March 5, 2007

Baguio revisited

I can't remember exactly when I went to Baguio last because it's been so long. But I think it was in '99 when I went for the Panagbenga flower festival, as part of an official tour of Philippine fiestas for work. As much as I love being up in the mountains amidst the cool pine-scented air, I used to dread the long 6-7 hour drive. But my trip to Donsol last year, which had me in a car for 14 hours each way, fixed that.

So our journey last Friday was pretty much a breeze. Being in the big and comfortable company bus with the airplane seats, cozy couch in the back, dvd player and cooler filled with drinks even made it was actually quite enjoyable. Made even more so by the fact that I was with some of my bestest friends.

the backyard bathed in the early morning sun, Camp John Hay
Because Baguio city is located about 1,500 meters above sea level the climate is naturally at least 10 degrees cooler than in Manila. It was lovely "sweater-weather" for us the entire weekend. Those of you who also live in a tropical and humid country know the joy this can induce from time to time. Every morning was a struggle though, I would have to begrudgingly force myself to emerge from under my warm duvet, pondering the possiblity that gravity was indeed stronger under my bed that precise moment. But thoughts of hot chocolate, ensaymada, Baguio longganisa (pictured at left) & fried rice waiting just beyond my bedroom door was all it took to coax me out of bed finally.

While the men played mini-golf, we explored Baguio's public market, a popular one-stop shop for the freshest produce from the Cordillera mountain region, native Ifugao wood-carved souvenirs, fruit preserves and yams, walis tambo (top-quality brooms), flannel blankets, peanut brittle, raw honey, native woven handbags, plants, flowers, handwoven fabrics, and chocolate-covered corn flakes among other things. Aside from how complete the market is, what surprised me the most was how utterly clean it was. No wonder it has become a popular tourist destination in the city.

I had my first taste of binatog at the market.
Binatog is steamed white corn kernels mixed with milk, grated coconut and sugar.
It was a chewier version of mais con hielo without the ice. Yum!

No trip to Baguio is complete without the requisite visit to the legendary Good Shepherd convent , home of the most sought-after fruit preserves such as strawberry jam, ube jam and peanut brittle. If there is one thing (aside from the abundance of fresh strawberries and horses) that I love most about Baguio, it's the Good Shepherd ube jam! I have not found anything remotely as good as this sweet, smooth and creamy version.

They sell them freshly made and still warm, with a reminder to leave it uncapped until noon the next day. I barely made it back into the car, when with my finger I scooped up some of the purple goodness from the jar. Mmmm, still as delicious as ever! I wish I had bought more, but I find comfort in the fact that you can now avail of Good Shepherd products in Manila. In fact, I see a trip to Market! Market! in my future.

Some pictures taken at Mines View Park

What's in a name?

Big & small kulangot (literally translates as, -get this- booger), I know it sounds gross but it's good! Found inside the coconut shells are wads of sweetened coconut , like cocojam, which you scoop out with your finger or a tiny spoon.
The small ones also made good ammo for the new tiradors (slingshots) we bought for the kids at Mines View Park.

Did you really think I could have a post about Baguio without at least one horse picture? ;)


Watergirl said...

Several friends were in Baguio over the weekend, one set went over to La Trinidad and found a lovely little (half acre) organic farm. They can't remember the name, but have raved about the quality of produce.

I do love the market in Baguio, it's what our markets should be like (I think the cold weather helps there too!).

Anonymous said...

Wow! Baguio's public market is a feast for the eyes. I tried to click on the big collage photo in hopes that it would enlarge...the colors in that pic!! I definitely would love to see a future Market! Market! post soon.

Anonymous said...

I was in Baguio last summer, and was excited to see that Good Shepherd had many new (to me, anyway) products! I bought several items apart from the requisite ube jam, like masa podrida, sesame brittle, and a lemon-filled version of my favorite alfajor. It's nice that, despite the fact that they'll probably never go out of business with their staple offerings, they still try to come up with innovations.

I had never heard of binatog until I lived with a friend for a while in college. I heard the vendor shouting "binatog!" from the street, the way a balut vendor would (except in the afternoon instead of at night), and my friend was shocked I'd never tried it! Do they also sell it warm in Baguio? It's such a comforting snack. So I was very pleasantly surprised when I moved back in with my parents and heard the familiar "binatog call." Haven't had it since I moved out over 10 years ago, though. I couldn't possibly hear the vendor 6 floors up. :-(

christine said...

Hi Mila, I wonder if it's the same one I went to (see my next post). I know that there are many organic farms in La Trinidad, some open to the public and some not, such as this one we went to which belongs to the Benguet State Univ. And I agree with you wholehearedly on that last statement! Though my sister says Farmer's Market in Cubao isn't all that bad.

Hi Rowena! I'm sorry you can't enlarge the photo. I think that's about as big as it gets when made into a collage. I would have wanted to post each picture individually but I didn't want to take up too much space on the page. The market is definitely a feast for the eyes, and all the senses for that matter! :)

Hi Katrina! I wish I'd seen that lemon-filled alfajor! I would have bought some for sure. I love lemon-flavored pastries. You know what else is nice about Good Shepherd? They've developed a very effective system. Though the lines are still long, they move FAST.

You heard the binatog call in Manila? Where? I really liked it and would love to know where I can get some here. And yes, it was served very warm, straight from a steaming pot, so warm and comforting. :)

Anonymous said...

I loved the lemon alfajor because the sweet cookies were tempered by the tang of the lemon filling. I can't decide which version I prefer, 'cause I also love the traditional one with dulce de leche inside.

I first heard the binatog call in Cubao, then again at my parents' house in Makati. Apparently, there'd always been binatog sold on our street, but I never knew because I wouldn't normally hear it from inside the house. Not sure if they sell it inside villages, though. I think the best way to find out is to ask your maids. That's how I learned we had it in our area too. Good luck on your binatog search! :-)

christine said...

Now that I know it's possibly available in Manila, I'll ask around for sure. Would love to have a cup right now! :)

Unknown said...

The tsokolate that they have inside John Hay is available at Serendra now. I just can't remember the name, but it's beside the bookstore.

I brought an expat colleague there and he liked the nutty taste of our hot chocolate. Also made him try palabok. ;-)

christine said...

Hi OP! Could that be Chocolate de Batirol, witht the nice rustic setting and wonderful bibingka?

This one?

I don't know any other chocolate place inside John Hay, but if there is I'd like to know about it. :)

Anonymous said...

Another one of my favorite posts of yours. Your joie de vivre and ability to capture so vividly and beautifully a task as mundane as going to the market never ceases to amaze me. Don't stop posting. ;-)

Lizza said...

Wow, great post! Reminded me of a trip that I took with some of my bestest friends last year. Here's the post and the pictures. Some of our pics are similar, haha! Very nice.

christine said...

Ben, thank you so much for the super kind words!! :) That's very sweet. Maybe someday you'll have your own blog that I can stalk?

Lizza, that's right! We have some identical photos haha - even of the corn and the squid on sticks. :) Your trip looks like so much fun too!

Anonymous said...

Yep! Chocolate de Batirol- John Hay & Chocoolate de BAtirol serendra (beside bookworm) is the same...Perfect Hot chocolate!

christine said...

Anonymous, thank you for that. I wasn't sure myself. :)

Daniel Ogura said...

hello! I want to ask, where can I buy Good Sheperd products in Manila? especially the Ube

christine said...

I'm so sorry it took me this long to reply! Somehow I missed this comment. :( Anyway, I don't know if you can get Good Shepherd products in Manila, though I've heard you can get them somewhere in Tagaytay? Sorry I'm not much help.