Sunday, December 29, 2013

Poro Point Lighthouse

No, it's not enough that our favorite Daddy Ches drives the 60 million miles to get us to Tarlac, Pangasinan, Baguio, and back again to QC - he offers to make a side trip, too, to Poro Point Lighthouse in La Union, as part of his Christmas gift to me.  Owww.  I think this is part of why I'm so fierce and set in my ways:  Ches makes me feel completely and thoroughly loved despite and maybe even bcoz of all that I am, so why should I change a thing, right?  Hahaha.  I know, I know - there's a long line of girls beating down our door and waiting to get their hands on him as soon as I breathe my last from all the bad food I eat.  Get in line. Hahaha.

This was the first lighthouse we visited where we had to get the Coast Guard's official permission to do so. Maybe bcoz the Coast Guard office just happened to be nearby, and also bcoz it's located in some kind of military zone.  The lighthouse itself looked newly painted, while a small structure beside it and the surrounding area look like they're undergoing renovation.  We couldn't go in and climb up bcoz the door was locked and the Coast Guard did not exactly give us the key so we figured that was not part of the permission they issued to us.  Hahaha.  

So we didn't get to see the top but the lighthouse is supposed to look out to the China Sea.  Hello, China Sea!  

Another strange thing about this lighthouse was, the house is actually occupied by what looked like the lighthouse keeper's family.  There were two young kids biking around, freshly washed laundry hanging to dry, and the faint sound of a radio coming from the house.  Usually these lighthouses are isolated and there is just the lone lighthouse keeper staying there, if at all.  So I didn't take pix of the house and instead focused on these two dogs who looked so serious guarding the lighthouse.     


Ches drove for 8.5 hours that day, from Baguio to Naguilian to Poro Point to Pangasinan then finally to Tarlac.  It's one of those times I feel bad I don't drive, bcoz I can't take my turn at the wheel and give him even just a few hours' rest.  

Ches:  Don't worry, I'm fine.  This is what I call true love.
Me:  Ha!  So now I know your true love has a duration of 8.5 hours.


(Thank you, Chestnuts. I love you more than all the lighthouses in the world.)

What I love best about these road trips is bonding with the boys.  They sleep only for a little bit when we're on the road, so mostly we spend the time chatting, singing, eating.  It is during these trips that they come up with their craziest, funniest ideas.

Boots:  You lose, I win!
Yoshi:  I win!  Period!  Period!  Period!  
Ches:  It should just be one period, bcoz if it's three then that's an ellipsis, which means there's a continuing thought.
Me:  Baket period ang usapan?  May regla?


Me:  Boots, why are you thumb-sucking again?
Boots:  I already told you - it's still my dignity!
Me:  Why do you keep doing it?
B:  It's deliciously yummy!
Me:  What does it taste like?
B:  Like heavenly joy!
Me:  Until when will you keep doing it?
B:  Until I die!  

The laughter alone is already well worth the gas, stress, and body pains it takes to stage these road trips.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Last Stop 2013: Baguio

Chester figured since we were going north for Christmas, anyway, for his family reunion in Tarlac and to visit Lola in Pangasinan, we might as well head up to Baguio to take advantage of the cold weather.  I'm the girl with the shirt that says 'Kaladkarin', I'm so easy to talk to when it comes to going out or taking a trip.  If Ches is driving,  then I'm packing. 

My first choice to stay in was Forest House.  I loved the whole log cabin and country style of it and was willing to splurge on the steep rates if only for these.  I had such a stressful time booking with them, tho, and I won't go into the boring details except to say that they have the worst customer service I've ever encountered in any hotel here and abroad, and I wasn't about to put up with that.  (Aanhin pa ang log cabin kung ang nakatira naman ay kwago???)

In stark contrast, all it took to book us a room in Jack's Grand View Hotel was one email, which the owner herself answered within the same day.  I did not even need to pay online or make a deposit.  Moral of the story:  respect yourself and do not tolerate anyone's lousy treatment.  I always tell my boys this (mostly to explain why I'm being maldita to someone).       

Jack's is so new that a part of it is still under construction.  The room and bath were big and clean, the staff warm and helpful, the ambiance modern but still with the rustic touches associated with Baguio.  The hotel's also conveniently located near Burnham, a big plus especially in the peak season when traffic gets as bad as a love affair gone awry:  in other words, hindi ka maka-move on.  Hahaha. 

This is how the facade looks like.  Ches appreciates that someone from the staff always comes out to guide him when he parks bcoz the area is uphill and parking can get quite tricky especially at night.

Breakfast is a bit sad with just tocino, longaniza, or bangus with egg, but I guess you can't have buffets everywhere, right?  We've all eaten too much over the holidays, anyways - we could all use light (or at least lighter than usual) meals sometimes. 

What I loved best about Jack's were all the pine trees surrounding it.  All we had to do was get out of our room and into the many outdoor sitting areas, and there the pine trees were.  Baguio = pine trees = love.

Ches requested that we try 50's Diner.  He eyes the place every time we're in Baguio, but there's always a crowd waiting outside so we go to some other resto instead.  This time we set out early for dinner and lucked out on a branch near our hotel, too.  So Ches got his favorite American fare of burgers and shakes, Yoshi had his never-ending fried chicken, I got my pork chops, and Boots ended up with a gigantic club sandwich that was almost double the size of his face.  Hahaha.

The theme for this trip was chillax - and literally, too, with the brrr weather.  We did not make any plans for what we would do in our three days there.  It was enough to spend family time together at the end of the year.  I left it entirely up to Ches to drive us to wherever he wanted to go.  He chose to follow Dr. B's suggestion and took us to the BenCab Museum and Tam-Awan Village.
The BenCab Museum is so worth the trip and raves at tripadvisor.  It's huge and spanking clean, and the art collection is the best I've seen in any museum in the Philippines.  A lot of the paintings are by the national artist himself, but there are also several by other masters as well as newer artists.  My favorite BenCabs are the two below.  They look so real and yet at the same time have this surreal quality.  Wow.  Amazing.   

The museum has a masters' gallery that features the works of other renowned Filipino artists, like Ramon Orlina and Araceli Dans.  I read somewhere that BenCab and Orlina are the only two living masters who have their own museums.  The latter only recently opened his in Tagaytay.  (I've been reading up about him bcoz I'm intrigued by his fight against the parish priest of Taal Church, a heritage site we visited last year.)

The museum also has an erotica gallery with artwork so graphic it was hard not to giggle while viewing them. Kids are not allowed in this area, naturally.   

Apparently BenCab is also an avid collector of Ifugao art - in the form of sculptures, furniture, pottery, etc. They're everywhere in the museum, and there's an entire hall dedicated to them.  You gotta feel proud that our ancestors have been creating these things of beauty for centuries.

The boys' favorites were the scary-looking paintings, of course.  Mostly they just ran around and got impatient for Ches and me to be done with our tour of the museum, so they could go outside and have the strawberry taho we promised them when we got in.  Groan.  You try to instill some culture in your children and all they can think of is stupid taho.

Thank you, Ate, for my Christmas Kitty shirt!
What would I do for funky Kitty fashion if not for you?

The museum also has a cafeteria in the basement.  Even that is artfully decorated, with colorful chairs, fresh anthuriums on each table, and every inch of wall space covered with paintings.

The cafeteria leads into the garden which that day was wrapped in fog.  Fantastic.  The fog gave the place an ethereal quality and the sense that you must be in paradise, with hell waiting just beyond that area that the fog keeps you from seeing.  People were complaining that the garden would've looked so much better if it was sunny and not too foggy, but for me personally the weather was perfect.  I can get sunlight every friggin day in hot old Manila, but fog like this - only in Baguio.

And then we were off to Tam-Awan Village, which is a.k.a. Garden In The Sky.  You have to climb up and cross bridges to see Igorot huts and native artwork.  It was a bit of a workout bcoz the steps were pretty steep and the ground muddy.  (Good thing I had my trusty DMs on.  Yes!  Hahaha.)  To be perfectly honest - the place was no great shakes.  You can go thru the rest of your life not ever seeing it and you'll be perfectly fine.   

One attraction in Tam-Awan Village is the local artists' corner where you can sit for 10 to 15 minutes and have your portrait drawn by local artists.  Two were really good but they were in demand and had a long waiting list, so we went with whoever was available.  (Our theme was chillax, remember?)  The boys' portraits did not turn out too badly, but Ches' and mine hardly looked like us and looked more like two characters in some sappy teleserye.  Hahaha.  Ches said the two of us probably look so ugly the artists took the liberty to Photoshop us.  Hahaha.

The boys always have one request when we go to Baguio:  Camp John Hay, so they can do their usual pine cone gathering.  So we headed there for that, and also for pizza and pasta at Carlo's Pizza, as well as some outlet and duty-free shopping.  It was in this area where Ches saw Mike Enriquez, but he didn't tell me until the latter was already on his way out of the store.  Dang, I would've had my pix taken with him to show to Kaye!  Kaye and I love Mike Enriquez.  Hahaha.  Yoshi would call my attention later to another 'artista' in the store. He doesn't know her name but sees her all the time on TV.  It turned out to be - Atty. Lorna Kapunan.  Hahaha.    

We stayed in Camp John Hay until it got dark, and then I asked for some ukay-ukay time while the boys saw the lights and fountains in Burnham Park. I lucked out on a BCBG, DVF, and Marc Jacobs dress for only P350 each.  Imsuchdaultimatewinnershopper!  Hahaha.

Dinner was at Vizco's over at Session Road.  It's highly-rated in tripadvisor and touted as having the best strawberry shortcake in Baguio.  It lived up to all that rep.  It was kind of our last choice, actually, only bcoz Cafe By The Ruins had a long waiting list that put us at No. 12 (no, thanks!), and Chaya was also fully booked and one huge table was occupied by my husband-and-wife law professors with what looked like their entire clan.  Yikes.  I prefer not to be reminded of my family law and constitutional law while having my dinner, kaya lalo nang no, thanks!  Hahaha.

This is the only Baguio trip we've taken in recent memory where we didn't eat in my parents' favorite Chinese resto, Star Cafe.  We all love it and the boys even have a pet name for it ('efacrats' - go figure), but Baguio is teeming with all these good restos that you just have to try sometime.  Live a little, right?

Our third and last day in Baguio we spent just lounging around in the hotel, and going to the market to stock up on all our favorite Baguio goodies - fresh strawberries and veggies, Good Shepherd and Tantamco's ube jam, and the boys' Mikasan milk chocolate flakes.  Romana's peanut brittle is also a favorite, but this time a saleslady convinced me to give Baguio Paradise a try, saying it has more peanut and less sugary than Romana's.

I'm actually going back to Baguio again in February for a big office event, but that doesn't matter bcoz Baguio is one of those places I'd go back to again and again ... and again.  Baguio is best shared with your favorite boys in the world, of course.