Baguio is the cool mountain retreat that many Manila dwellers escape to on long weekends. It's where urbanites go to get away from the heat, the smog, and the riot of the city. It's also been an artist enclave for many decades, attracting the creative-minded with its easy-going nature.
Coming from Abra, my cousins Alessa, PJ, Ralph and I arrived in Baguio just in time for dinner. After 6 hours on the road we went straight to Cafe by the Ruins before going to our guest house. And as luck would have it, we were in for a treat.
We were ushered to our table, which was right next to the table of Philippines' art all-stars. Benedicto Cabrera was holding court with Kawayan de Guia. Kidlat Tahimik was filming the night's festivities, while Mishka Adams, who hasn't been sighted in 5 years since winning multiple awards for her last album, sang the entire evening. A free concert by one of the Philippines' foremost recording artists. Surreal!!! Mishka's voice, accompanied only by ukulele, wafted clear over their long table, onto their bonfire, and out into the cold night air.
PJ was the only one brave enough to ask for a photo with his idol Ben Cab. Actually, I think, it was less bravery than compulsion. As an artist himself, he couldn't NOT ask. Ben Cab was kind enough to oblige.
On the car ride from the cafe to our guest house PJ said of our chance encounter, "sumasabog and puso ko" (my heart was bursting). It was poetic. Now, as I write this, I wonder if our idols could ever understand what impact they have on us.
Sundot kulangot (booger pickings). You read it correctly.
I'm digging the packaging! Pun intended. It's beautiful and clever. Nut shells are repurposed casings for the honey and slivers of bamboo keep the balls in neat columns. The red tape makes it eye catching.
At the market, signs said "3 for P100" ($2.50). I thought it meant 3 sticks with 7 balls each. I was surprised when the girl gave me 3 bundles with 6 sticks each. I was never fond of this delicacy myself, maybe it's the name, but nostalgia made me get them.
To assuage your horror, they're not really boogers. The balls are hard nuts taped together with red paper. Inside the nut it a tiny, sweet, sticky gob like honey. They call it boogers because you have to pick the honey out of the nut using your finger, much like picking your nose.
Abdul, 9 yrs old
We met him at Baguio palenke. He's one of the many boys who hang around the market offering to carry shoppers' purchases for them. He'll follow you around the palengke for as long as you shop and carry your vegetables, fruits, and sundries for gratuity of 20 pesos ($0.50). After almost an hour shopping with Abdul, an older teenage boy twice Abdul's age says they work together as a team. He says this so that he can get half of what Abdul will get paid. My aunt tells this older boy Guro that she doesn't need another helper and to find another customer. Guro gets livid and tells Abdul that he will beat him up and take his money as soon as we leave. My aunt tells other teenage boys, also offering to carry our stuff, that they need to stop Guro if he beats Abdul. As soon as my aunt and I get in our car, I saw Abdul running as fast as his legs would take him. I couldn't look away until he was swallowed up by the crowd.
We went to the BenCab Museum on our last day. It has an amazing collection of antique Filipino artifacts, and the ground are just as impressive as the artwork. Various shades of green surround the museum building in BenCab's mountaintop farm and gardens.