Archive for January, 2015

During my last trip to Baguio, I got to try out a couple of restaurants for the first time. First on the line is Vizco’s Restaurant and Cake Shop. It is located along Session Road so upon alighting a Victory Liner bus, we simply trekked a short way from the terminal to the restaurant.

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It’s a good thing that they were open early enough for us to grab some breakfast, or else we would have ended up at one of the 24-hour operating fast food chains. All their -silog meals are served with free coffee, which is a good way to warm up in a cold Baguio morning. Their breakfast meals range between Php100-Php125, which is not too bad I think. However, they all tasted pretty average, nothing special to write about.

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While reading up some online reviews of this restaurant, almost every article raves about their Strawberry Shortcake. There are whole cakes on display along with other flavors, but to be quite honest, I only had my eyes on this beauty.

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And even though it was not even 8 in the morning, we couldn’t help but order a slice of their Strawberry Shortcake. To be fair, that’s just one slice among the three of us so I didn’t feel too guilty about having cake so early in the day.

Strawberry cake with fresh strawberry filling, icing and glazed topping – this is how it was described in the menu. It was heavenly! It was perfectly creamy, not too sweet, and the strawberries tasted fresh and juicy. And a slice is only worth Php80. Such a steal!

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If you ever find yourself along Session Road, go ahead and pay Vizco’s a visit. And never leave the restaurant without trying out their Strawberry Shortcake.

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I feel like Chili’s has been around for so long and I just always have taken it for granted because I am not really a big fan of American food. I finally got to try it a long time ago with a good friend.

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Grilled Chicken Salad | Regular Php275, To Share Php470
Grilled chicken with cheese, tomatoes, smoked corn relish and honey lime vinaigrette. I especially loved the grilled chicken, cooked just right, so moist and tender.

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Tripple Dipper | Php510
A combination of three appetizers – Wings Over Buffalo, Chicken Crispers, and Southwestern Eggrolls. It is served with three kinds of dipping sauces. I loved the egg rolls because for some reason, I was in the mood for something that had a little bit of Mediterranean taste that night. And I think out of the 3 sauces, we favored the Bleu Cheese one the most.

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Bacon Burger | Php455
Topped with crispy bacon, aged cheddar cheese, mayo, shredded lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion, and pickle. Unfortunately this was a let down. The burger was supposed to have been grilled medium well and served on a sesame seed bun with home-style fries. The patty was dry and the bacon was overcooked to the point where it got hard and stiff. I don’t think I will order this again.

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My first dining experience at Chili’s was a hit and miss but I will most probably go back again for their other dishes and what looks like an impressive dessert selection.

The Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Fine Arts Museum is only a few blocks away from the famous Ben Thanh Market. After our filling breakfast inside Ben Thanh Market, we lugged our bags and made our way to the museum. Towards the same direction is Le Cong Kieu Street, a whole strip of stores selling antiques. It was still too early for our visit as most of the stores were still closed. Those that are open had moody owners who shooed us away when we tried to take photos. LOL OK then. Moving on…

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The Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is one of the largest fine arts centers of Vietnam. The building that houses the museum is a yellow-white grand colonial-era mansion that is a combination of French and Chinese styles.

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The museum covers three floors and it focuses on collecting, keeping, preserving and displaying fine artworks typical of Vietnamese people, especially of Ho Chi Minh City.

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The first floor hosts rotating exhibits of domestic and international contemporary art. The second floor is where paintings and sculptures of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese artists are displayed. The third floor holds a collection of historic art ranging from the 7th to early 20th century.

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I was quite impressed with the variety of mother-of-pearl inlaid woods on display. There were also lots of interesting woodcut paintings and wood sculptures.Below are some of my favorites.

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And for some reason, I am quite drawn to anything with faces of elder-looking men and women. Below are some carvings and sculptures with hauntingly beautiful faces.

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And then there are these heart-wrenching family themed sculptures. They’re not necessarily all sad-looking but I guess I just associate it with war and death and the separation it inevitably brings.

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And below are some of my favorite paintings and caricatures which focus on the Vietnamese resistance to various colonial rulers. I especially loved that of a woman supposedly in the middle of a battle. Girl power!

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As I mentioned above, the first floor is home to rotating galleries of various artists. During our visit, artworks of local children were on display. Isn’t the one on top just creepy? Haha. What could have inspired a little kid to draw bodies floating down a river?

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Finally, I feel like this certain image is what Vietnam is most popular of. I am now so pissed off that I did not buy a painting featuring a Vietnamese woman. Maybe when I go back *fingers crossed*

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Entrance fee to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum is only at 10,000 Vietnamese Dong (only around Php21) so it is a shame to pass up on a really cheap and entertaining side trip.

Have you been to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum? What were your favorites?

According to history, The Diplomat Hotel used to be a vacation house and a seminary way back in the 1900s. It was established by the Dominican Order hence the hill where the hotel is perched is called Dominican Hill. By the time the vacation house was constructed in 1915, it was considered as the grandest and most extravagant stone structure in Baguio where most of the houses are still made up of wood.

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During the World War II, the place witnessed gruesome deaths when it was occupied by fleeing refugees from the Japanese Army. The Japanese forces bombed the place and its surrounding area causing extensive damage but soon after the war, reconstruction started and the building was later restored.

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In 1973, Diplomat Hotels, Inc. acquired the property and turned it into a 33-room hotel. Whilst the interior was remodeled, the exterior and overall character of the building was retained.

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The hotel was under the management of Tony Agpaoa, a Baguio-based spiritual healer. Diplomat Hotel ceased its operation and was closed to the public after Agpaoa’s untimely death in 1982. The structure eventually fell into neglect and disrepair.

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Local residents claim that The Dominican Hotel is now a haunted place. People who live nearby attest to sometimes hearing banging of doors and windows, despite the fact that the hotel does not have doors nor windows anymore.

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At times in the middle of the night, voices of people screaming and sometimes laughing could be heard. In other times, headless apparitions are seen. Folks say that this could be the ghosts of nuns and priests who were beheaded during the World War II.

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On the upper façade of the building overlooking the city, there remained the 12-feet Gyronny cross of the Dominican Order sitting on a pedestal.

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These days, it has now turned to a favorite site among local photographers and tourists due to its nice location and vantage point.

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It is also flocked by ghost hunters and thrill seekers who are brave enough to go to the place at night to check if it is really haunted. I am not brave enough to go there alone but maybe it would be a fun adventure with friends (and alcohol, copious amount of alcohol LOL).

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Kind of out of topic and what looks like a fairly new addition in the area is the biggest Ten Commandments Tablet that I have ever seen in my life.

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If you ever go to Baguio (or have been to Baguio several times), a quick trip to The Diplomat Hotel could be an exciting addition to your Baguio itinerary. You wouldn’t regret it, I know I don’t.

The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival usually takes place during February of every year. Hordes of people troop all the way to Pampanga to attend an array of week-long activities. Last 2012 was the first and the last time (so far) that I was able to witness this festivity.

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Upon entering Clark Freeport Zone, you could immediately see all sorts of blown-up merchandising materials scattered all around.

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Deeper into the activity grounds are numerous stalls selling kites, balloons and lots of other souvenirs and food for the spectator’s consumption. I love how colorful the miniature balloons are, it adds so much to the festive vibe of the whole surroundings.

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Full-size air crafts are also on display. I especially loved the little plane that looked like a shark from the side. Cute! For additional impact, men in uniform roam the grounds and a lot of people (mostly girls) take advantage of the opportunity to take pictures with the men in aviators. (Is it just me or do men really look better when they’re wearing aviators? LOL)

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In a covered area, there are more military/navy items on display. This is where two men, who I assume as soldiers, offered to let me take a photo with their big-ass gun. That was cool! But man, that thing was heavy! LOL. Coincidentally, my boots just completes the look noh?

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In the main activity grounds, different exhibitions are going on round-the-clock. Seriously, it really was a weekend of everything that flies. It was quite amusing to just lay down on the grounds and stare up at the sky.

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When it begins to get dark, they pull out the big guns. And by big guns I mean big balloons. It’s exciting to witness flat sheets of colorful thingamajigs get blown up into huge balloons.

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The yellow one was HUUUUUUUGE but I liked the orange better.

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Sadly though, the weather wasn’t cooperating too well. It was quite windy and it began to drizzle just as soon as the first two balloons were blown up. It didn’t take too long for an accident to happen – the orange balloon caught on fire and that pushed them to cancel the Hot Air Balloon Exhibition. What a bummer!!! We waited whole day for nothing. 😦

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It’s such a shame that they had to cancel the main event due to the uncooperative weather. Just imagine how pretty the sky would have been if it was filled with huge, illuminating balloons. Oh well…

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This year’s Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival takes place on February 12-15 2015, and will still be in Clark Pampanga. So grab a date and plan your schedule! For a list of activities, you could refer to this link http://www.philballoonfest.net/flying-activities/

I have heard so many good things about Cafe by the Ruins from friends and other bloggers. This made me even more excited to try it out. So excited that I didn’t even care if I was going to dine there alone on my solo trip to Baguio.

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Right after getting off the bus, I immediately hailed a cab and asked to be dropped off at Cafe by the Ruins. It wasn’t too long til I was seated at a table and perusing their quite extensive menu.

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I didn’t get to roam around the restaurant because I was quite hesitant to leave my things unattended. But this is the view from where I was seated. Most of the tables near the kitchen were filled, mostly by families. While I sat quietly in the distant, forever alone. LOL!

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I was quite hungry and really cold so I wanted to have something warm and filling and their Pinikpikan seemed like the perfect choice. Pinikpikan is a chicken soup used in rituals in the Cordillera region. I think the chicken is killed in a special way where they keep tapping (pikpik) it with some hard object until it dies (this sounds so morbid LOL). I heard this is also what turns the meat of the chicken to a dark color.

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It was served with a cup of red mountain rice which was a little too wet for my liking but I still ate it all up anyway because I was really hungry. The Pinikpikikan meal comes at Php320, a little pricey but most of the dishes in Cafe by the Ruins are around this price range.

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I decided to get the Strawberry Soda at Php120 for my drinks. It’s simply soda water mixed with strawberry syrup.

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I really enjoyed my first meal at Cafe by the Ruins and I vowed to go back to try their freshly baked breads.

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I am far from being a tea connoisseur but I do appreciate a good cup (or two) of freshly brewed tea from time to time, especially when I feel bloated. While the good ol’ Lipton Tea could do the trick, it also doesn’t hurt to try out teas from the higher end of the spectrum, eh?

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I was originally intent on getting my own tea when we planned on having our team dinner at TWG. However, work took longer than expected and I was already starving by the time I and a couple of my other teammates were able to step out of the office. It’s a good thing two of our friends got there ahead of us and their pots of tea were just perfectly warm when we got to the restaurant.

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One of them got the Earl Grey Chocolate Tea which I loved! The other opted for something that tasted like flowers, and I just can’t take that kind of tea. It reminds me of funeral flowers, LOL.I was also able to get a nibble of their macarons and they were lovely! Too bad I still find macarons overrated and overpriced, so I don’t really indulge on them.

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ON TO THE FOOD!!! However, I do not remember the exact name of the dishes and for the life of me, I couldn’t find them in any of the published menus online so I’ll just call them for what they appear to be, yeah?

Scallops Pasta | AKA the-dish-I-wish-I-ordered. LOL. It was perfectly creamy, and I think the cherry tomatoes are perfect for that needed zing when the cream seems overpowering. The pieces of scallops and shrimps were also quite generous.

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Baked Chicken Breast | Well, it’s a baked chicken breast (LOL) perched on top of what looks like a flat croquette. When my friend was tearing into it, I saw that the meat was dry so quite possibly, the chicken might be overcooked. I tasted the sauce but it was just too sweet for my liking.

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Lasagna | It just looks sad LOL. I feel like the serving size is quite measly, and my friends who ordered it agree that it’s a little on the bitin side. I got a tiny tiny bite and I didn’t hear any angels singing. It tasted like an ordinary morsel of a cheesy pasta.

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Shrimp Pasta | Yes, this actually has shrimps on its name. However, it appears like there are no shrimps in it, noh? There were a couple of pieces, maybe three… This was my dish and I was utterly disappointed. The pasta is juuuuust a little too underdone for me. I know they were aiming for al dente but the noodles needed just a couple more seconds in the boiling water. As for the seafood, the Scallops Pasta seemed to have had more shrimps than what was supposed to be a Shrimp Pasta. What’s up with that?!? LOL. So disappointing…

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We all managed to clean up our plates despite the general disappointment in the table because we were all hungry and the serving size is really on the smaller side. Plus if you’re shelling out at least Php400 per plate, then you better make sure to take every last bite right?

I probably will hesitantly try their dishes once more but I could definitely take my own pot of that delicious Earl Grey Chocolate Tea. And maybe a piece (or two) of their delicious macarons.