Some of my better memories of Baguio came from my stint as a newspaper reporter. Right after college, I started work with a local newspaper, the first step towards the realization of my dream to become a journalist, or something close to being one.
Adjusting to the job was difficult (especially for me who doesn’t know how to speak in Kankanaey or Ibaloi), and finding our way around and honing the craft proved to be a tedious task. Despite the chaos that characterizes the life of a cub reporter, there are things that keep me alive after coverages and interviews – such as coffee, a heavy meal, and lots of beer…and something exotic along the way.
There’s this part of the city called “Slaughterhouse Compound” along Magsaysay Avenue. Never mind the name, or the hygiene-related questions you may have. Eateries here serve many kinds of meat dishes, such as pinapaitan, kilawen, dinuguan, and bulalo. Also, it’s just a few minute’s walk from my office (before it moved to La Trinidad).
One eatery serves what it called “Flea Market Rice,” a plateful of fried chicken, lechon , sunny-side up egg, chopsuey, and a big cup of rice.
I consider “Flea Market Rice” as comfort food, especially when I get out from work or during weekends. Just like Jack’s Rice, this is complete, rich, and always served hot. Bonus points for the free soup that goes with it, piping hot meat broth. The sad part is that it’s sometimes closed.
Speaking of meat, I did succumb to the temptation of seeking out pinikpikan and dog meat in Baguio. Pinikpikan is a chicken stew prepared by beating a live chicken with a stick. Barbaric as it sounds, as explained here, it’s actually an important part of Cordilleran cuisine (and by extension, culture).
The way I see it, pinikpikan is an alcoholic’s best friend. It’s nice to sup on a bloody, tasty piece of chicken along with your liquor, and its gingery broth to wash down the drunkenness. Take note that the chicken’s coagulated blood (the result of beating the chicken) is the reason pinikpikan is tasty.
Dog meat? I found certain eateries at the market that serve those. The dish itself… well, the skin’s tough, it’s fatty, there’s too many bones and not much meat. It mostly tastes like adobo, too. Your mileage may vary (By the way, selling dog meat is banned under the Animal Welfare Act. Eating it is not banned, though, because dogs can be butchered for indigenous practices.)
Luisa’s Café is a favorite watering hole of the Baguio media. This is where most journalists meet for snacks, coffee, or alcohol. Younger reporters would come here and solicit advice from their elders, or finish their reports. The old ones would just be there, drinking and conversing about anything under the sun.
The place serves Chinese dishes (the most famous of which is their siopao), Filipino rice meals and other dishes. And then there’s Sam Lok – native or Chinese style stir-fried meat. I regret never grabbing the chance to taste that.
Luisa’s is known for its strong, flavorful coffee. Also I mentioned some time ago how important coffee is for most Baguio folk, especially that it help people bond with each other. This is what makes Luisa’s a special place for local journalists and those in the know to meet.
Friday nights are spent at the newsroom. Since our newspaper comes out weekly, most of Friday is spent laying out the pages, editing reports and photos, and writing whatever can make it to the deadline. While everyone is busy and neck-deep in paperwork, we do get to unwind a bit over dinner.
It’s during mealtime that the staff get to talk about things inside and outside of work, like trivia about themselves, experiences in the field, new things we’ve noticed, and even stuff that makes us wax poetic or philosophical.
Dinner usually consists of buttered chicken, chopsuey, pancit, pork sinigang, or some other viand plus lots of rice, courtesy of Good Taste Restaurant. Good Taste is a 24-hour establishment frequented by locals and tourists alike. The place serves a fusion of Filipino and Chinese home cooked dishes. The food here is also surprisingly cheap but served hot.
When all work is done for the night (except Fridays), Rumours is the place to unwind. I once heard that Rumours was named such because this is where patrons talk about “rumours” on people and events around Baguio. Anyway, this bar, probably one of the most popular in the city, is a small, mellow place frequented by tourists, expats, and (according to some residents) gays and writers.
Rumours is a great place to spend the night quietly with your thoughts, or loudly with good companions. They play eighties music, their liquor and food are inexpensive, and the staff are nice and accommodating. Also,
they now serve ice cream, most especially rose ice cream (made with rose petals) and chili ice cream (yeah).
At this point, let me share to you something very quickly: I’ve been having a hard time writing for this series. Writing about my food-related memories in Baguio has been a strenuous task for me. That’s because it seems that things from my past are starting to grow dim. No, I’m not being forgetful, though I might as well say I am. Why?
It’s nice to remember things about your past, and realize how much you’ve learned about yourself and others along the way. But writing about your memories not only means remembering good things from the past. It also involves having to revisit those that lead to sad and painful ones, the ones you try to forget to move on…
Up next… An old hang-out, and certain memories that go with it.