Posts Tagged ‘camp john hay’

pop goes the world: suffer the little ponies

POP GOES THE WORLD   By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  2 April 2012, Monday

Suffer the Little Ponies

The other weekend was for family. I spent it in Baguio City with my two daughters, their father, and his 7-year-old daughter, whose first time it was to visit the Summer Capital.

Having a newbie with us, we did the usual touristy things that one must at least once in a lifetime – boating on Burnham Park, picture-taking with the sunglasses-wearing St. Bernards at Mines View Park, and horseback-riding in Wright Park and Camp John Hay.

The horses in Baguio are small and sturdy native-bred ponies, not the Thoroughbreds used in racing, polo, dressage, and similar equestrian pursuits. (Not that horses are indigenous to the Philippines; they were imported from Java centuries ago.)

At Wright Park the ponies – many of them with manes dyed pink or purple, to attract children – go around a riding ring at a walk.

At Wright Park, which little kids enjoy. 24 March 2012

CJH also has an arena for 30-minute rides. The hour-long trail ride is for the adventurous. The children persuaded my ex and me to join them on the trail ride, which takes a well-worn path that winds up and down a mountain, with breathtaking views of pine trees and sky.

My former husband is a horseracing jockey who began his career in the late ‘80s, and is an expert horseman and racehorse trainer. We are used to seeing him on horses much larger and taller. His pony twitched and shook its head violently as we rode, and we stopped several times to adjust his saddle girth. I expected my ex to comment, but he was silent until we reached the halfway point, a wide flat clearing, and rested our mounts.

“This trail is dangerous,” he said.

The trail is packed earth hewn from the sides of the steep hill, around 16 to 20 inches wide, at some points narrower.  Below it is a road filled with zooming cars. My ex pointed out the lack of fences along the trail, the fact that the ponies’ hooves came within a couple of inches of the trail’s edge, that a slip of a hoof would cause pony and rider to tumble tens of feet down the hill straight into the road and its traffic.

The start of the trail ride at Camp John Hay. 25 March 2012

“What’s wrong with your pony?” I asked him. It still kept twitching.

“He’s half-crazy with pain,” he said. “They are not using a standard bit. It’s the wrong shape and an ill fit, so his mouth has become very sensitive.”

The pony “boy” – actually an elderly man – tried to calm my ex’s pony by adjusting rectangular pieces of stiff orange plastic beside its eyes.

“What are those?” I asked “Fred”, my pony boy.

“Blinkers,” he said, a bit embarrassed. “Home-made. We should have real blinkers, the kind like a mask that slips over the horse’s head. But we can’t afford them.”

Stopping to rest in a little clearing. 25 March 2012

Fred and the others who eke out a living from the rent-a-pony business lament their lack of finances that prevent them from acquiring standard tack (riding equipment). They forge their own bits from scrap metal. Horseshoes come from Pampanga and Batangas, made from heavy iron, a far cry from the light and comfortable aluminum racing plates used on the two racetracks in Cavite.

Funding problems aside, there is also the matter of having no suppliers in Baguio for tack, since the market is very small, unlike in Manila and Cavite where there are several suppliers of tack and veterinary supplies to the racing, polo, and equestrian sport worlds.

Apart from trail safety and equipment, there is also the matter of horse care. My ex spotted quite a few health problems among the ponies we saw.





(Left) Snaffle and D-ring, just a few of the many kinds of horse bits available. Image here. (right) A horse chews on his bit. Image here.

A substantial amount of Baguio’s income comes from tourism, and horseriding is an iconic pasttime for tourists, and has been for decades. In many cases, it is the only source of income for the pony boys and those in support activities.

Safety measures along the trail should be put into place, and regular health care for the ponies provided, not only to ensure the sustainability of this tradition, but also the pony boys’ livelihood and ponies’ well-being.

If help is needed, the horseracing industry can send vet missions to Baguio to perform hoof trimming, dental filing, vaccination, and other basic equine health procedures.

Next time we take to the trail, I hope it will be under better circumstances for all, so that rather than worry about tumbling down the hillside or whether the ponies are fine, riders will be free to enjoy the experience and lovely view. *** 

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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pop goes the world: an introvert’s holiday

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 March 2012, Thursday

An Introvert’s Holiday

It’s summer, when temperatures rise and nerves get frayed to snapping.

School is out and children are bored at home. Parents want to wean them off their electronic teats – Internet, television, video games – and send them out to play and learn in the real world. Stress-wrecked grownups who can’t calm down despite the regular inuman with friends or coffee-shop me-times want to reclaim their inner peace.

But how to accomplish all this without having to part crowds like Moses and deal with the yammer of the multitudes?

Rolando Tolentino, columnist and dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, tweeted yesterday: “Pag umaapaw ang aligaga na kahit ang usual treat-to-self ay di na umuubra, panahon nang pisikal na pagtakas. Fly high at bumalik na lang.“

A change of environment is called for.

Last December I took my two daughters with me for a tranquil yet creatively stimulating week in Baguio City. For many of us it was the default vacation location of our childhood. It’s still a magical place, channeling a Buddhist vibe of serenity despite the burgeoning pollution, construction, and population explosion.

Veer away from the usual haunts and immerse in places you haven’t yet been. Baguio is a city that is a living artwork. At Chocolate sa Batirol open-air café at Camp John Hay, even the stumps of trees that serve as seats are gaily painted with words and figures.

Paintings, sculptures, and antique wood carvings fill National Artist Ben Cabrera’s BenCab museum; its basement shelters Café Isabel and overlooks foliage-blanketed hills as fog rolls across your field of vision. Sip a cup of hot Benguet Arabica while you meditate on nature and art coming together in one enchanted dell.

View from the BenCab Museum balcony.

At Cafe Isabel, BenCab Museum.

Along Session Road, visit Namaste at Porto Vaga for bespoke crystal bracelets and Buddhist artwork from Nepal. Sit and read at Mountain Cloud bookshop, then walk a few steps to Hill Station restaurant next door for apple pie and more coffee. Go to VOCAS/Oh My Gulay at La Azotea for vegetarian meals inside an art gallery.

Namaste is visual bliss.

A “bookshelf chair” at Mt. Cloud bookshop.

Aerial view of Hill Station, from the Casa Vallejo inn staircase.

Vegetarian dishes at Oh My Gulay within VOCAS art gallery.

At Hotel Elizabeth along Gibraltar Road, enter a state of Zen at Bliss Café, and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at Café by the Ruins on Chuntug Road.

Interesting interior of Bliss Cafe. The light is warm and enveloping.

Cafe by the Ruins is adorned with artwork.

The easiest way to get to Baguio is by bus. Victory Liner has a fleet of airconditioned buses bound for points north; the deluxe ones have an on-board toilet and acres of legroom. An online ticketing system makes getting seats stress-free.

The Victory Liner terminal at Baguio City.

The people of Victory Liner are kind and helpful – the kids and I wound up at the wrong terminal, and the people there called ahead to the right one to let us know we were on the way to catch our bus. When we arrived photo-finish, puffing and panting, only smiles greeted us as willing hands reached out to stow our luggage in the cargo hold and guide us into our seats. A bus attendant handed out bottled water, snacks, and magazines. It was like taking an airplane flight.

For accommodations, book reservations online for the Microtel Inn right beside Victory’s Baguio City terminal. The food is great, the breakfast chef cooks your eggs the way you like it, and there is free-flowing coffee in the lobby.

The Microtel Inn is right beside the Victory Liner terminal.

Take your journey, the one that will help you rediscover your balance, gain peace, and recharge your soul.

* * * * *

Last December 17, typhoon Sendong obliterated entire communities in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, leaving over 3,000 persons dead and missing and 342,000 more displaced and homeless, living in tent cities or barangay sports courts.

In the aftermath, 56 people, some of them young children, tried to take their own lives. There is an increase in incidences of teenage pregnancy, incest, and rape, especially in the tent cities.

Psycho-social intervention helps by coaching survivors in stress-relief techniques based on yoga and proper breathing. To help continue sustaining the Art of Living trauma relief workshops being conducted in the area, Hongkong-based opera singer Wayne Yeh and international theater performer Lissa Romero-de Guia will be singing on March 26 at the “Opera vs. Broadway” fundraising concert for the benefit of the survivors of typhoon Sendong.

Image from Lissa de Guia.

Wayne will sing opera and Lissa Broadway hits, in a duel of style and sound at the Isla Ballroom, EDSA Shangri-La Hotel Manila. Ticket details at or call Madeline Pajarillo at (0917)820-2081. *** 

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