Sunday, February 25, 2007

Baguio: Baguio City in full bloom for Panagbenga 2007

After all those years watching the parade on television and seeing photos of the colorful floral floats published in our national dailies, I finally saw the Panagbenga (Baguio Flower Festival) with my own two eyes. It was late when we decided to actually trek up to Baguio City to brave one of the biggest crowds that jampack the city annually.

Since hotels would have been fully-booked and buses filled to the hilt, we decided to drive up on the morning of the float parade, just in time to find a good vantage point for festivities. We left Pampanga at about 12 midnight. It was a sleepy but smooth drive given that heavy traffic was factored out of the picture. So we made it to Baguio close to 3:30 a.m. if I'm not mistaken. We took a quick nap at a place where some friends were staying and at 6 a.m., we were off to Session Road for breakfast.

Our plan was to try out the breakfast meals at Swiss Baker. But since they had a catering service that morning, they did not offer breakfast that day and we were left with the turnovers from the night before. As we were eating, we noticed that the sidewalk was slowly being filled-up so I rushed out to reserve a place for us. To make the long story short, we waited for close to two hours before the parade reached us. By that time, there was layer upon layer of people behind us. So it really paid to come early.

First came the city officials and the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy followed by the colors borne by cadets from the PMA. Then came two great floats from the Baguio Country Club and Chowking, both in the Hall of Fame. I especially liked the Chowking float which was very creative.

The parade was so orderly and there was enough crowd control and police to keep people within the rope on either side of Session Road. Of course, the floats which were out of place were those of the candidates. When the people carrying the letters CHAVIT passed by our area, everyone shouted "boo!" with their thumbs down. I thought it would have been the same reception when the float with the candidates passed by. But then, Cesar Montano was on it, so the boos became shrieks from fans.

For some reason, we managed to get out of the rope and find a great vantage point in front of the Baguio City Market. How we were able to do that without being noticed by the police is a trade secret. Haha! Anyway, we saw even more floats. I liked the ones from Greenwich and SM (even though I still could not forgive SM for demolishing the Pines Hotel and chopping hundred of pine trees on top of Session Road all in the name of money).

It was nearing lunch and the parade was not yet done. So we decided to call it a day and headed towards St. Joseph's Parish where my SSEAYP batchmate Tanjo Tambol was waiting for us. He treated us to lunch at Villa Cordillera which is of the best-kept secrets of Baguio (for the meantime). Managed by the Baguio Country Club, this hotel and restaurant offers a relaxing view of the green golf course and pine-covered hills.

I was surprised to find out that you could get a room for two here for as low as PHP1000. But that is an introductory price which would change by April. I regret booking elsewhere since there were rooms available when we arrived since as I predicted, everyone would have checked-out and were on the way back to Manila by Sunday afternoon. Anyway, lunch was great and the prices were quite affordable.

Since Baguio City was jampacked, we decided to stay at a spa for the afternoon. Spa Ultima at the top of Session Road was very recommended. We got a full-body massage for just PHP340! By the time we were done, it was already dark so we had dinner at the restaurant above the spa, Broad Meadows Cafe. But the food was nothing special.

After dinner, we went back to our inn to rest for a while. At about 10 p.m., we met up with my China-ASEAN batchmate, Dr. Ryan Guinaran who brought us to this cool hang-out called Kaffeeklatsch. The place was very homey with live acoustic perfomances entertaining the guests. The place was out of the way but it had its regular denizens which was not a surprise since it had a very cozy ambiance. After a few ours of chatting, we called it a night.

More photos in Multiply.
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