THE NEW LOURDES BAGUIO VILLA

With the new expressways connecting Manila to Baguio, the Lourdes Baguio Villa is a secret waiting to be discovered for people who want a comfortable, and reasonably priced place to stay.

It is within city limits, just after the City Hall and the Market, on Naguilian Road. You can either ride the jeepneys that go to Dominican Hill or Lourdes Grotto from the Market.  Or, better yet, take a cab from the bus stations.  The cabs are cheaper than their counterparts in Manila.

The house has four bedrooms, the Master’s Bedroom and three Guest Rooms.

As you enter the house, there is a living room where the guests of the Master’s Bedroom can lounge around. The Master’s Bedroom is almost a self-contained room in a 56 sq.m. area.   There are  two queen sized beds that can sleep four people. But there is enough room for more family members who can use the futons to share the room. There is a small fridge where people can put their drinks and snacks. It is the favorite room for guests since it has a toilet ensuite.

The second floor has a large living room and the dining room with a wall-mounted 40″  TV.

The kitchen is attached to the dining room.  It has a fridge and an oven and has enough cutlery, plates and glasses, to serve up to 20 people.

The First Guest Room  has a queen-sized bed so it has room for two guests.

The Second Guest Room in the middle has two twin beds, so two people can sleep there.

The Third Guest Room has a queen sized bed and a twin bed. This can sleep three people.

There are three toilets all in all — one in the second floor, and two on the first floor.

The charge for renting the whole house is P5,000 a day. Smaller groups of transients can rent the rooms at P500 per person, without meals. The gardener stays in, and  he stays in the caretaker’s room in the basement. The Management of the Lourdes Baguio Villa is in Quezon City.  Please call Cheryl at her cellphone 0917-587-0003 or the QC Office landline at  (2) 411-8034.

FLOWERS AND PLANTS AT THE LOURDES BAGUIO VILLA

It is difficult to believe that such a place exists smack in the middle of Baguio City.  As you turn off the busy Naguilian Road into  Dominican Road and traverse down the steep Queen of Peace Road, you see this chocolate-colored house with what seems to be a white belt on the right.  You buzz your way into the driveway, and the heavy steel door opens.

When the steel door closes, you are met with this visual array of colors — from the azaleas, from the passion flowers, from the annuals that  change every season.

The Driveway

You have the feeling that your experience is just about to begin– to be transported in a totally different world of flowers!

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The most unusual flowers in the Lourdes Baguio Villa are  the  Medineas — in deep purple, in light pink, like a bunch of grapes or flowers cascading from huge pink petals.

Spray of Medinea flowers

Tehn, there  are also  the red grape type Medinea flowers that come in deep purple and  redish pink tones.

Red Medinea

Dark Medinea

The giant ferns that were planted fifteen years ago had  now majestically risen to meet the sky.  They formed a fence that separated the top half of the lot from the lower half.

The Giant Ferns

The Giant Ferns

Nothing have given  guests of the Villa  more pleasure than to have lunch under the canopy of jade flowers that dripped from the sun roof in the garden.

Jade Flowers Dripping from the Roof

It was difficult to decide which was more the favorite of the Guests  — the Medineas or the Jade Flowers.

The Jade Flower

The Lourdes Baguio Villa  is now for sale.   The Lady of the House  hopes that the next owner will treasure each flower as it comes, and will continue to love this beautiful garden the way she enjoyed it  all these years.

Photographing Baguio

What better reason to go to Baguio other than to take pictures?

Sunrise over seven mountains

Believe it or not, these pictures were taken at the outskirts of Baguio, looking into the China Sea.  Some international photographers go all over the Philippines for its scenic beauty.  My husband, who has won a photo competition in Scotland himself, once joined his New York based photographer friend, Caloy Esguerra,  take pictures of Baguio’s  sunrise and sunsets.

Sunset over a cactus

Sunset over a cactus

I am not a photographer, but I can appreciate art, just like everybody else.  I like the drama in these two shots. First the gentle waves of the mountains, then the stark red sun in front of a lone cactus.    I also like the picture below, of the golden river  flowing into the China Sea.

Golden river meeting its source

Taking photos requires talent, and patience.  A photographer sees something that no ordinary human being can see.  When I go off on a photo shoot with my husband, I don’t bother taking my camera.  His photos just overwhelm my own shots.

Patience?  Taking a photo is like waiting for –“the ONE”.  Thank God for digital cameras.  No more wasting all those precious films. Just make sure you have enough batteries, enough memory, and, if you are taking pictures in the dark (which you will most likely do), a mosquito repellant.

And, one last shot– if you are staying at the Lourdes Villa, you can make arrangements with Gardener Jose for him to come in early to help you carry all those heavy camera equipment.

The House at the Lourdes Villa

The Lourdes Villa was the retirement home of a former diplomat.  It holds some of the treasures that he brought home with him– from Africa, from Asia. A former graduate of Los Baños Agriculture, he  chose each plant and flower that blooms in the garden. The only reason that he had decided, upon the prodding of his wife, to open the house to the public, was because he decided to serve the people, and could no longer go to Baguio as frequently as he used to. But he still comes to make sure the garden is well kept, and everything in the house is as if he were still living there.

The Lourdes Villa is perfect since it is just a jeepney ride away from the Maharlika Market and Burnham Park.  It is in the area of the Grotto, as you come in from the main road.

Chocolate colored house It is easy to spot the Lourdes Villa as one goes down the Queen of Peace Road from the main road going to the Grotto.  It looks massive against the hill.  You can see the hanging plants that grace  the windows. wall of flowers in the driveway The paint of the house is chocolate brown, with a belt of light pink.

As soon as you enter the driveway, past the massive gate that needs two people to open it, you will know that you have been transported to another place and time.  There are vines of passion flowers in vivid red color that cover the wall, the kavite that supports the house. Two vans can park comfortably in the driveway.

Princess Room

Princess Room

The Princess Room is the favorite room for many lovers.  It is a four-poster bed that came from France via Vietnam.  A Swiss diplomat sold it grudgingly to the Filipino owner of the Lourdes Villa after he found out that he had exceeded his baggage allotment! So this French four-poster bed has found its final home in Baguio.  Many pictures of its guests in the bed have been taken as their souvenir of time well spent at the Villa.

Family RoomFor people who do not want to share beds, the Family Room is for them.  There are two double beds in the room. The toilet is also ensuite. Although the management does not encourage parents to bring their small children because of the many breakable items they have in the house,  the Family Room is also good for people who want to bond with their children while they are on vacation.

Living-dining roomOn the second floor, the dining table can hold 8 guests.  The living room is next to it, although there is another living room on the ground floor with two sofa beds.

Lunch in the garden under the Jade Vines During lunch time, you can opt to eat out in the garden and enjoy the jade flowers falling under the canopy of the vines. You can ask Jose, the gardener, to put out the monoblocs from Africa and feel you are in a mountain resort, surrounded with all that greenery.

Ceiling of palm treesThis is the view of the garden at the back. There are giant fern trees that shade you from the direct sunlight. They are also very beautiful to behold.  The garden goes all the way to the top and you can view the whole Baguio city from the top.  There is a place where you can sit under the tunbergia vines and meditate on how wonderful God is to have all these different plants around you.

There are vines that cover the ground on each level.  And Morning Glory vines at the edges of the fence on both sides of the house. They are so unusual!  So delicate! They came from Minnesota, a souvenir of the time when Daughter Regina got married to her long-time beau and classmate.  There are the bright red passion flowers against the wall of the driveway.

Someone noted that the Garden of the Lourdes Villa has more variety of flowers than any park in the city.

Yummy Meals at the Lourdes Villa

What more can a person want when there is first class accommodation, and the staff is polite, and the food is superb? The owners want to share with you a “full service” lodgings.  People can use the kitchen, but why should you do that, when the menu is really mouth-watering and served at its freshest state.

Supper Day 1

Light meal

Vilma, the new cook, who worked in the Middle East as a cook, surprised us with her light dinner. She brushed the raisin bread with butter, then toasted it. The fresh green salad was matched with a mayo-mustard light sauce. And the main dish was a beef with forest mushrooms.

Lunch Day 2

Tasteful arrangement

Lunch was heavier than dinner. Vilma served us pea soup, green beans with shrimps, and tender roast pork. The spoons and forks she laid out were from the Owner’s Bangkok collection with the Buddhas on their handles.  I thoroughly enjoyed this meal.

Spinach soup with dumpling

Spinach soup with dumpling

I thought Vilma’s cooking had already shown her best recipes.  But lunch came, and this one was another surprise– spinach soup with a dumpling.  I like the subtle taste of the soup.  It reminded me of being in a Chinese restaurant, not unlike the Shaolin Tea House that is in the Casatina Apartel in Timog, Quezon City.  The Casatina Apartel belongs to the chain of serviced apartels owned by the owner of Lourdes Villa.

Roast Pork

Roast Pork with gravy

I can’t resist showing you the gem of a roast pork that Vilma cooked for us. It was so tender, and that sauce she dribbled over it was so artistic!  Most of the time, we prefer white meat, but Vilma’s roast pork was too delicious to ignore!

green beans with mustard

Green beans with mustard

Baguio is known for its freshest vegetables.  Vilma always buys them early in the morning, so that the vegetables are tender with the slightest cooking.  This kind of cooking preserves the nutrients of the vegetables. It is very good for the health.

Papaya and carrot JuiceHealth enthusiasts will enjoy this Villa very much.  For breakfast, there is fresh carrot juice and papayas to start the day.  Those who like their “whatever-si-log” can make their requests the night before.  Or you can ask for french toasts, pancakes, jams and preserves.   The cook is at your command!

Vilma charges for three meals full board P1,500 a day per person.  The meals have soup, vegetables, a main entree, and fruit for dessert. When strawberries are in season, her strawberry dessert with cream-and-cheese is to die for.

I can’t wait until the next time I visit the Lourdes Villa!

The First Wisteria Blossom

I have always loved the Wisteria as a flower. I first found out about the Wisteria when I read the Genji Monogatari, a tale about a royal family during the Shogunate in Japan. Wisteria Blossom

Anyone who loves romance, royalty, and Japan, should read this book at least once in their lives.

Just the name “wisteria” evokes “wistfulness” and “hysteria” , two very contrary meanings.  I often wondered how a wisteria flower would look like. Would it bring out wistfulness or hysteria in me?

When my husband and I went to Italy, we were surprised to see a whole wall of wisteria blossoms! They looked like tiny dainty grapes dripping over their vines.

When we visited the Lourdes Villa in Baguio, we were surprised to see the first blossom of the same plant.  So a wisteria can blossom in Baguio!   While the jade flowers looked  like an aquamarine boar teeth strung into a necklace, the wisteria, the first wisteria blossom, we heard, was still shyly trying to see whether it could  survive in this new place. The Owner told us that he got this plant from seeds he bought during his trip to New Zealand.

There are wisteria plants that grow in the lowlands.  A farm in Teresa, Rizal sells wisteria plants, but their flowers do not have the delicate quality of the first wisteria blossom I saw in Lourdes Baguio.

I’ll be happy to see how the wisteria plant at the Lourdes Villa is getting along, when I visit it again this time next year.

Panagbenga Flower Festival

I had just come from viewing the Annual Panagbenga Festival.  This is the time when Baguio rolls out its best floats made of real flowers, and entertains everyone with the street dancing and float presentations.

Dancing flowers

It was hard to try to get the best position to take pictures of the dancers. I thought this group had the best costume, petals on their necks and really good combination in their dresses. The photographers had a good time taking pictures, and the dancers felt it was worth all the effort when their photos were taken by enthusiastic photographers.

Milflores Hydrangea

I liked the splash of color in this float. It was a float filled with a thousand flowers, of which the name, “Milflowers” or hydrangeas, seemed so apt.

I should put more pictures of the Panagbenga in this blog.
The one below is so delicate, I really loved it.

Violet Tinkerbells

Weren’t these girls precious?  I really loved their costumes and their make up.

There is a prize for the best presentation, best float.  For me, they are all winners, since every year, more and more people come to watch the Panagbenga and see the talents that Baguio and its surrounding areas have to offer in terms of beauty and culture!