I always feature community cuisine – and promote local restaurants. Patronizing them will give them a fighting chance over big businesses like malls and international food chains that are killing small Filipino entrepreneurs slowly. Dining in these oftentimes family-run eateries also leaves a minimal carbon footprint.
Café by the Ruins.
At the end of my retreat, I visited my favorite place in Baguio: Café By the Ruins. It is my favorite because of my personal connection with it.
Since I entered the Jesuits, I had spent at least a week annually at Mirador Villa* with many of my brothers on vacation. Since 1991, we would enjoy the restaurant’s special Ernie’s Kamote Bread (highland sweet potato, milk, and molasses) with strawberry jam and butter, or the locally made thick bacon and Baguio’s bagnet with bagoong and tomato relish. We would down them with their delectable Ruins Iced Tea made from lemongrass and pandan leaves, and sweetened with honey.
Café by the Ruins was then a simple hangout place for artists. I still recall their poetry reading and the occasional display of the works of local artisans. In fact, on the menu is the famous Ole Nick’s Open Face Tuna sandwich prepared upon the instructions of Filipino writer, Nick Joaquin.
This café’s name comes from the concrete wall of a ruined old house. But to me, the name coaxes out a memory: it was in this place that my novitiate batch would patch-up our differences a year after my ordination in 2001. I was the last to be ordained, and my batch thought that it was high time for us to leave the past behind (yes, we had some of those too), and to start anew.
So we took the Young Priests and Brothers Meeting** as an opportunity to restore what had been “ruined”. That meeting and sharing was pivotal for us because we became closer after that. In fact, we celebrated our 25th year in the Society in Camiguin, a beautiful island off the coast of Misamis Oriental in 2014. My batch’s support had been my reservoir of strength.
Today, Café By The Ruins has become a ‘sacred’ place for me in the City of Pines.
The next two coffee and teashops are very accessible. Governor Pack Road is a short walking distance downhill from SM Baguio. The landmarks are the bus terminal, Andok’s Lechon Manok and the Baden Powell Hotel.
Under the Tree Book Café
I am quirky and I love unique cafés that will not bore a hole in my pocket. I have read about this new place from an Instagram post. What caught my interest is the idea that this place has a lot of books (mostly Korean!) with walls and ceilings of post-its and notes.
I have not been disappointed. Yes, Under the Tree Book Café has bookshelves; three walls and a ceiling of various notes; and a curiosity, a membership board!
If you love sitting on the floor with a low table for studying, they have a room for you! Remember to leave your footwear at the entrance door.
Most of all, a Php 100 will give you a drink and a pastry – ok, it depends on the price of the drink.
Beside Under the Tree Book Café is another novelty. Decorated with old artifacts like vinyl 45s, photos of actors of a bygone era and (my favorite) an old microscope, is 19fiftea Café.
The place is quaint and cozy. On the wall is an array of teas with a few meals. You will enjoy their Yumberry hot tea (I did!).
These cafés are worth visiting – and promoting. Please give them a space in your Instagram or other social networks. Our local stores promote our very own culture.
However, if you’re not the “me-time” café adventurer, please bring your friends. You do not want that a cup of hot tea or a cold beverage of green tea latte becomes a fare for the lonely if you’re without someone to talk to, or take a picture with.
*Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat House is at the summit of the famous Baguio pilgrimage site, Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto that is accessible by a 252-step stairway.
** The Young Priests and Brothers Meeting is the formation period for the newly ordained priests and commissioned brothers of 5 years.