet, pre-approved by your mother, aunts and assorted accompanying relatives. Lucky you if you were left to even hold the reins and a pony boy wasn't sent to look after you.
You would ride strictly in the inner circuit of the Riding Park and sneak envious looks at the bigger kids and teen-agers running helter-skelter in the outer ring or going out of the Park itself for the fabled Marlboro Country. Of course all this was for safety's sake, but a kid has big dreams, you know!

Another place we went to was the Bell Church near la Trinidad. It's a chinese temple in the middle of lush greenery. As a kid, I was bored to death. As a grown-up, I'd like to go back there and see it through more interested eyes.

What I could still remember about the place was its peace. But for such a peaceful place, the strong colors were jarring for me: the strong reds, greens and yellows of typical chinese temples. I guess I was more used to muted hues in connection with peace and tranquility. Nevertheless, there was a pervading sense of peace and tranquility encouraging contemplation. There were also little nooks partially hidden away, where you can meditate by yourself or have a heart-to-heart talk with someone. Overlooking Baguio and part of La Trinidad, you can just sit still and be.

The Lourdes Grotto is another spiritual place to visit. You get to climb a bazillion or so steps as a pilgrimage of sorts (just 252 steps, but I had short legs), to the very top where Mama Mary is. Really exhausting. I didn't get the point of climbing all that way if we could ride a jeep up as easily. Halfway through I'd be out of breath and feeling as though my soul was already at the top, communing with the angels and saints surrounding the grotto.

My mother tells the story of having a dream about a baby climbing the grotto steps before she found out she was pregnant with my sister. Hence, when my sister was born, she was named Maria Lourdes. Just a personal tidbit but it's why we have to go back there every time we're in Baguio as thanksgiving for Diday, my now 17 year old sister.

It's really best to go up there early in the morning before the crowds come up. There's a magnificent view of the city and nearby La Union when the weather's clear.

My mother and aunts also made it a point to attend at least one mass at the Baguio Cathedral as thanks for having made the journey in safety. I may not be all that religious but the Cathedral is still a wonderful place to visit for its panoramic view perched on a high point overlooking the city, and its peaceful ambiance, as with all of Baguio's spiritual centers, Catholic and otherwise.

Last but not the least, there would be boating sessions at Burnham Park's man-made lagoon. If you're not to keen on rowing around, walking through the gardens and resting on the benches along shaded pathways is a good way to spend a lazy afternoon.

There's also an Orchidarium and a Roller Skating Park. I don't think I tried skating, but I did enjoy riding around the rented bicycles.

Strawberry-picking at the end of the day made for home-made strawberry shake for dinner and breakfast for tomorrow before the day's new adventures.

If it wasn't a nice sunny day and a drizzle would render us bound to the rented van, we'd buy from the vendors selling at the entrance. The sweet, bright red fruit would be in rattan hand-woven baskets which us kids would keep to play with, after their cargo was eaten and long gone. There would also be sweet strawberry jam to eat with melting butter and hot bread and strawberry wine for the grown ups to sip while the nights grew long and cold.

With the chill of the night ending the day, our parents would call us to a home-cooked dinner. There would be crisp vegetables bought from the local market, puffy white rice and piping hot beef stew with chunky carrots and potatoes. Everything would be fresh as the farms around Baguio supplied the markets with new harvest or fresh slaughter everyday. Before bed, we'd roast marshmallows in the fireplace or on a small bonfire the adults would make. Then herded to bed, we'd tell ghost stories in the dark and giggle to sleep while the grown-ups talked all night.

As I fell asleep, I was conscious of the peaceful quiet of the Baguio night lulling me into sweet slumber. Crickets softly chirping and the cool breeze rustling the leaves of mighty trees would send me flying through my dreams to be later recalled on hot city nights when sleep was difficult.

And those, until now, are the happy memories of my Baguio childhood.

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 20, 2008 and is filed under , , , , , , , , , , , , . You can leave a response and follow any responses to this entry through the Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom) .


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