This is the second part of my Baguio blog post.
The next morning we woke up early for the ride to the strawberry farm. While waiting for the others to wake up, we wandered around the front of the lodge, where many pine trees grew. Little baby pinecones hung on the branches of the pines, inspiring me to take some home as souvenirs. We looked around the bases of the pines until we found two fallen pinecones – a long and fairly big one for me and a tiny baby pinecone for Mom.
After our pinecone-picking and once everyone was up, we got in the van for the ride to the strawberry farm. We stopped at a fast food restaurant for breakfast, where I had another cup of hot chocolate that was just as bitter as my last one. This restaurant was very close to the farm, so in no time we saw a sign with an arrow that said “Strawberry Farm.”
When the van pulled into the area that served as a parking space, I couldn’t see the farm. What I could see were a small market and the dirt parking area. Once we got down, we saw that the farm was on land lower than where we were standing, which explained why I couldn’t see it earlier. We went down and came across a farmer who would serve as our guide. He led us to his farmland, which was almost at the boundary of the farm. We walked alongside a shallow ditch that wove in between the columns of crops until we reached a patch of strawberry plants with many red strawberries. The farmer taught us how to harvest the fruits – by holding the strawberry up and severing its stem with our nails, always being careful not to crush the strawberry. Another farmer came and handed out woven baskets to be filled up with freshly picked strawberries.
Aside from the soil covering the roots of the plants, a long black trash bag was placed over them, leaving only the leaves and the fruits poking up through holes in the bag. Across the shallow ditch there were also other crops that weren’t strawberry plants planted in the same way.
Since I had my own basket, I wove on my own through the narrow path between the rows of crops, looking for the ripest, biggest, and reddest strawberries I could find. After some time, when I had myself a basket that was almost full, I noticed a strange-looking strawberry. It was twice the size than a normal strawberry and looked distorted somehow. I picked it, hoping it was one of the twin strawberries that I had heard of. Once all of us were ready, we began to hike back to where we came from. On the way, we passed a farmer hunched over some crops. I took the chance to ask her about my weird strawberry. To my dismay, she said that it was a wide strawberry but not a twin one.
Back at the entrance, we had our baskets full of strawberries weighed to see if they reached one kilogram. Our guide was very generous and even added several more strawberries to the baskets, making them weigh over a kilo. We also tried some of what we would call “dirty ice cream” near the exit. We call it dirty ice cream because it was sold on the street and not at an ice cream shop or supermarket. Nevertheless, it tasted as good as the ice cream we usually bought at malls – maybe even better. The real strawberries they added were a nice touch. It was so delicious that my younger cousin had five cones!
We then went to the marketplace I mentioned earlier, which turned out to be a very long row of stalls selling items from broccoli to t-shirts. There were also many snack items (or “pasalubong,” as we call them) for tourists to bring home. As we went around, Mom explained that the fruits and vegetables sold here in La Trinidad were cheaper than what we could buy at home or in Manila. This is because aside from the additional cost of shipping, there may be one or more middlemen in the trade who would raise the price for profit whereas here the crops were grown close by, so customers didn’t pay much for shipping. Also, any farmer who harvested his own crops could just set up a stall and sell them, making the goods very cheap.
One of the things I was keeping my eye out for in the market was a pair of gloves. It was getting rather cold in Baguio and we forgot to bring any gloves. But as we neared the end of the line of stalls, we still hadn’t found any. When we asked around, the vendors only pointed in the direction of the end of the market. On the way to the last stall, we bought a crocheted strawberry wallet that I really liked. Once we reached the last store, we still hadn’t found any clothes store that sold gloves until the vendor told us that there was another marketplace across the street.
The few stalls outside the street sold mostly clothes. And to my delight, they also sold knitted gloves! We also got a crocheted strawberry pouch that you could hang around your neck and a snow tiger hat. The hat looked like a snow tiger stuffed toy that you could wear as a hat. On the way back to the van we passed the long line of stalls again, where we bought some pasalubong to bring home. These included strawberry jam and peanut brittle, both of which I was excited to try.
Our next stop was one of our last ones. We were going to Tam-Awan Village, which I had heard nothing about. Mom and I guessed that it would be a village with some natives to show us around. When we got to the entrance, though, we saw that it was less of a village and more of a hike. We climbed up a steep dirt staircase until we came to some flat ground where there were some nipa huts. We had to take off our shoes and watch our heads as we came into a hut. Inside was a collection of paintings. For some reason the rest of my family was in a hurry, so my mom and I didn’t get to take a close look at all of the paintings.
Next we sat down at a table in a bigger hut that served as a restaurant. Right outside the entrance were some dancers who would show the audience some native dances. Apparently we were watching from the wrong side because they were facing an audience across from us. There were also a few paintings of people hung on the walls of the restaurant that we were able to take pictures of.
While waiting for the food to arrive my mom and I decided to walk on the trail and explore. My cousin also came along with us and we began the long hike to the very top of the trail. On one side of the path we could see a dense forest of trees. One our other side we could look down and see how far up we were. At the bottom was a pond where many koi fish swam. For some reason koi fish seemed common in Baguio. We hiked and hiked, occasionally passing a small nipa hut that seemed like a checkpoint.
A couple of times Mom pointed out a flat area of ground and thought that it was the end of the path. It was funny whenever we found out that there was more walking to be done and even if Mom told us to turn around and climb back down, my cousin and I both still wanted to continue. We got our way and we reached a small clearing where there was a metal pole with chimes hung on it. There was also another narrower path that we hadn’t been to but since even I was tired, we rang the chimes for luck and went down the steep staircase.
The climb down was harder than the hike up. There were several times where the step was higher than usual and instead of gently stepping down I just jumped down. After some time I discovered that the easiest way down was to go quickly and just jump down the tricky parts. This lead to me being ahead of my mom and cousin by many steps. I would run down the trail and pause for a while until they were fairly close before continuing down. Later we found out that we had gone the wrong way. We were supposed to go up a gentle uphill path and then go down the hard staircase.
Before returning to the hotel we went back to the market outside the boundary of the strawberry farm. This market was a walking distance away from the few stalls that sold clothes we had visited earlier. We were able to buy another animal hat for me (this time a duck) and a couple of gifts for my friends which I’m not going to reveal because they might be reading this and I want it to be a surprise. This was our final stop for our outing.
I had lots of fun during my first stay in Baguio. There were many sights to see, and I’m sure we didn’t get to see all of them. This trip was a truly memorable time of my life. I’m very excited for the next time I will visit Baguio City.