Dear Lover, I am taking you to Baguio

It actually feels like saying, I am taking you home.

People normally beat the five to eight hour travel to Baguio for a glimpse of the Lion, for a walk up Mines View Park, for a stroll around Burnham, for a taste of strawberries, and for a million pictures they could post on Facebook and Instagram. It is a heartless journey; sad to say.

I won’t be taking you to those places. I’d take you on a different travel.

We’ll take the midnight bus. We’ll draw the curtains to the side and watch everything outside pass us by. I’ll ask you to close your eyes as soon as we get into the freeway. No, it won’t give you an infinite feeling as that of Charlie’s; but I’d let you feel what it is like being somewhere and nowhere at the same time. You’re moving, but stuck. You’re lost, but not really.

You have to recline your seat upon arrival at Pangasinan and La Union, I’d like you to look at the stars and how clear the sky is. You’ll notice a great difference when we arrive at Baguio. You may take a nap after the admiration, but I’ll wake you up when we’re already mid-way Marcos Highway. You’d open your eyes to the sunrise overlooking the mountains and the sea. I’d point the direction of South China Sea and watch your face glow, with awe and wonder and a teeny bit of sunshine.

We’d get off the bus and tell you to exhale on your hands and watch your breath become visible. I’d laugh because you’re another of those I asked to do it and did. We’d walk around and get breakfast somewhere. I’d tell you this is where my blockmates lived, this is where I would’ve marched for Graduation, this is where a white lady shows up, this is where I was almost robbed of my phone. We’d rest in a familiar place. I might even request them to have the fireplace set up for a Baguio newbie like you.

We’d walk up and down Session Road. We’d pay a visit to the Cathedral and its chapel. We’d take the stairs at the side so I could show you the tilework which seems to say, This way to the Cathedral. We’d say hello to my friends over at La Azotea. I’d show you their small gallery and sit by the window for a cup of Cordillera coffee. We’d look over a busy, beautiful, but less-known road. Its beauty overshadowed by the famous Session Road. We’d continue walking and stop at thrift shops. We’d wonder at how cute and cheap Japanese toys are, but we’d be disappointed and sad upon finding out they no longer work the same. I’d get you a leather jacket you’d only get to wear here and bury in your closet once we get to Manila. We’d walk farther, to Burnham Park this time. I’d take you to the lake. I won’t tell you the story that existed here. You know it, you’d think about it for a while, and smile.

We’d walk across Burnham and up the hill leading to the Café by the Ruins. We’d stroll a little back to get a jeepney leading to Tam-Awan. We’d hike up its slopes and rich terrain. We’d enjoy throwing coins at its bamboo wells. We’d cross its hanging bridge. We’d get a massage at one of cottages. We’d stay at the view deck and wait for the sunset. We may not be able to see the South China Sea on a cloudy afternoon, but this is, beyond doubt one of the most breathtaking sunsets you’d ever have. We’d stay here until sundown, after the artists have finished their sketches and are already dancing in the dap-ay. We’d drink with them and eventually stay at their cottage because we’re too tired to travel for the night.

We’d be greeted with Cordillera coffee in the morning, and freshly baked bread, and herby scent of pesto. We’d bid them bye and head on to my then school. I’d tour you around and introduce you to yet another Oble. We’d cross the street and pretend I am marching for my College Graduation.

We’d decide to go to the Botanical Garden next. No, we won’t take photos of the locals in colorful costumes. You know I despise that. We’d walk (again) instead and follow the trail to the Greenhouse and sneak at the ongoing exhibition inside the house made of scrap bottles and plastics. We’d take closer looks at uprooted trees and flora. We’d walk even more until we reach Wright Park. We’d throw coins and make impossible wishes in the rectangular well. We’d take a rest at the hills and take a book out to read because taking photos of with The Mansion as background is too boring and mainstream. We’d take a jeepney ride back to the City proper. I’d point you to this and that, to the haunted Teacher’s Camp, to the haunted White House, to the Pink Sister’s Chapel, to Korean Restaurants, To Diners, and to schools around.

We’d climb the only mall that exists in a hill. We’d drop coins and use the telescope at the top floor. We’d watch a movie because it’s cheap at Php 60 per screening. We’d view the entire city and look at it as if it existed in our palms. We’d stroll a little further for a Pizza and Pasta stop at Volante’s. I’d tell you stories of how I met friends here whenever I visited. We’d consider going to the market by then. We’d get our friends dreamcatchers, and pasalubong because they are suckers for that. I’d tour you around. From where the best Ilocos longganisas are, to where the cheapest vegetables are, to where the biggest and most literal ukay-ukays are. We’d take a cab home because we have too much to carry. We’d give Manong driver no tip because he might get offended and upset, but we’ll reward him with a warm smile instead.

We take a warm bath and spend the rest of the evening preparing dinner then cuddling at the fireplace.

We’d leave with happy and contented hearts the next day. On the way home, treading down Marcos Highway, I’d like you to close your eyes and feel how it is again to being somewhere and nowhere. To feel a sense of affinity and longing to the land you just left. To feel what it feels like to have found and left a home.

That was my home. It has been yours too.

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