And now we’ve come to Part III and the final installment of our Sagada sojourn, this time concerning everyone’s favorite activity: Eating! (Plus some other final details).
Starting with Matutina’s Seafood House at Tarlac, of which there is a Facebook Page here.
Matutina’s is more or less your average Barrio Fiesta clone, but I don’t mean that in a bad way, as I love these types of restaurants selling affordable, recognizable Pinoy comfort food.
We had your standard issue unbeatable combination of Sinigang Soup + Fried Fish, in this case Shrimp and Tilapia. Any combination of that is always a winner. As this was in the middle of our trip we ate light, because I really don’t like traveling on a full stomach with its unexpected results (need to go, sleepiness, etc.). Turns out Matutina’s is a common restaurant around these parts. We saw at least another one later down the highway.
After 4 more hours more or less of traveling, getting to Baguio and settling into our hotel, guess what: it’s time for dinner! Quite happily we were a stone’s throw away from Hill Station. They offer Tapas and the like, and we had these:
I’ll be honest, the salad and soup were much better than the pork ribs. Which is a pity since I seldom order pork. The setting however is luxurious.
And location can’t get any better, at the top of Session Road, right between SM Baguio and our hotel.
Right beside it was a gem of a place in Mt. Cloud Bookshop as well, one of those rare curated bookstores featuring selections from owners who really care about what they sell. If you asked me what is it that appeals Baguio to me most, its places like Mt. Cloud and the hundreds of other little corner stores that bring such character to the place.
I picked up F. Sionil short stories, which were the surprise of the trip for me because I couldn’t put it down, while Jill picked up some Chinese – footbinding thing which she ended up hating.
By next morning we were up and ready at Dangwa station to catch a bus towards a trip to the clouds. That’s a whole 12 or 15 hour chunk of a nondescript breakfast, ass numbing bus ride, munching on Sky Flakes and sipping bottled water to get by. It was a whole other day before we could start on chowing down again, and we started with Yoghurt House.
We ate here twice, the first time where we had yoghurt. I don’t like yoghurt, so that was forgettable and you’ll have to ask Jill about that. But the second time, I had a baked chicken thing with potatoes and salad.
It might look simple, but this is The best meal I had in the whole trip, hands down. The chicken was perfect, but that potato thing, which I can only surmise to be shredded potatoes mixed to a fine goo (and binded by egg maybe?) then deep fried into a kind of fried mashed potato pancake, is just WONDERFUL. Plus of course the salad, but any salad in the north is bound to be fresh, crispy and delicious.
Segue to a memory of my youth: It reminds me of egg noodles at the former Schwarzwalder restaurant in Makati. My dad used to go there, and I remember having this dish with egg noodles in it, which I loved. It was a posh place that I couldn’t afford for the longest time, but when I finally could, the place moved, and when I found out where it was, it then closed. I can never have that egg noodles then, forever, and I’ve been to literally hundreds of restaurants and events since then looking for it, with zero results.
For some odd reason those potatoes remind me of the mysterious German egg noodles. They hardly taste the same, but they’re both rare and delicious. I’ve probably had those potatoes at one time in the past and loved it, and here it is again in all places, Sagada.
Another place of course, is Lemon Pie House.
Which as I described in the past, was a mystical place to me, given that I had liked its FB page years ago before knowing about it, and so would get a stream of info about it, only adding to our determination to get over there.
The pie however, was just ‘ok’.
Then again I really don’t like sweets, pies or tarts of any kind, and the fact people were placing orders to pick pies up the next day (you have to order a day ahead) is clear proof I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Jill also ordered a kind of yoghurt with cookies combination something or other at Yoghurt House, the result of which I’ve no idea again.
The only other meal of note I can add to this is the quick 10 minute chowdown I had where the bus stopped before heading back to Baguio. I had a fried bangus, rice and some hot piping beef nilagang soup and just inhaled that in. It was delicious partly because I was ravenously hungry from the trip and partly because it was just.. delicious. The place was packed with travelers who would stay there only 20 minutes until their buses went on their way to Sagada, Baguio, Bontoc (the rice terraces), and other places in Benguet, so the canteen’s job was to provide ‘just enough’ good food to get people on their way. The food was everyday Filipino goodness, not worth taking a picture of, but delicious nonetheless.
Ok that’s enough eats. I’ll finish this up with the rest of my other pics:
On our last day, May 1, we happened onto a Fiesta of some kind at the ‘plaza’, typically what they call the basketball court beside the church, similar to most other provinces in the Phils., with huts representing different nearby locations and about several hundred people:
It featured of all things, a contest for ‘biggest chicken’. Here’s one of the entries:
And here’s another. The pics probably don’t do it justice, but I promise you these guys were MONSTERS.
They were really enormous and kids couldn’t keep away from them.
We didn’t hang around long enough to see who won as the whole ‘event’ went on into the afternoon. Besides it was really hot under the sun. I know that sounds crazy in Sagada. It was cool in the shade, but it was still summer and the sun hurts your skin and can get you heat stroke if you don’t have a hat (I was constantly in search of a good hat to buy but couldn’t find any big enough for my enormous head).
It was fun to see a simple ‘event’ nonetheless, with nary a sponsor’s banner in sight. It didn’t even have blaring videoke and hosts screaming into a mic like most province fiestas. It was just a bunch of farmers coming together on Labor Day to have some fun.
Here’s some final pics. There’s also an SM over there, but not the type we don’t like:
I saw a Honda Goldwing. A foreigner we met told me he saw a whole gang of these, driven mostly by retirees. I have to say this mode of transportation has to be the best possible way to enjoy these mountains.
Mountain bikes for rent.
The Masferre Restaurant, which we had read a lot about, but was unfortunately closed that day.
Typical winding, uphill trek.
House across the street from Yoghurt House, declaring how long its been around:
And the fireplace at our Pension house, where we spent several hours just staring at it. In my opinion, every house should have a fireplace, in lieu of a television. Hours swoosh by just sitting beside it. It attracted other guests to us as we sat there, first a British and American couple who lived in Makati and whom shared the restroom with us, a European of yet indeterminable origin, and three dudes from Manila, who were batch mates in College.
Of final note is Villa Cordillera near Camp John Hay at Baguio, which we went to on our final day just before we went down to Manila. This hotel is run by Baguio Country Club employees, and features the chance for non – members to avail themselves of the famous Raisin Bread without the requisite millions needed for membership. We already had lunch elsewhere so we can’t judge the food here. It’s just an important venue to know if you love Raisin Bread as much as we do.
I can’t say enough how valuable this trip, or every trip frankly, is to us. Of all the things one spends money on, the pesos you spend on travel are often the most appreciated. Travel makes memories and opens up your eyes. Everything else in comparison is just clutter. And the overall cost wasn’t all that much either (I’ll update this with a computation later).
I’m so happy to have a ‘cowboy’ wife who doesn’t mind, say, sharing a comfort room with other guests, and is just as enthusiastic about attacking a trip as I am. We dreamed this up, planned it, and bang, we were finally there! The feeling alone of accomplishment was fantastic. The feeling that we will conquer other places in the future is exciting.
Next stop this year, Tali Beach (if her batchmates can make this happen, which I heard is looking bleaker by the day), and Puerto Princesa!