Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Life in a Northern Town Part Two: La Union, Benguet with Team Lakay & on the highest point of Baguio

San Fernando, La Union
I haven’t been to this part of the Philippines in about 15 years. Maybe even more. I am not counting a bus ride to Baguio City several years ago when I took Naguilan Road. I am never passing through treacherous Kennon Road again.

I have another classmate of mine, Pacoy Ortega, who is a congressman from these parts. I hope to see him again as I have not seen him since 1989.

After what was a close to a seven-hour drive (including the stop-over), we head for the Cuenca Residence in Canaoay, San Fernando, La Union. It’s by the beach and close to the airport.

The residence is spacious and lovely with its native design. The fact that it is next to the beach makes it priceless for its real estate value and but how do you measure homey-ness?

After being shown to my room and I lay down if only for a few seconds. I needed to stretch out after that long and tiring ride. I closed my eyes to try and block everything out. But the one sound I could not block out were the waves gently lapping at the shore. It was sweet. I am away from the city.

I got up and went to the beach to have a look see. It’s not Boracay but nonetheless, you can get a chair and sit there in the morning or afternoon and stare out at the sea.

What a luxury.

Baguio City/La Trinidad, Benguet
We’re off to the legendary Team Lakay Gym in La Trinidad, Benguet. This is something that I have been planning to do for several months now but never got the chance to do. We’re doing a short video and I am writing a story about Team Lakay.

You see during One FC: Rise to Power, all five of our Filipino bets, and all coming from Team Lakay, lost. Our sole titleholder, Honorio Banario lost. Kevin Belingon who made the bantamweight grand prix finals lost. Eduard Folayang is on a two-match losing streak. Rey Docyogen and Geje Eustaquio both had chances to win but they couldn’t get a decision.

I wanted to see how that day affected them and where they are going.

We left past 4pm and took the Naguilan Road going up to Baguio. The mountainside is as picturesque as ever. But here seem to be more houses now. Once we got to Baguio traffic was horrible. Just like in Manila, the houses on the mountainside, to borrow the description of my classmate, Paul, ‘look like Brazil’s favellas’. I concur.

I wonder how people are able to build their homes next to the edge of the road. Cement beams prop them up but I wonder if those who built these homes took erosion into consideration.

We were supposed to arrive around 530 but because of the traffic, we’re an hour late. No matter, everyone’s in the gym. We spent the next three hours, filming and interviewing. Tomorrow, Friday, we’re catching them at Teacher’s Camp where they will do weights and sprints.

Just hanging out at the Team Lakay Gym, I’m having the time of my life. These guys I respect and they deserve all the help they can get.

It’s past 9pm when we leave the gym. We’re off to have dinner at the residence of Paul’s sister atop Ambuklao Road.

Ambuklao Road
We got lost several times before we finally made out way to the Tinio residence atop Ambuklao Road (Paul’s sister married into the Tinio family). Turns out that this is one of the highest points of Baguio, some 5,000 feet above sea level. The road up there is treacherous as the way is besotted with a thick fog.

In order to avoid driving off the road, we stay in the middle of the road where all we could see are the hash marks that divide the road.

By the time we get there, we’re starved and it’s freaking cold.

The house is owned by one of the sons late General Manuel Tinio, a revolutionary war general. It’s a beautiful house that is elegantly furnished. One a good day, the view of the mountains that surround Baguio is impeccable. During stormy nights it gets frightening as lightning bolts have been known to knock down trees on the property (aside from knocking out the power).

Aside from being a getaway for the Tinio family, the house also double as a “restaurant” where one of the daughters, Chef Vicky Tinio-Clemente prepares an eight-course meal for parties of at least six (it is only by reservation and they never allow walk-ins).

There’s a guest book for those who have eaten here. They are now at three volumes and I skim through it seeing familiar names (those I know personally) and those I know because of who they are. Well, there are politicians. No doubt using the pork barrel to eat pork. Everyone has a laugh off my remark.

Chef Vicky isn’t in, but her siblings, Gaby and Boy (husband of Mary Ann, Paul’s sister) and their mother, and their mother are in residence. Everyone is done with dinner but they saved us food.

And it doesn’t look like we’re eating leftovers. There’s sinigang na baka, ducks, five different kinds of cheeses, and a lot more. We have some wine (I have two glasses and that makes me really sleepy) and chat about a variety of topics. The music of the night is pretty cool for these folks – Carlos Santana (the vintage stuff and not the ones from the last decade). The Tinios invite us to sleep over but we left one of our colleagues back in La Union so we have to go back.

It’s past 11 by the time we leave and fog is as thick as ever.

But dinner at the Tinio residence was the perfect way to cap the day.

It’s past 12 by the time we arrive in La Union.

Got lots more photos in my Facebook!

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