Posts Tagged ‘hill station’

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 http://www.artofliving.org.ph or call Madeline Pajarillo at (0917)820-2081. *** 

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a writers’ coffee shop

If I won the lottery I would open a coffee shop for writers, where writers can caffeinate and dream and write in peaceful, aesthetically pleasing, and food-and-coffee laden surroundings.

It will open its doors at 1130am, perfect for late lunches of pasta, sandwiches, and hearty soup. After that, you can settle down to write, with a potful of coffee by your side and your choice of dessert beside it. Waiters will only murmur gently when they take your order, and then leave you alone, not to disturb you again except when you summon them for a refill or another slice of pie or to give you your bill when you ask.

Brewed Benguet arabica and apple pie at Hill Station Cafe, Casa Vallejo, Baguio City. 13 April 2011.

They will never ask you to leave, even if it’s late. The manager will merely dim the lights gradually as a signal for closing time, which is at 430am, just before sunrise. Then you can move to a breakfast place for eggs and bacon or arroz caldo and go home and sleep. Most writers are more productive at night and the wee hours, anyway, because then there are no more interruptions – phone calls, meetings, and excited people rushing up to you to gab about one thing or another, that may or may not be interesting. Usually it’s not.

There will be free wifi with the strongest possible signal obtainable, and plentiful sockets for Macs and netbooks and mobile phone chargers and tablets inset along the baseboards and on the floor. The password for the wifi will change everyday: “tolkien”, “nickjoaquin”, and “arabica” will be some of them. Because the owner is a writer, and knows a great many words, no password will ever be used twice.

A cozy corner at Hill Station Cafe, where I wrote my Manila Standard-Today column for that week. 13 April 2011

For those who prefer to write in longhand, bottles of Waterman ink in blue-black and South Sea blue (a lovely turquoise) will be offered on a tray to refill a fountain pen, on the house. Other inks of different brands and vintages – J. Herbin, Diamine, Pilot Iroshizuku, Private Reserve, Sailor, Noodler’s  - will be listed on a special menu, like fine wines. Notebooks with guaranteed fountain-pen friendly paper will be offered on the menu’s reverse side – Clarefontaine, Rhodia, Daycraft, Green Apple.

Regulars will have their own personal reserved spaces in quiet corners. My friends will have their own personal chairs with nameplates affixed to the backs, and no one else would be allowed to use those chairs.

Writers Yvette Tan (“Waking the Dead and Other Stories”, a short story collection) and Clarissa Militante (“Different Countries”, a novel) chat at the BenCab Museum cafe in Baguio, 10 April 2011.

There will be a few paintings and photographs on the wall, but most of the space will be taken up with books on shelves, wall-to-wall. Anyone may read them on the premises. There will be memorabilia from writers – one of Butch Dalisay’s baseball caps or old Macs, Jing Hidalgo’s lipstick, a book of poetry by Gemino Abad, with the poet’s annotations in the margins.

At night, around six o’clock, the place will turn into a bar, with beer and nuts and sizzling sisig, so that writers so inclined may get drunk and maudlin and reminisce about the good old days, or raucous and combative and rehash old grudges, as they are so moved. Maybe over the kibitzing a story or poem idea may be born, collaborations made, and money-making schemes hatched.

On weekend nights there will be poetry readings, or open-mic nights, where anyone who wishes can strum the guitar, sing the blues, or perform stand-up comedy.

A dream coffee-shop? A sanctuary of the mind? Who’s to say it cannot come true?

I will buy a lottery ticket tomorrow.

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