Photo Challenge 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie

Photo by Emman Dilanco

This is the old Diplomat Hotel in Baguio City, a common destination among adventurers in and outside the city. I’ve heard so many stories about this place when I was still living in the city but I only got to see it a couple of years ago. Honestly though, our group did not experience any supernatural thing while we were there. Maybe because it’s in the broad daylight, or maybe there’s really nothing in there after all the years of the place being a common destination to locals and tourists. The ruins still look creepy though.



Haven in the Urban Jungle

This summer has been one of the most stressful for me. I can’t really say there is a single isolated cause. Job, school, daily news, bad coffee, nail ingrown, I swear, the list just grows and grows. I can feel the tension all over my body, missed my period for two months (oppps, sorry, too much information) and I died my hair an angry burgundy-gone-wrong. I finally recognized I need a vacation and planned a weekend getaway to see my sibs and friends. Sadly, that trip never happened. I still felt like my muscles were knotted all over so I thought I needed one mean massage.

I then recalled my instructor, who’s a regular spa-goer, mentioning a cool spa somewhere. I can’t remember the name, though. Then my mom’s birthday was approaching and I thought of taking her to a spa date as a birthday gift so I asked Jan if he knew a place where prices are reasonable but the service is excellent. He said, “North Haven.” Ding, ding, ding. Yeah. That was the place my instructor mentioned.

I didn’t take my mom though. I ended up setting a date with Tine instead. It was about time we went out together. We’re in the same city but we rarely see each other to hang out. It was always some quick coffee, all business. It’s the same with all my other friends in the city.

A day before the spa date, Mara showed up. I was having a “tea party” (*cough*) with Hendrix when she texted asking us out for coffee. We asked her to come to Hendrix’s new place instead. I was just too happy to see them and talk to them that I actually considered canceling the spa date with Tine and, instead, ask her to hang out with us the next day. Mara told me not to cancel. She went to the spa with us.

North Haven is not along the main road. It would be a little hard to find if you are new in Baguio. Their signs leading to the place were not exactly very conspicuous. The fonts were too small and not poor eyesight friendly. Luckily, Tine used to live around the area and was able to navigate for kuya Ben who was driving then and who also has an eye problem. We made it there without getting lost. At the parking lot, we were warned by the parking attendant that it’s full house up in the spa and walk-ins are waiting to be served since some minutes before we arrived. We said we’d try our luck.

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We were greeted by mellow and meditative music as we approached the spa. I was really pleased with what I saw. The place was a dream. The spa looks like it used to be a residential house which was later on converted to a spa. (Now, that was really descriptive. haha. sorry.) It looked so relaxing. We were greeted by a lady at the reception. I then asked if it’s okay that we didn’t make reservations. She said it’s fine if we were willing to wait for 30 minutes. No big deal, our group said, and we were handed a menu-like price list.

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We were all joking in a mix of Ilocano and Filipino that the lady who handed us the price list quickly spoke to us in Ilocano and coaxed us to avail of the package deals. I swear, the massage styles/techniques reminded me of when I was a kid and an elder would have his/her feet or any part of his/her body massaged by the kids (i.e. dagdagay, taltaladtad). I think if you’re an IP from the Cordillera (especially from the Mountain Province), this would be a part of your childhood memories. Mara, who grew up in Besao, even went on to say “Dapat pala dito pumupunta si daddy para hindi na nag-uutos eh.” (Dad should come here instead of asking us [to massage him]).

I think we waited less than 30 minutes. Mara and I tried their Fresh Green Tea Body Scrub while kuya Ben and Tine opted for the Cordillera Bliss package. Nyong, kuya Ben’s little brother, originally chose one of the non-package which he later upgraded to something similar to the Cordillera Bliss package.

We were first ushered to the changing rooms. They provided robes, slippers and disposable undies. We had no clue the disposable undies had sizes. In the interest of not giving too much information, I’ll leave you to decide how well that turned out. We were next guided to the sauna where it was first revealed how clueless we really are with spas. There were five cups of water, five wet towels, slices of lemon and a cup of gooey stuff which, we found out later, was actually hair conditioner. There was also a bucket of water with a dipper placed beside a pile of stones. We were all like, “Para san ‘to? Anong gagawin dito?” (What’s this for? What are we supposed to do with this?)

Kuya Ben finally had it with our questions and went to ask one of the attendants who patiently explained to us that the cups of water were for drinking, the slices of lemon were for rubbing on your skin, the towels were for cooling down and the conditioner was for the hair. Ah, okay. We would later find out from Nyong that the bucket of water was for creating steam. You pour some water onto the stones and, voila, steam is created and heat increases. Ah, okay. To our total envy, Nyong told us he went back to the sauna when no one was using it and while we were being scrubbed upstairs. Hence, he found out what the stones and bucket of water were for.

After the sauna, Mara and I were led upstairs while kuya Ben and Tine were told to take a shower. We were made to lie face-down on the spa beds and pretty soon, we could feel them scrubbing. I loved how the green tea smelled. It’s something very close to Elizabeth Arden’s green tea scent. They also covered our faces with honey and placed some more conditioner on our hair. I have zero experience with spas before that particular spa day so I just said “yes” to everything including my butt getting scrubbed too.

We were then asked to take a shower after they scrubbed us all over. I felt like every inch of my skin was so smooth when I was washing the scrub away. I was so amazed. After the shower, we were led back to the room and were given a massage. Holy crap, that felt good. My masseuse must have felt I needed to get those muscles un-knotted so she twisted and pressed real hard. Oh, yeah. That was just so good. They would ask us from time to time if the pressure is okay. The pressure was just what I needed to relieve my muscles from stress.

I had a hard time keeping my foot steady though when they were scrubbing and massaging it. I’m ticklish particularly on the flat of my foot. I held on real tight on the bed to keep my foot from kicking my masseuse.

Oh, we were served tea. Lots of it. Lemon grass tea. I was kind of reluctant to drink some, initially, because the ones I’ve tried were just too strong for my taste. Well, the ones we were served was not strong at all. I think they laced it with honey or something. It actually tasted very good.

Overall, it was an A-okay experience.

If you’re in Baguio and you feel like pampering yourself or you just feel like loosening knotted muscles, try North Haven. You’ll have a kick out of the amazing view of the city lights at night. They also serve food but we didn’t have time to try them. Nyong said he had some burger or something while he was waiting for us to get done and while talking to one of the spa guests who was way older than him. That kid is really something. He is street smart.

***There are two branches. The original (where we went to) is in Guisad.

Address: #21 Avelino, Baguio City
Phone:(074) 300 5022
The other branch is in Casa Vallejo just below SM.