Monday, June 2, 2008

The Place formerly called The Diplomat Hotel

Baguio has had a reputation for being haunted ever since the 1991 earthquake. There are a lot of ghost stories that have been passed on to every visitor. In search of a venue for an activity for an event, we decided to head out to one of the noted haunted sites in Baguio, the place formerly known as the Diplomat Hotel.

I don't know much about the Diplomat, only that it was a landmark in the early days. It is now a condemned building, after fires and the earthquake literally put the hotel in ruins. This was the highlight of our trip. The mysterious and eerie sensation that engulfs the entire structure was definitely an experience to remember. The fog was even thick as it has just rained.

The place was both picturesque and somber. I was imagining having pictorials and video shoots in the confines of the hotel. The fountain gardens on both wings of the hotel made it look like a scene from the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The headless and armless angels on the fountains were spooky. The hotel itself had a cross on top of its entrance, making it look like a tomb.

The Diplomat Hotel is indeed an experience I will remember. It was my first time to really immerse myself in the haunted side of Baguio. We tried passing by the Hyatt, but the structure is already gone. My crew at Mile Hi Inn can't help but share a ghost experience as well when they were there. Nevertheless, I always tell myself, when I see a ghost, I hope to capture it on camera. So, I took many pictures while I was in the Diplomat, hoping to capture a spirit. And I did I think. Just notice the left side of the picture below...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tam Awan Village

The Tam-Awan Village near Naguilan Road is one of the best kept secrets of Baguio. Tucked along a steep slope, the Tam-Awan Village is made up of Igorot huts that one can rent for night for as low as P500. This is a very nice option for backpackers who trek up to Baguio. You get to live in actual Igorot huts and experience their culture.

The Tam-Awan Village is also a repository of art works. There is an art gallery in the compound that showcases fabulous local work. I wasn't able to take a picture of the gallery, since picture taking wasn't allowed. However, in their shop, there are a lot of a paintings and sculptures that are on display. Sometimes, there are performances here by local artists, musicians, dancers and the like.

You could also have yourself drawn for P100 by the local artists present there. You sit down in their make shift studio and artists pen away their renditions of your image. You get to choose in the end which drawings you like to take home with you.

The Tam-Awan Village also serves excellent Benguet coffee and mud cakes.

I know that most people haven't been to the Tam-Awan though it is listed in most Baguio brochures. So, take the time to pass by this unique community of artists that takes pride in their rich culture. And try to stay for a night. It will definitely make for a great experience.

Breakfast at Cafe by the Ruins

Having breakfast in Baguio must be a treat, so we decided to have it in Cafe by the Ruins. It was my first time to have breakfast there, though I have visited the famous restaurant many times in the past. Breakfast is served here from 6:30 to 10:30 AM. As most places in Baguio, Ruins serves great bread, and they are particularly known for their whole wheat pandesal. An order of the Pandesal with Kesong Puti consists of 2 pieces of pandesal, the mouth watering kesong puti, with butter and delicious strawberry jam on the side.

Next up is the Shitake Mushroom Omelette. I always have eggs for breakfast, so I had to order this. Surprisingly, the dish was excellent. The shitake mushrooms were huge and tasty. You knew they were fresh.

Finally, my new addiction: the Classic Champorado. What made this Champorado special is the carabao milk that topped it. The chocolate was like Belgian, and the softness of the rice was perfect. It was also served with dried fish, like those served in provinces. I just absolutely loved the carabao milk as it blended with the chocolate soup. Yummy!

All in all, breakfast in Cafe by the Ruins was a hit to me. End your meal with exquisite Benguet Coffee and your day is made. I will go back just to have my Champorado again. I went back on our last day to learn that the Champorado is served all day. I wasn't able to order it though, since I was already full from my Pinikpikan dinner. So, when in Baguio, treat yourself to a sumptuous breakfast by the Ruins.

The Manor at Camp John Hay

The Manor at Camp John Hay has been my home for a week when I was in Baguio. For me, the Manor is the best hotel in Baguio, next to Elizabeth. Their rooms are huge, fit for a family of four. I love their walk in closet that I have transformed into my little office when I was there. The views of pine trees from the balcony does make you forget about work, as proven by my relentless efforts to keep a pace with the event we were organizing.

The Manor in itself is a beautiful place. The wooden panels exude coziness to the extreme. There is a spa, gym with all the facilities. It has a quaint bakeshop as well, that serves one of the best cheesecakes. Too bad I wasn't able to take a picture of the Marble Cheesecake that I had more than thrice while I was there.

The Manor also takes pride in one of the best restaurants in Baguio, the award winning, Le Chef. Though disappointed during my first dinner here, my succeeding meals proved satisfying enough. I had the same American breakfast during my entire stay and I just loved how they cooked their bacon. Crisp and lean. You should also try their Lechon Kawali with Laing, a great belly buster. Servings at Le Chef are huge as well, so make sure you have a big appetite. Dining here is also an experience, as you feel so comfortable, with the ambience so relaxing. The waiting staff is also attentive and pleasant.

The Manor at Cam John Hay is definitely the top choice for accommodations in Baguio. There's also the Manor Suites, which are more classy and expensive as well. A night in the Manor will set you back almost P5,000, but during the lean season (from June 15 to September), their published rates are slashed by half. Now that's a deal you shouldn't miss.

Baguio Country Club

The Baguio Country Club is exclusive for members only, so getting a chance to stay in this hotel doesn't come often. We stayed for a night at one of the Penthouses owned by San Miguel, our client. BCC may be exclusive, but it looks older than nearby Manor in Camp John Hay. The rooms also need to be refurbished, and the structure, well, does look tired. Though most guests are here for the golf, BCC's exclusivity gives it the class it deserves.

BCC is probably best known for its wonderful bakeshop, aptly called Raisin Bread. Whenever I go to Baguio, I try to pass by BCC to buy fresh raisin and banana bread. BCC also makes tempting cakes and desserts, some of which are sold in Starbucks and Figaro in Baguio.

You must absolutely try their raisin bread and banana bread, though I must say that during my last visit, the banana bread was not at its best. In any case, the popularity of their breads and pastries has truly been established. You even have to reserve your order a day in advance to make sure you don't loose some fresh stock. That in itself says a lot.


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