My Holy Week this year was filled with much-needed adventures — both gastronomic and podiatric. 😉
The highlight of the trip was preparing for and embarking on a climb up Mount Santo Tomas in Tuba, Benguet with my boyfriend on Good Friday as a “fun penitence” of sorts.
The day before, we binged on carbohydrates and fat at KFC. Have you tried their mozzarella balls? They’re actually okay, for the price.
The area is nice, with lots of natural sunlight and cozy wooden chairs plus a small garden. Its history is charming.
The house used to be owned by Baguio’s first governor Phelp Whitmarsh, who married an Igorot, who in turn kept a well-tended garden. Their cast-iron stove still sits near the entrance to this day.
Anyway, I don’t know if we chose poorly or came at a bad time, but the food and drinks we got sucked big time. Our hot chocolate drinks tasted kind of funky (I suspect we’re not used to carabao’s milk) and the profiteroles were bland and tasted old.
Fun fact: Chocolate-eh is a thicker and more concentrated hot chocolate drink as opposed to chocolate-ah which is supposed to be watered down.
A demitasse of pure choco tablea, carabao milk, cream, muscovado sugar and cinnamon
And here was the coup de grâce. We decided to try the legendary Alamid coffee, reputed to be one of the best-tasting and most expensive coffees in the world.
The roasted beans are pooped by civets, nocturnal tree-dwelling cat-like mammals that have an extraordinary talent for sniffing out and eating the best coffee berries in the forest.
They defecate partially digested beans, which in turn are air-dried and roasted to make what is heralded as a “rare” (and hence expensive) brew.
Behold the poopy cuppa joe with a distinctly earthy (albeit fecal) aftertaste.
The Selection of Mountain Cats
This summarizes what we thought of civet cat poop coffee.
Still, never hurts to try it.
What amazes me, though, is how some genius figured out that eating berries pooped out by civets would be a great idea. “Hey guys, check it out, here’s some poop on the forest floor, shaped like berries. Wait, I’ll taste it…. Mmmm yum! It would be great if we cleaned it first though.”
Mercifully, we were able to wash off the dung taste much, much later when we finally found Apple Strudel at a local bakeshop.
My boyfriend’s been looking for apple strudel ever since we watched “Inglorious Basterds.” And yes, we waited for the crème.
Day of the Hike
Naturally, on the day of the hike, I overslept and delayed our hiking trip by about an hour and a half. I blame the carbs.
Mt. Sto. Tomas, standing majestic at 2,000 plus miles above sea level, is accessible by jeepney about 15 to 20 minutes from Baguio City and is roughly a 2-hour long hike going up to the town proper where the two radio relay discs sit.
Apparently, it’s a popular spot for Catholics who want a more challenging “Stations of the Cross” – a sort of re-enactment of Jesus’s journey up Mt. Calvary where he was crucified.
Except Jesus didn’t have a boyfriend, bullet-proof hiking shoes, granola bars or gourmet chicken fajitas.
The hike was PUNISHING. Aside from the trek up sloped winding roads that alternated between smooth pavement and rough dirt paths; we also followed a 40-minute long steep trail across cliffside vegetable patches and thick pine forests, finally camping at a plateau engulfed by huge boulders set at the edge of steep ravines.
While the risk of death or injury is high for amateur hikers like me, the view was fantastic. And check out the pine trees that glow red instead of brown.
To avoid getting lost, we had to leave camp before nightfall and the hike back up the dirt trail was agonizing. Good thing there were rows of sari-sari stores selling beverages at the town proper and empty kubos where we could sit to rest.
It took us another hour and 40 minutes to descend by the same winding path to the foot of the mountain. By the time we got down to flat land, it was dark. The constant fog engulfing the area was a blessing though, because it kept our skin cool.
Then we had to walk a few meters to Esteban store where we waited for a jeep that could take us back to town. Meanwhile, we munched on creamy buko iced candy.
(More pictures of the hike up Mt. Sto. Tomas here)
My muscles ache up to now. The hike and vigorous activities at the mountain peak really sapped my energy. But the bonding time we got more than made up for the pain.