I found myself for the third time in the Cordilleras. I actually mean Baguio City but calling it the Cordilleras makes things sound more interesting. The place has become a refuge when the stress level gets alarming and I need a break from the “noise”. Truth be told, there is nothing much [left] for me to see in Baguio. I’ve been around the city and I don’t think I need to do it multiple times. However, it’s not the scenery that I’m after. It has always been the peace and quiet while still being around people. Oddly, I find walking around, observing people, and getting lost in my thoughts in the soothing cold very relaxing.

I originally planned to go alone and spend five weekdays in the place. I can work from there if I want to and save my vacation leaves for another getaway. But I thought my parents could also use a break from the monotony of domestic life and brought them with me. That instantly made me their tour guide. I cannot fulfil that role if I’d be stuck in some hotel room working. I had to file a leave. I regret nothing though. I booked a place two days before our travel date and filed a two-day leave in that same day. My project manager signed it with no fuss. She’s that awesome.

Baguio was not one of mom’s dream local travel destinations. She has always been afraid of the quality of the roads at the mountainside. I had to tell her several times that the bus was going to take the newer Marcos highway and not Kennon road although frankly, I don’t think it makes a big difference. On our way up to the city, she was half amazed and half agitated. The city is more than 1,500 meters above sea level; I cannot really blame her. Additionally, the fog was creeping on the side of the mountain which can make the view either fascinating or scary. And no you can’t simply tell people what to feel.

Our first day was spent walking around Burnham park and then buying food at the market. The temperature was about 19°C. Of course my parents took gazillion pictures. For a moment I was convinced that we switched generations. I became the baby boomer and they became millennials. And then I remembered that we have quite a stack of photo albums at home. I changed my judgment. They are baby boomers. I’m the ultimate grandpa.

The second day was allotted for exploring the place. Fortunately, the sun was up. Before the trip, I warned them several times that exploring Baguio can be taxing especially on one’s legs. One must not be discouraged though, the mountain god shall grant them steel legs and firm buttocks. Mom brought her pair of running shoes. She’s a total girl scout in this part.

It can be tempting to hire a car and driver when exploring places but you can skip that in Baguio. It can set you back 2,000 to 3,500 pesos for an 8-hour service which is not practical considering the ease of getting a cab or booking one through a mobile app. We visited 6 places and our total fare didn’t go beyond 500 pesos. Additionally, Baguio has decent, nice, and disciplined cab drivers. It helps to rethink things every once in a while.

The highlight of the trip was getting to the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. We wouldn’t have gone there if not for mom’s insistence. I’m not very religious and I thought of it as nothing but a tiring ascent to a grotto and a chapel and nothing more. I was wrong. The moment I finished the 252 steps, I went to the chapel, sat on one of the wooden benches, and felt peace—the kind I haven’t felt for a very long time. For a moment there was silence in my head and I felt that I could cry for no apparent reason. It was like sitting beside God. I of course kept it to myself lest my mom think that there’s something wrong. Ha! Many things are not alright mom but I shall tell you about that some other time. I didn’t get up until it was time for us to go. A part of me wanted to and could stay in that place and moment forever.

To my relief, my parents enjoyed the trip and they genuinely impressed me when they didn’t mind the numerous slopes we had to climb. They even wanted to stay longer. We must be lovers of leisurely walks.

Baguio is a go-to place when you want to disappear from toxic Manila yet do not want to completely isolate yourself from the bustling people. It feels like your home city only less stressful. I bid the place goodbye knowing that I’ll be back again someday. -aB

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Going home.

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