The sun was ready to set when we arrived in Baguio City from a five-hour downhill trip via Halsema Highway from Bontoc. From the bus terminal, we walked our way towards the northern end of Session Road and found ourselves in the busy post-Christmas day Baguio Market.
Traditionally, the city market served as trading post for farmers and mountain communities from the north. It is crowded with people and local goods. Foreigners inspecting the design patterns found in a hand-woven fabric and housewives doing their late afternoon marketing are the usual scene. Off course, there are the local tourists haggling for an export quality walis tambo as a practical souvenir from the City of Pines.
Although much of the merchandise we saw is very commercial and is really meant for daily use, the market scene in Baguio becomes uncommon because of the different colors and texture found in Ifugao baskets, tufts of walis tambo, leis of amber flowers called everlasting, the sundot kulangot and rice of different shades that are sold side by side with green leafy vegetables and bright red strawberries stacked high in bilaos.
Strawberries thrive in the temperate north. They grow plentiful in the summer months and can become expensive when they are not in season. Recently, strawberry growers found ways to make strawberry wine and incorporate the succulent fruit into the taho.
Sundot kulangot may sound disgusting. This local kalamay made from brown sugar and sticky rice is packed inside split round wooden shells that is rejoined by a red tape. They are sold in rows of miniature balls held together by strips of bamboo sticks.
Everlasting is a Baguio exclusive. As the name suggest, this flower last a long time. For a while we saved on buying leis of sampaguita for our altar when we brought home garlands of auburn and amber everlasting flowers from Baguio.
We have to discard them after year because the flowers have been gathering dust. But unlike the sweet and soft sampaguita, a garland of everlasting is not meant to be worn around the neck because the hardy flower can be very itchy.
Walis tambo is a very popular and practical souvenir from Baguio. We know it’s popular because local tourists hand-carry this soft broom inside the bus on their way back to Manila.
Household baskets made by mountain tribes are also practical souvenirs. They come in different shapes and were made for everyday use like for storing rice and valuables, carrying locusts, meat, and produce, and for ritual purposes. An antique Ifugao backpack called the pasiking is coveted and command a higher price than those recently made ones.
There are more places to see in Baguio. But for this stop-over, we never made it anywhere beyond the city market, Session Road, and the Cathedral. We soon boarded the bus bound to Manila, hand-carrying an export-quality walis tambo.
-Feast of the Three Kings 2013