Taking an overnight bus just after hiking down Mt. Pulag didn't appeal to me. I wanted to rest in Baguio City for the night. It's been a long day after all - a whole morning on the trail and some 3 hours on the jeepney. We arrived at the city's Victory Liner Terminal before 4 PM all tired and starving. I was the only one staying. Since the group's Manila-bound bus doesn't leave until 10 PM, we made plans for a farewell dinner at a restaurant on Session Road.
But first, I need a place to stay. I haven't booked any. Ed, one of the guys in the group, recommended Safari Lodge. It's on Leonard Wood Road, almost in front of Baguio Botanical Gardens. From outside, the lodge had this look of a grand ancestral home. In fact, as I would find out later, this used to be the old vacation house of the Tuasons (Don Celso Tuason founded Armscor, a firearms and ammunition company in the Philippines).
I went in and was swallowed by the sight of hunting trophies adorning the lobby - or what I suppose was the main living room back in the old days. There's this huge elephant head jutting out from a wall and a full-sized lion in its own glass enclosure. There were old pictures of the Tuason patriarch on his various hunting expeditions in Africa. If not for the pine trees outside, the lodge looked more Botswana than Baguio. I got so fascinated by the display I almost forgot the young woman who acknowledged my presence.
"Sir, mag-stay po kayo? Ilang gabi po?" (Sir, are you staying? How many nights?)
"I'm only here for a night", I told her.
Seeing that I'm alone, she offered me several options for a room with single beds. They had this "graduation time promo" rates that were all-inclusive. The first room I was given was actually not part of the old building but rather a newer extension called the "Bamboo Side". I didn't like it since it was close to their restaurant with all the associated noise. When I insisted on getting one on the "Main House", she had one of the housekeepers escort me up a flight of wooden stairs, all the way to the attic.
Up there, through a steep set of stairs, were 2 rooms, the cheapest on the house at PHP 700 (They have bigger, more expensive rooms costing between PHP 1000-3000). I chose the one facing the street as it had views of the pine trees outside. Traffic noise wasn't so terrible. The promo rate included free breakfast, free WiFi and basic toiletries. Bathroom was shared with the other room but then I was the only guest on that floor so I really felt alone.
Or was I really alone?
|Am I alone here?|
I showered quickly, noticing how eerily it felt to be up on an attic floor of an old house by myself. I was hurrying to meet my group for dinner. As soon as I made it back to the lobby, the front desk girl asked how long will I be gone.
"Why?", I asked.
"We close the door at 10 PM"
"Uh, I see, I'll be back before 10", I replied.
Our group shared a long table at Solibao, a restaurant specializing in Filipino dishes. Carlita, the German backpacker, was happy to try out everything we ordered. Over mouthfuls of tangy sinigang, greasy crispy pata, nutty kare kareng bagnet, to name a few, we reviewed our mountainous adventures together. Everyone agreed there's always something especial to do outdoors in the Philippines. We exchanged e-mails and hoped to hit the trail again someday.
|Those eyes intimidate me|
Back at the lodge, the trail to my own room felt so creepy. I felt uneasy as I walked up the wooden stairs, the walls of which had paintings of wild animals staring right at me. The old wooden floors almost creaked. There were no other guests in sight. It didn't help that hallway lights were not all turned on. What's going on with me? I've stayed several times in Baguio City before but this was the first time I actually felt a sense of dread.
I surveyed my room. I turned on the TV at a really loud volume. The A-frame ceiling has one part covered with clear glass that divides it from the hallway. This didn't sit well with me while lying on bed. It's like something was going to show up there. Who knows? I pushed my bed against the opposite wall so that I don't see it. Or whatever my imagination might feed me.
|View from my room|
Hiding under a blanket, I turned off the TV by remote, dreadful even at the thought of visiting the bathroom at midnight. Tired as I was after a really long day (which I think I should be thankful for), I managed to sleep through the entire cold night. A misty morning greeted me the next day.
At least, I didn't wake up looking like a zombie. That would have been scarier.