September 2009

baguio parade
The guest house where we are staying in Baguio has the most comfortable foam mattress. That is my excuse for sleeping past 6 am, something I almost never do. We had a leisurely breakfast and a quick look at the shower setup before taking a pass for a warmer time of day to give it a try. So by the time we had found the center of town and got parked it was coming up for 9, just in time for the start of a parade to celebrate the centenial of the founding of Baguio.

Filipino people are among the sweetest we have ever met, and quite eager for us to have a front row place so they could show off their culture to what must be the only tourists in town. The parade was quite the deal, with floats and dancing dragons, lots of music and marching bands and some great national costumes. We stayed right up to the horses (always the last thing in a parade for obvious reasons), then took a hike through the park to the shopping mall at the top of the hill for a spectacular view of the hills and a chance to get online at Starbucks.

I managed to completely wrench my ankle on the treacherous curbs and had to buy a crutch to get me through the rest of the day. No big deal; my brother has accused me of using my religion as a crutch for years! We drove around town and over the hills through white pines as stately as anything you would see in Canada, and even got a walk through an ecological reserve that smelled sweetly aromatic. The shower proved to be no trouble at all, despite its idiosyncratic appearance: essentially a bucket with holes in it hooked to a hose. All of that exercise wore me out, and I slept soundly, thankful for lots of blankets in this remarkably temperate city.

The Road to Baguio 
I make no apologies for my love of driving. I come by it completely honestly, having being raised by a father who learned to drive from Raymond Mays, the Formula 2 pre-war racing champion, for whom he worked for a while. Dad was quick, but he was also an extremely capable driver, who taught me much about driving defensively. “Think of the most irresponsible and unpredictable thing another driver or pedestrian would do,” he would say, “and drive accordingly.” I do, and aside from an impetuous and nearly fatal mistake when I was 16, I have never had an on road accident. Don’t talk to Pam about parking lots. That’s another story!

We had every intention of taking the bus from Angeles City where we landed to Baguio City, where we are now. But a quick look at the public transport situation here in the Philippines changed my mind in a hurry. I did a brief survey of the options and rented a Toyata Vios for 8 thousand pesos for the week, or about 160 bucks Canadian. We downloaded a couple of maps from Google and pasted them into Paint for future reference. It was a good thing that we did, as the term ‘map’ has very little currency in a part of the world where the next town is a foreign country, and we ended up relying on our memories and quick glimpses at our computer to get us here.

We plotted out a route that took us through the flat land and along the coast to Agoo, one of the earliest Spanish settlements on the islands, founded in 1578.   From there it was all uphill to Baguio, and what an uphill it was! Switchback doesn’t do the hill justice. The road was positively tortured, crowded by buses and trucks passing each other on totally blind corners in a torrential downpour that limited visibility to about 20 feet. Downshifting constantly between second and first on every corner on what must have been 30 degree grades, the forty kilometers tooks us well over an hour. Over two thousand people died building the first road into this town. Not the most dangerous road I have ever been on, but definitely in the top five.

Fortunately we had managed to buy a map of Baguio back in Angeles, so we had some idea of where the guest house was in town. Baguio was at one time considered the summer capital of the Philippines. It is a little off the beaten track for most tourists, so what you get when you arrive is pretty much entirely indiginous and quite delightful. The air is cool and much like what you find in Canada in Haliburton, Ontario. We can’t wait to do a little exploring.

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