– by ChiChai@Empire –
When you think of the Philippines’ weather, you’re likely imagining humidity, heat, and ocean breezes. For this country of thousands of islands right above the equator, that is true. However, not entirely.
Towns perched upon Philippines’ mountain ranges face a significantly cooler climate. My recent voyage to the homeland brought me to one of those cooler towns: Baguio City. Baguio’s average temperature is a cool 65F, whereas, majority of the country averages at about 85F.
Being a part of the chilly mountainous region of Cordillera, Baguio provides highland vegetables that aren’t commonly found throughout the rest of the country. These veggies include lettuce, broccoli, carrots and other greens. Because of its fruitful climate, the produce is fresh, making its food richer in flavor and experience.
That signature richness inspired me to write this food blog.
Working for Project PEARLS brought me back to the Philippines this month. After completing one major PEARLS program, my friends Monica and Karen and I journeyed to Baguio City as a mini vacation… before heading back to Manila to begin another major PEARLS program. We made sure to use those two days in the mountains wisely by indulging in local food and art.
This wasn’t my first time in Baguio but it was the first time I fell in love with it. To dive into why, we’ll start off with the food.
Do not worry. A Baguio-art appreciation post will shortly follow. But, for now, let’s see if these photographs will make your mouth water and tummy growl just as they did to me.
The Farmer’s Daughter
The Farmer’s Daughter stays true to its Cordillera home. Tucked between slopes and native greenery, this nipa hut restaurant invites its guests to taste traditional dishes.
Eating at the Farmer’s Daughter was a great reminder of how diverse the Philippines is in itself. Monica, Karen and I- although Filipinas were unfamiliar and puzzled by this Filipino menu. Each dish was written in Ilocano, one of the languages used by north-westerners of Luzon. The three of us use Tagalog, a language from central Luzon. The Farmer’s Daughter used English for dish descriptions yet everything was still brand new for us, making this dining experience even more exciting.
The excitement did not disappoint when the food came. We ordered a salad and our own smoking-meat rice plates. I had a smoked chicken plate and– mm– you could clearly taste the smoking technique.
Remember what I said about Baguio’s vegetables? This was the first of many bites into the city’s freshness.
One familiar item on the Farmer’s Daughter’s menu was blueberry cheesecake. Not only does the Cordillera region allow Baguio to grow fresh highland vegetables, it provides the perfect climate for berries as well. I always knew Baguio to be famous for its strawberries but little did I know you could get blueberries too!
I was never a big alcohol drinker (other than on occasion), however, beer has a special place in my heart. Because beer comes in a variety of types, flavors, and strength, I enjoy pairing different beers with a range of dishes. Already impressed with the food we’ve tried in Baguio, I couldn’t wait to try out the city’s beer and pair it with dinner. That’s what brought us to Baguio Craft Brewery.
The fauna, the soft glow from pixie lights, the wooden fixtures– the overall ambiance of Baguio Craft Brewery resembled a garden picnic in twilight.
The Ifugao people– native to the Cordillera region– are known for their craftsmanship. For instance, thousands of years ago, the Ifugao carved into the Cordilleras to build the fantastical Banaue Rice Terraces.
And to protect their rice terraces, the Ifugao created the Bul-ul, wooden idols blessed to help bring an abundant harvest. As an ode to the indigenous people and their art, Baguio Craft Brewery carved Bul-ul onto their draft beer handles, one of my favorite details of this restaurant. I wonder if its to pray for abundant beers and guests?
Monica, Karen, and I made sure to try the beer brewed in-house. That includes kiwi, strawberry beer (of course!), and passion fruit. These fruity beers are perfect for those with a sweet-tooth and those who prefer lighter beers. What I particularly liked about them is that, despite being very light, the fruit flavors came out just the right amount.
With great beer comes great food.
I honestly wasn’t expecting to come out the restaurant as full and as satisfied as we did. When we looked at the menus, I assumed that these “bar bites” would come in small “bar bite sizes.” That was not the case ( I should’ve known when their menu referred to their food as pub grubs.) We ordered buffalo wings, isaw marinated in stout beer (you read this right!), chicken inasal, and sisig lettuce wrap.
Baguio Craft Brewery prides itself to have beer whose quality speaks for themselves; with “no additives, preservatives nor adjuncts” each “beer is masterpiece unto itself.” As for the food, because of their “passion for fresh local ingredients of the Cordillera,” it is as fresh as can be.
Choco-Late de Batirol
While Baguio Craft Brewery felt like a garden picnic, Choc-Late de Batirol literally is one. Choco-Late de Batirol considers itself as a “garden-resto” that is also a “neo-Cordillera rainforest outfit.”
Before even trying the food, Choco-Late de Batirol charmed us instantly with its forestry and flowers.
This sweet cafe prepares for its guests home-cooked styled meals with hot cocoa. Although so simple, eating a bangsilog never felt more comforting and peaceful before.
Drinking the hot cocoa is to take a sip into history. This cafe aims to continue making chocolate the way it was first introduced to the Philippines centuries ago. By preserving the tradition, the cafe preserves the area’s distinctive chocolate taste and quality.
As mentioned from the beginning, Baguio is home to produce that cannot be found elsewhere in the country. Not only does the city invite you to enjoy these fruits and vegetables in its local eateries, its farmlands are also open for you to scope out the direct source of the city’s deliciousness.
Can you see the strawberries?
Some farmers invite passerby’s for strawberry-picking. We passed because we discovered that buying a box of readily picked strawberries were less than half the price.
Besides, surrounding the farmlands is a marketplace. The vendors are not only selling freshly picked strawberries and other produce but also jam, baked goods, and more!
On our way out, we stumbled upon one of the many strawberry ice cream vendors. We couldn’t stop laughing at his sign that’s basically promising that the ice cream is really good and even good for posting on any form of social media.
It really was. And, yes, those are bits of strawberries blended in with the strawberry ice cream!
Ili Likha Artist Village
We stumbled upon this gem accidentally. And confusedly.
Imagine a tree-house
Now imagine that this tree-house is decked out in mosaics and statues and uneven window and floor panels. Like I said. We stumbled upon Ili-Likha confused.
Within this tree-house is a food-court. Each booth throughout the tree-house stood with its own specialties. Quite frankly, neither of us knew what to expect as we were bewildered by the structure. Once we began eating, our puzzled faces transformed into purely happy ones. The burgers and rice plates we ordered met our new high-standard for Baguio’s dishes. My tocino burger, with every single bite, was juicing onto its neighboring vegetables. On the other hand, the rice plates successfully fulfilled the appetites of my company with its suprisingly large portions (for under 100PHP!)
We entered Ili Likha puzzled and left wanting more…
Especially because after Ili Likha, we had to head back to Manila
I hope you enjoyed this food blog! This was probably one of the more difficult posts to write because I kept getting hungry while writing it lol.
Baguio Art-Appreciation, coming to you soon!