Easy breezy Baguio

This City of Pines is a place of retreat from the hustle-bustle of the busy city and is simply the kind of respite we crave from time to time. With an estimated 2.5 million Benguet pine trees surrounding the city and the uphill and downhill terrain and panoramic view of houses on the hills as well as foggy mountains, Baguio is definitely a wonderful escape I consider one of my happy places.

Apartments and staycation places abound with price range to choose from and for people like me who travel to places to relax and be refreshed there are lots of choices. I go for homey apartments with a view of either the pine trees or the mountains in quiet neighbourhoods and our recent trip is certainly one choice I am happy to have made especially with its tasteful interiors and thoughtful amenities and very attentive caretakers . http://freds.com.ph/baguio/page/gallery

Coffee Shops and cafes are staples in our agenda and we search for nice ones with good reviews. For our family trip this time, we were quite satisfied with our choices and the cold December weather added to the thrill.

A visit to Camp John Hay is another must. With a large concentration of pine trees in the area, one can easily fall in love with the place. Early this year (before the stricter travel measures due to the pandemic was imposed), we had the chance to participate in the Baguio Marathon which started and ended in Camp John Hay. I did half marathon and the downhill and uphill route was certainly not for the faint of heart. The route went all the way to the Lion’s Head along Kennon Road and just when the finish line is already in sight, you have to run another kilometre uphill with your legs almost giving up.

Another must-visit is the Bencab Museum. The display of contemporary artworks in this museum is wide and the museum itself with its modern and clean design is lovely. National Artist Benedicto Reyes Cabrera’s (Bencab) works are beautiful. He is indeed one source of Filipino pride. Read more about his works and profile: http://www.bencabmuseum.org/national-artist/

Due to its idyllic weather, fruits are abundant and the Baguio market is a feast of various produce from the province. For coffee drinkers, Benguet coffee is synonymous to great coffee. In fact, an Atok-grown coffee emerged as the grand champion in the 3rd Philippine Coffee Competition held in March 2018. Oliver Oliem’s Arabica coffee entry won 1st place while 2 other Benguet Arabica coffee entries also won 3rd and 5th place among 700 entries. Atok coffee was described as a blend with flavour characteristics of apricot, lemongrass, pomelo, oolong Tea and the aroma of a rose. The National Barista Champion 2020 Adrian Vocalan also used coffee from Itogon, Benguet. No wonder there was a queue in the Fresh Roast shop at the Baguio marketplace where you can get Benguet premium and flavoured coffees. Read more: https://pia.gov.ph/features/articles/1019148

For sure, Baguio will always be one of my favourite places in the country and I am just so happy to note of Baguio’s Re-greening Masterplan which includes a tree-cutting moratorium. It is my hope that House Bill No. 7090 seeking for 10-year moratorium on tree cutting in the city (by Baguio Congressman Mark Go) last July 13, 2020 will be passed to reinforce the 5-year tree-cutting moratorium imposed in residential, business and public areas in the city.

With the newly opened NLEX-SLEX Connector which is expected to cut down travel time from Metro Manila and is set to be fully operational by January 14, 2020, Baguio will certainly be more attractive to people like me who just want to be away and experience easy breezy Baguio.

That thing they call “nesting”…discovering (and rediscovering) the joys of staying home

“The ultimate luxury is being able to relax and enjoy your home.”

~Jeff Lincoln

Attitude is everything and in such a situation as being forced to stay home for an extended period like what’s happening now with this pandemic, it’s either we wallow in frustration or we embrace it and for many including myself, we chose the latter.

So we settled in and “nested” – a condition that makes us do stuff for our home and in our home: decorating and redecorating it; purchasing things to re-create the “experience” we used to do outside but could not do now like fine dining, reading a book at a cafe, going to the salon, having a massage, watching a movie on the big screen and many more.

I moved around some pieces of furniture. This one used to be in a section at the garage which has been brought up to the balcony by five men as the daybed is very heavy.

To entertain ourselves, we looked for activities to do and new hobbies to be occupied with. Plantherapy trended giving birth to the monikers “plantitas and plantitos”. Photos of home-cooked food also flooded IG and FB (and I had many of these as well) and more tiktok videos uploaded.

I am no different. As a family whose weekend routine always included dining out and going to the malls, it was hard at first but we slowly got used to it. Saturdays became my movie days with my teenage daughter and we discovered that we both like watching true stories of sports icons and athletes as well as underdogs. My daughter loves to cook and bake so her dad and I were happy recipients of her experiments. The culinary skill of my niece was optimised too and my foray of the kitchen resulted to compliments from my husband and daughter. We realised that birthdays and anniversaries can be special too even if celebrated only at home. In fact, I like it more with celebrations that started with a special breakfast and ended with a fine dinner.

So I started buying pretty dining wares from the online marketplace to complete the fine dining experience at home and satisfy my shopaholic cravings. The Dalgona coffee and oatmeal cookies of my daughter became an afternoon treat and as the quarantine went into extension after extension, I went farther into re-creating the home experience. One luxury purchase I made, justified as a birthday gift to myself, was this wonderful Breville Home Barista Express https://www.breville.com.ph/the-barista-express that allowed me to make specialty coffees at home.

I joined the plant craze and started collecting different varieties of monstera, philodendron, aglaonema, fittonia, calathea and rubber trees and gained more knowledge as I researched on how to care for them and the benefits they bring to the home. Having this penchant for aesthetics, I went further deep into repotting my babies in lovely (and pricey…sigh) clay pots. Having these plants led me to reinvent some spaces in our home which now offer a more relaxed and refreshing vibe.

I also was finally able to start writing blogs which was something I wanted to do for sometime now but didn’t find the time to start.

When we go back to being able to do more of the going out stuff, I think it won’t be the same for me as this nesting have taught me the ultimate luxury of enjoying home.

How I discovered running

I can say I had always lived an active lifestyle that includes visits to the gym and when it became boring, I moved to boxing and Muay Thai and then yoga. So, I juggled these work-outs and even did a combination at some point but never got into running. I got interested from the sharing of my office mate and close colleague, Div, after he participated in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon 2015 where our company is a major sponsor of. He related the gala night before the run held inside Angkor Wat with one of the temples as the back drop. It seemed so interesting and it was affirmed by two of my team members, Bimbo and Nicole, who participated in 2017.

The pre-run gala dinner with a temple as a backdrop lit by a thousand candles.

So on July of 2018 at age 52, I started training to run 10K in the same event that is held annually in the 1st week of December. I downloaded a training app and began my training. I realised running 5 minutes straight is challenging even if I was relatively physically fit. Indeed, one cannot join a marathon at whim as it requires months or even years of building endurance lest you either faint or get injured.

To keep me motivated, I encouraged my teenage daughter, my sister and her son and even our househelp to run too and I would register everyone in fun runs. I started with 5K then progressed to 10K just in time for the Angkor Wat run. I also encouraged a couple of my team members to participate so we can travel together. That’s how my “destination runs” started.

That’s how my “destination runs” started.

As a UNESCO world heritage site, what draws tourists to Siem Reap, Cambodia is Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world! Events held in the complex are limited and running with those amazing temples of almost a thousand years old is just so surreal. The run route is so amazing passing through a beautiful lake while the sun rises colouring the sky red orange is magical! You run through arches and bridges that are attractions in themselves which speak of so much history; you run surrounded by several centuries-old trees that grew on walls and structures like nature conquering what men made. There’s no wonder it is such a popular event with over 10,000 runners that year, over 5,000 are foreigners from 76 countries (www.runsociety.com).

Training for 10K requires at least 3 times a week of run days building endurance to be able to run at a good pace and after doing it for almost 5 months, I got hooked into it. I went back to run half marathon (21K) in 2019 with my husband and sister, Ging (in orange in the photo) and another officemate and team member, June, running 10K and would love to do it again! 

From the time I discovered running and started training in July 2018, I have never stopped. I continue to run at least three times a week and my husband has joined me in this passion which we have incorporated in our family travels. Oh yes, I am looking forward to run my first full marathon and I hope it will be soon.