I WAS 10 years old when I told my mother I wanted to live here in Baguio. We were stepping out of our apartment in Europa that clear morning on our way to Burnham Park. Overwhelmed by the excitement and the clean crisp air, I blurted it out not realizing it was a promise to myself. It took the pandemic for me to have the courage to live here full time now, over three decades later.
While technology and the pandemic have let me keep most of my closest friends from Manila, I only had a few friends here when I first moved. There were some locals who welcomed me into their circles with open arms. There were also a few Manila refugees like me who moved to Baguio for love – marrying locals or following a spouse. They spoke about the heartaches and adjustments they’ve had to make to acclimate to life here.
The transition has honestly been easy for me. And a lot of it is because I really am not missing much of my Manila-centered life. The excesses of that old lifestyle is astonishing to me now as I look back while we are in the middle of yet another lockdown. Sure, I miss the buffets at the hotels, but that’s not happening anymore. I miss the relative ease of flying in and out to travel, but that’s not happening anymore either. I miss seeing friends for dinners at home and for restaurant and bar crawls, but nope, no one responsible is doing that. I miss the UAAP games. I miss performing live onstage for plays and hosting events and singing live and doing television shows and movies. But nope and nope and more nope. The rest of the world is missing the same things I would have missed by making the decision to uproot myself from the only place I had ever known as home.
Although the decision to move to Baguio was made about five years ago, it was the pandemic that allowed me the stillness to lay down roots and truly settle and thrive with Vivita Philippines – Vivistop Baguio. We opened a few months ago and we’re trying our best to help keep kids’ interests in science, tech, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM) alive and well in our little space on Yangco Road. We can’t wait till it will be safe again for kids to come and visit and pursue their arts and science projects with us. In the meantime, my team and I continue to plan and experiment. I’ll share more about VIVITA in a future column.
The rest of the time, I just spend with my son at home. After all, the things that truly matter, they’re all here. I’m within a kilometer of some of the best hospitals in Northern Luzon, food deliveries are easy with Foodpanda and Grab, I wake up to the cathedral bells ringing at 6 a.m., fresh produce from the market is easy, convenient food from the supermarket is within reach too. I live a few steps from where I work with Mt Cloud Bookshop and Hot Cat Specialty Coffee sharing the same hub as Rain, the Benguet pony whom you can feed for a few pesos from time to time. Thankfully, Internet is fast (100mbps at home, 300mbps at the office), it hasn’t really been warmer than 25c even at noon while the rest of the country swelters. Every so often I do historical walking tours of the Mirador Jesuit Villa Retreat House.
Best of all, folks aren’t always in a rush and can chat about all the precious unimportant things and would happily accompany you to see a sunset or a planetary alignment. Teachers, artists, cooks and writers are some of the most valued members of the community. And if ever I really need to go to Manila, it’s just four hours away as the crow (which I feed food scraps from my balcony) flies.
No, I didn’t move here to get married or to follow anyone. But I did move for love of that precocious ten-year- old who knew even back then that calling this home would be good for my soul.