I started out my life in Baguio quite depressed. After all, I had been uprooted from Ateneo — my friends were my comfort zone — and implanted in an all-new world in the middle of high school.
We first lived in a place called Sanitary Camp, which was on the way to Trinidad Valley. I went to high school at St. Louis University.
My fondest memories of Baguio are the cold weather and the fog. In the months of October through January, fog enveloped the city every morning. Every night was its own excuse for a roaring fire in the fireplace. It was heartwarming, despite the chilly weather that accompanied it. To me, it seemed to blur reality without erasing it. It lifted truth to the ephemeral…. These are what memories are made of, the true and the ephemeral.
I will always remember Session Road — then the center of Baguio life. The kilometer-long road began at the plaza and crested at the Baguio City Post Office. (There was no SM yet, so from the circle that marked the end of Session Road, you knew — but couldn’t see — Pines Hotel was a little ways up and the Baguio Cathedral was to your left.
I can still remember practically every establishment along Session Road then. First was the Post Office. Across from the Post Office was Piltel, the city’s telephone company. Did you know that telephone numbers at that time consisted of just four digits? And that the surest way to make a long-distance call was to go to the Post Office and make it from one of the four long distance phone booths they had?
Then there was Patria de Baguio, home to many teachers of St. Louis as well as boarding house during the school year. In the summer, they rented out the rooms to vacationers.
Right next to Patria was D&S Fine Foods, the first true supermarket in Baguio, though it was not that large. I remember salivating over the car of the owner’s son, a blue 1966 Pontiac GTO with a white roof and a 3-speed stick shift.
Across Session Road in front of Patria was Mario’s, which specialized in pizza, spaghetti, and everything Italian. It was owned by the Benitez family — Mario and Nenuca and kids.
On that same side of Session Road was the Telefast office where people went to send telegrams. (There was no Internet then, no email, no chat.)
Further down was Skyview which served a wide menu but seemed to focus on San Miguel Beer and peanuts. Yes! Their peanuts were to die for. Always hot and fresh, perfectly salted, flavored with fried garlic that they left among the peanuts. I haven’t found peanuts so flavorful and so tasty ever since then.
Skyview’s next-door neightbor was Session Theater, one of the only two first-run movie theaters at that time. Next to Skyview was the Magnolia store.
I will always remember hanging out with friends at the Magnolia ice cream shop, especially when it was raining. It was cold outside, the rain pouring down incessantly, and sometimes the wind whipped up into a frenzy that blew everything in sight out of whack. When it seemed that the rain was peaking, we would order our ice cream cones and as the rain waned, we would walk in the shower eating ice cream in the cold. That was fun.
The public market was a favorite place. Aside from the fact that we had friends who hung out there while tending their family’s store, there was so much to see and enjoy. Baguio longganisa comes in many “flavors” — sweet, sweet and hot, hot, and many more.
Vegetables are always fresh, and flowers seem like they’re still blooming in the pails in which they are displayed.
But Baguio holds much more in my heart for the simplicity with which people lived their lives then. It was rare to find someone with “airs,” and certainly the younger generation treated everyone else equally. Children of doctors and contractors and lawyers and bankers walked Session Road with children of miners, and teachers, and market vendors. “Class” was not an issue — in fact, it didn’t even show.
Whether you had a car or not didn’t matter; neither did your address, or the size of your home, or the occupation of your parents.
Baguio was a beautiful city then — a beautiful city with truly beautiful people.
Baguio City is also home to the Philippine Military Academy. Here, carefully selected cadets train to be the future officers of the country’s armed forces. PMA is a tourist spot in itself.
TO BE CONTINUED