On a whim, my family decided to head to Baguio one random Monday in February.
We had three fairly logical reasons for embarking in an impromptu road trip up North–
1. Cheap gas. Gas prices were down and the long drive would probably be cheaper than usual. Diesel was around 30 bucks a liter, and you cant get a fairer price than that these days.
2. No traffic. EVERYONE seemingly planned a trip to Baguio that weekend after Christmas. After that epic traffic hell they went through, hardly anyone would make a trip back so soon. Getting there took us less than five hours from Quezon City via SCTEX and TPLEX. And we left at 6am, which is normally a little late to expect a pleasant drive.
3. The weather. The start of February usually signals the end of the Christmas-y climate, extending it for a few days more up North sounded like a good idea. Now, the last time I was in Baguio, they said it would be cool and crisp but when I got there, the sun was so high up that I was wishing for sunglasses and a piña colada. Not sure if they deliver there but I found out that Zalora lets you shop for sunglasses by model, frame, shape and lens color. I was almost tempted to get one right there and then. This time around, I was in a thin shirt, thin leggings and was armed with the proper eyewear. I regretted my outfit choice as soon as I stepped out of the car. It was really cold, almost like Japan end of winter kind of cold.
A consolation to my freezing legs is that cool weather usually means it’s strawberry
hoarding season! We kicked things off (and hardly stopped) with the famous Baguio strawberry taho next to the iconic Lion’s Head. There were a handful of sellers near the tourist attraction but we got from the guy that took our picture for us (lulz).
The warm soy drink with fresh Baguio strawberry syrup with fruit bits was the perfect thing to shake off the cold. Delicious. This fueled our strawberry cravings even more that we hurriedly made our way to our next stop– La Trinidad, the nub of all them beautiful Baguio strawberries! Okay, maybe not all, but a ton.
What welcomed us was a lineup up of “dirty” ice cream carts, all selling, you guessed it, strawberry ice cream. Since there was a lot of competition, it took some convincing for us to pick a cart. One cart guaranteed the deliciousness of his product bearing the sign “Special Strawberry Ice Cream. Masarap, promise!!!” He offered us a free taste, and we discovered out that he made good on his promise– masarap nga!
We then proceeded to hoard his stock before happily heading to the farm for fresh strawberries. While the taho and the ice cream were really nice, the real draw of the trip to the strawberry farm is the freshly picked, sweet-smelling, and plump Baguio strawberries. Baguio strawberries are by far the best strawberries I’ve had, even compared to produce from cooler climates. Specially the ones harvested from La Trinidad, Baguio strawberries are near perfect, evenly shaped, with smooth red skin, super fragrant and oh so sweet.
It was lovely to nibble on this sweet little things throughout the day. Later that first night, we capped off a homecooked meal with more of these fresh strawberries topped on good old vanilla ice cream. Incidentally, there are also a bunch of other fresh produce that can be got from La Trinidad. There were fresh broccoli, carrots, potatos, seedless Benguet oranges (which I fell in love with at first taste), cherry tomatos, lettuce, all freshly harvested in the farm and inexpensive to boot.
After enjoying the sights, sounds, and weather, we headed home with a trunk load of strawberries, oranges, various vegetables, jam, walis, and some happy memories of family and Baguio. If only the handling of strawberries isn’t too delicate, we would have gotten more to bring home.
As a last hurrah of sorts, I used my remaining strawberries to make strawberry muffins back home in time for V day. The sweet smell of strawberries wafted from the oven and I was giddy when I took the muffins out. I had trimmed the fruits to look like hearts and topped the muffins with them. They looked super cute. Unfortunately, they were also super gross. The muffins were a tad underbaked and were inedible so I just scooped out the heart-shaped strawberries and called it a day. Still a win.