Where to Eat in Baguio City: Café By the Ruins
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Our bus ride from Pangasinan to Baguio has been a pleasant one. Though it was surprisingly long, around five hours, we had the moving sceneries of Pangasinan, La Union, and the Mountain Province to keep us content.
Yet as we started our incline on the Agoo-Baguio road, formerly known as Marcos Highway, and sensed the flourishing mountainous terrain engulfing us, we also started feeling a pang of hunger deep in our stomach.
Knowing that there was more than an hour left before reaching Baguio City, and less than an hour to check-in and freshen up at Casa Vallejo Hotel, we felt excited to reward our body with delicious gourmet food in an idyllic place where our kids could eat well and enjoy in.
Café By The Ruins then came into our mental vision. With a faint memory of the place from an inevitable coffee break that happened around 15 years ago, I remained with praises and good stories from good friends who had eaten there.
After finally checking-in at Casa Vallejo, we walked along the cool streets of Baguio, refreshed and enthusiastic to be in the city’s fondly familiar atmosphere of pine trees and old colonial architecture, and of course to eat healthy food in Baguio’s historical place.
We arrived at Café By the Ruins just before lunchtime, which was a great chance to pick a nice table before it got filled up. The kids ran straight to the circular space at the corner, which looked like a makeshift mini amphitheater made with rocks, and within is a fireplace somewhat akin to ritualistic flames than rustic heating system.
So we picked the round wooden table in the terrace next to that circular space where our kids went to and surrendered to the feel of the cozy seat shaping our back, nonetheless immersed in Baguio’s history and a quality of elegant artistic living flowing within the café.
Baguio’s History Unfolded in the Ruins
The history of Baguio or then Hill Station, as expressed by the café’s ruined arches and vine-covered gazebo, zooms in to the part wherein the residence of a former American governor of Benguet was destroyed during the American forces’ pursuit of retreating Japanese Imperial Army in 1944.
After the war, Baguio’s pioneer doctor Teodoro Arvisu purchased the place and was later taken over by his granddaughter, Christine, who in 1988 with her friends transformed it into a hangout for artists and friends, calling it Café By the Ruins.
Amid the ruins of stone walls, heightened by the character of hanging plants, folk artworks and local music, Café By the Ruins obviously represents the vital part of Baguio and the Cordilleras.
Food for the Local Gods and for Health
While keeping a calm mind in control of our hunger, we browsed thoughtfully through the enticing menu of home-cooked dishes, lovingly assembled with local ingredients.
For Vegetarians, there was an enticing selection of Tia Olympia’s Fresh Lumpia filled with julienned carrots, cabbage, string beans, sweet potato, and onions from the La Top Farmers that is sautéed with garlic and tofu, and sprinkled with brown sauce and chopped peanuts; Cheese Lumpia Straws, with basil and carabao cottage cheese from the Carabao Center in Nueva Ecija; and Mixed Vegetarian Brown Rice with omelet and spring rolls.
There were the chicken delights, such as, Royal Lao Drumsticks made with lemon grass stalks minced chicken stuffing served with sweet and sour chilli sauce, or French-inspired deboned Chicken Galantina, stuffed with minced meat and poached in stock, or Pinikpikan, prepared with the Cordilleran tradition of beating a live chicken to death and made into a stew with native Baguio vegetables and ginger.
While it was practically our first meal for the day, we also considered the Breakfast dishes, which displayed Mount Data Tapa Rice with tomatoes and onions, scrambled eggs, the Fluffy Cheese omelet made with carabao cheese and Parmesan filling, Tinapang (smoked) Bangus from Dagupan served with chopped tomatoes and salted duck egg from Batangas, and a stack of fluffy Bacon Buttermilk Pancakes, served with butter and honey from the bee keepers at Benguet State University.
My friend ordered the Pinikpikan, while I ordered the Mixed Vegetarian Brown Rice.
With some delicacies to keep our body sound, like the meat-filled puff pastry taken from the appetizing glass display at the entrance, and the warm café mocha made with Arabica beans from the northern Ibaloi tribe, we were quite happy to wait for our food.
Perfectly timed by nature, our food arrived just as we were ready to eat something that is more filling.
At the end, we were happy about our food choices as they kept us and our kids satisfied and full; even too full to take in any of the café’s desserts, be it the Ruins’ Leche Flan that is made with lime and carabao milk from the Shahani’s Gatas ng Kalabaw Dairy or the Dark Chocolate Lava Cake made with chocolate from Malagos of Davao and served with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.
Thus, as rightful Artists, Clowns, Foodies, Jokers, Kids, Lovers, Optimists, Poets, Queers, Rebels, Singers Teachers, Vegetarians and Yogis, taken from the Alphabet of Customers on the menu, we were so happy to take part in the living history of the Café By the Ruins, and in the next time, also fit in the other customer alphabets, as Entrepreneurs, Geniuses, Healers, Inventors, and certainly, as Millionaires.