Chill pills and heartwarmers

I've been meaning to go back to Baguio for the longest time. And that's such a shame for someone who claims it well may be her favorite place in the Philippines, granted her undeniable love for the great outdoors and the perennial sweater weather the city offers. That said, each trip up the mountains remains unforgettable.

Case in point: my last visit four years ago, when our tropical country transitioned into the chilly Christmas month, with twelve of my best buds from college. That long weekend was filled with nothing but extraordinary memories, and only to name a few: log cabin sleepovers complete with midnight snacks and early breakfasts delivered to our doorstep, that picnic in the woods, the Christmassy playground we had all to ourselves, goofing around garbed in Igorot costume, the breathtaking view from what felt like the top of the world, the delicious and original strawberry sago, and of course the warmth of the families who took us in (shoutout to E213/S607!) and of the genuine people of Baguio, in general. It's in these short yet full moments where I find reason to return to the summer capital as soon and as often as I could.

It was in late August when I took my feelings and frustrations to the Cordilleras on a long weekend (thanks to a Monday non-working holiday in its truest and rarest form—I'm sometimes required to report for work on a holiday or weekend) with one of my closest girls, Geli. She and her family lives in Baguio and they welcomed me to the City of Pines with open arms, together with our two dear friends from university. I am forever grateful for their hospitality, adopting and taking good care of me for those two and a half days as if I was part of their crazy fun bunch.

After the six-hour bus ride late on Friday night and the decent sleep we had upon arrival to their lovely home, Geli and I cruised through Camp John Hay, exploring its picnic grounds by foot, then perused the outlet stores at the Mile Hi Center, and finally grabbed some Carlo's Pizza slices and buffalo wings for late lunch. It had been raining non-stop in metropolitan Manila when we left, so the change in scenery and atmosphere was quite pleasant. We experienced a few drizzles here and there but who was I to complain? I was reunited with the greens, the fog, and the cold that I love so much, and those were enough.

Getting to see my lovelies and Geli's fellow E213/S607 occupants, Timmy and Jess, were added bonuses. They followed us at Moonleaf where we caught up over our dose of wintermelons with pearls, our college favorites. Our bonding session was cut short because we all had to run a couple of errands but promised to see each other again later that day. We squeezed in a quick peek of the famed Mt. Cloud Bookshop (no photo) and rightfully so, it deserved all the buzz. The quaint little space has got to be the most adorable thing I've seen in a while, what with its quirky and playful interiors. It's unfortunate I couldn't spend a mere five minutes there because of the children's party they were throwing in honor of their third year.

We returned to Geli's home base to freshen up prior to dinner at one of the many restaurants in this hip compound called the Ketchup Food Community. It's pretty cool how they have all the cuisines available, tourists and locals alike will have to come back to be able to taste-test everything. We ended up with Thai food that evening and surely Happy Tummy did not disappoint, with their delicious meals and rustic interiors. We also feasted on a slice of red velvet cheesecake for dessert from Canto. Our sort-of girls night out ensued with chillin' out at Kaffeeklatsch and later at the now-defunct Turf.

After hearing mass at the cathedral the next day, my wonderful "foster family" and I had pasta and ribs lunch at Route 55 by the highway. I barely get to spend time, let alone meet my college friends' parents and families, as they don't get to visit school in the same way as we don't get to visit our chum's hometowns quite as often when we were students, living away from the comforts of our homes and busy acquiring that degree...so that weekend was definitely new ground for me. I loved it eitherway—in my book, anybody related to my "sisters," I consider my family too. And within five minutes of the conversation, we all get to click just like with their children. I suppose how friendships work between people is in some ways genetic too. Geli and I then returned to the Camp John Hay grounds to kill time before meeting up with the rest of my favorite Baguio babes again.

If you haven't noticed yet, we did away with the tourist spots on this trip entirely. Instead, we dove in headfirst and ventured into the local dining scene almost instantly. "When in Rome do as the Romans do" was exactly what we did. But if there was one touristy activity I could not pass up on and by all means, shamelessly do, it would be riding on horseback. Me and my unquestionable fondness for horses (or maybe just the idea of it?) and simple life on the outskirts of the metro. Exploring the woods on horseback completes the countryside experience, don't even think about leaving Baguio without it!

By dawn, we settled for some Chocolate de Batirol paired with turon de langka for merienda at their garden restaurant then devoured more pizzas at Volante in Technohub. A little later we took our party back to Geli's where we conveniently won draw on Wii Sports and then marathoned Dance Central all night. The trip really was meant for avoiding the usual daytripper itinerary whilst eating our hearts out in up and coming diners. That, and spending an awful lot of time with the ladies, just hanging out and keeping up with each other's crazy. I seriously would not have it any other way.

We've grown so much together a few years back in Manila, it's sad we don't see each other as quite much as we did in college, living under the same roof and all. I would never forget how their room door and ears were just open to my every rant and rave, my kilig and sakit-sa-puso tales. And I will sorely miss them again, especially so that they returned to their beloved city hundreds of miles away from our "home away from home" in pursuit of their education and careers. Though sad, I could not be any more happy for them. While we all tread our own paths, being works-in-progress with our own timelines, I sure am glad that they all find their ways back home and that they have one another. Until next time!

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