Earlier this past week, I got a text from Ashley, the other YASCer from my year here, telling me that she was coming up to Baguio for the weekend with some of the people she worked with in Santiago. She wanted to hang out, and the people she was coming up with wanted to tour around Baguio for a bit. I put my Friday afternoon into Saturday at her disposal, and off we went.
Living and working in such a small portion of Baguio, I'd lost track of my first thoughts when I was driven into the city only a few weeks ago. I'd been so awed and thrilled by what I was seeing as we drove in that my first thoughts had been how lucky I was to get to live here for a year. Touring around this weekend with Ashley, I rediscovered my awe and joy in Baguio, in the beauty I'm surrounded with in this city in the mountains. She was as astounded by the views as I had been when I first arrived.
The first place we visited was Lourdes Grotto, a shrine to Mary built by the Spanish before the American takeover of the Philippines. It's a shrine up at the top of one of the mountains Baguio is built on, and from bottom to top there are 252 steps up. Ashley and I both made it all the way up, and we were very glad that we were climbing that amount of steps in Baguio's cooler climate, because we would probably have collapsed mid-way up if Baguio was as hot as Santiago can get. As it is, the mid-60 degree weather in Baguio didn't stop us from working up a bit of a sweat as we walked up and down.
From Lourdes we headed onwards to the BenCab museum. Ben Cab was a modern Filipino artist, and the BenCab museum hosts his work as well as other Filipino artwork. The museum included traditional wood-work and household gods of the mountain provinces, two more temporary exhibits, two rooms full of modern Filipino art, and a room dedicated to Ben Cab's work. I'm sad to say I'd never heard of the man or his art before this past weekend, but that will have to change. His work was exquisite, powerful, and had a story inside each painting, a personality within each face portrayed.
We had just about finished with the museum when the rain started falling. It would not stop falling for the rest of the day and on throughout the night, which did wipe out some of our planned stops. When the rains wash through Baguio the mist comes along before them. In a matter of minutes the other mountainsides are gone. A few more minutes pass, and the rest of Baguio itself, the opposite side of the street even, is out of sight. The rest of the world drops away, lost below the clouds that float around you. It's beautiful, as long as you did not have plans to see anything other than clouds and rain.
After a long lunch of Chinese and more conversation, we decided that the rains still had not cleared enough to see the sights they had originally been planning to take us to, so we instead headed to SM, the mall here in Baguio. To give a perspective on malls here, this isn't the two-story mall like Beavercreek or the Dayton Mall in Ohio. This is instead a four-story mall, and it is considered small compared to the malls in Manilla. I narrowly avoided getting lost in it. The only way the SM in Baguio could be considered smaller than US malls is that there is only one big department store in the mall: the SM store from which the mall takes its name. Ashley and I quickly decided that we weren't all that interested in a long mall-wander, and after a brief look around we settled in Starbucks for drinks and a chance to rest somewhere that wasn't moving.
The rain still had not cleared, but we tried going up to Mining View, high up on one of the mountains, it is supposed to have the best view of the whole city of Baguio. At least, it does when the mist and rain are not obscuring all sights more than 100 feet away.
Instead we drove back down to Easter College, and I showed Ashley the Easter Weaving room in all its beauty and activity. Several people were working on the looms even on a Saturday afternoon, and we had a lovely time watching the fabrics be created before we went upstairs and looked at the goods produced.
By the time we finished looking around the Weaving Room it was late enough that we simply grabbed dinner and dropped me off back at Easter College. Ashley and her Santiago compatriots were heading back to Santiago early on Sunday, and I'd been invited to go to Epiphany church with the president of Easter College, Ma'am Brigid.
Sunday morning stayed wet and rainy. A driver knocked on my door at around 8:30 to take me the 6k from Easter College into central Trinidad, where Epiphany church is located. The church service, like most of the ones I've attended here in the Philippines, was lovely, and very high-church, complete with incense and a mostly sung service. The priest singled me out to welcome to the Philippines and his church at the beginning of the service, explaining that I was here for a year to assist at Easter College.
After the service, Ma'am Brigid took me out to lunch with members of her family: her husband, her son, and her granddaughter. Her granddaughter was initially a bit shy around me, and didn't know what to think about someone with such strange hair (bright red!). Luckily, I've spent enough time doing childcare that I always carry around a bit of bubble solution in my purse. A few times blowing bubbles with her and she was relaxed and playful around me. After lunch, it was back to SM, there's a children's area with bouncy trampolines and ball pits, and the granddaughter, at three years old, was just the right age for this to be the perfect after-lunch treat. I talked more with Ma'am Brigid and her husband while we were watching her granddaughter play, mostly about my own family and a little about the rest of my background. Their youngest child is my age, and living away from the family, so they could sympathize a lot with my parents missing me and wanting to keep in good contact while I'm gone for the year.
They invited me to go grocery shopping with them, but at that point I had not had a chance to write out my own grocery list and plan for the week ahead, so I headed home instead. Ma'am Brigid packed me into the taxi and gave the driver the instructions back to Easter College, but it was my first taxi on my own through Baguio.
Quite a weekend, huh? I was trying to wait on this post until I had pictures, but my camera is not behaving itself, and the BenCab museum's website is down, so I can't link. Do yourselves a favor, and do a google image search for BenCab paintings, you will not be disappointed.