Monday, January 31, 2005

Baguio's Commerce

Sometime in the 70s, the stores at the foot of Session Road were owned by a group of “bumbays”. Bombay Bazaar, Bheroomul’s, Pohoomul’s, etc. Just recently, I met a lady who hails from La Union but has worked in Baguio in her younger days. As soon as I told her that I grew up in Baguio, she somehow felt a common bond between us. She said she used to work at Bheroomul’s. She is now 65 but she endlessly reminisced her days living in that city on top of the mountains.

These Bombays used to scare me. My mother used to buy my underwear at Bombay Bazaar and she’d spend more time than she should, talking to the owners. Somehow, I was always drawn to the forehead of the owner’s wife. I was scared, more than intrigued with the red dot on here forehead and the way she dressed. The incense was of course something I did not appreciate when I was a kid.

If you went closer to the city market, the environment was different. The wealthy Chinese families owned most of the stores from Mido Inn to Lapu-lapu Street. Just below Mido Inn is Sunshine Restaurant. And then another bakery (I forgot the name) and U-need Grocery store. A few stores from these of course is Tiongsan Bazaar. The family who owned Tiongsan Bazaar were by far the most well known Chinese merchants. Tiong San was strategically located along Magsaysay Avenue that people usually made it a meeting place.

Next to Tiongsan was PangHoi Restaurant and another dry goods store. I used to buy my plastic covers for my books and notebooks here if Tiongsan Bazaar got so busy. For some reason, it was mechanical for me anyway to buy my soy sauce, vinegar and other dry goods at Lapu-lapu Street. My father is part Chinese and he would never miss buying a “lapad”, a variety of dried fish and dried pusit. Sometimes when the queue is not that long, I buy them at Sunny’s just inside the city market. Sunny’s was a funny store. You get served on a first come, first served basis depending on how good you squeezed yourself in to get to the front.

Saturdays and Sundays were always trips to this Lapu-lapu Street. Fertilizers for my green-thumbed mother, a yarn at Evelyn’s for my school projects including a treat of Kiangan Bread. Oh it was just rows and rows of small Chinese grocery stores.

Hilltop was a mixture of different merchants. We have the Igorots who at one point monopolized the distribution of vegetables. At the very top are Chinese merchants concentrating on the trading of wastebaskets, dust pans, charcoals etc. If you were frugal, you can buy the vegetables at lower costs at Hanger Market. If you were lazy, you’d content yourself buying at the city market.
If you are from City Camp, Campo Sioco, Camp Seven and QM, another chinese owned store close to where you get your rides from is Sunshine Grocery. I loved Sunshine. Their prices are reasonable and the owner is a hands-on guy. Mmmm..the smell of Bread

Oh, I could go on and on but I’ll save them for later.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Notre Dame de Lourdes Hospital

Notre Dame de Lourdes Hospital used to be the best but most expensive hospital in Baguio. It is all now just a history since all its buildings were condemned after the devastating earthquake that happened in 1990. It used to be run by St. Paul's nuns.

Personally, I thought it was a perfect place to stay while you are sick or recuperating from any medical illness. It had a very massive front yard planted with different varieties of roses and other beautiful flowers. I have been a patient there on several occasions and I must say that I never hated hospitals at all if they were all like Notre Dame. It is where my sister expired while suffering from leukemia, my grandmother while she had a stroke. I could go on and on.

Just before the day starts, you could hear the singing of the nuns in the chapel. They start early too and early I meant 5:00 in the morning. They meals served weren't bad considering. The air is crisp in the mornings and the sunshine you badly need is in abundance.

In one of its wings, the right wing to be exact, Benguet Laboratories used to rent that portion from Notre Dame. Benguet Laboratories was owned by then Benguet Corporation. This is the reason why all miners from Benguet Corporation enjoyed the privilege of staying in the best hospital in Baguio City. The economic dependency of the hospital was partly attributed to Benguet Corporation.

I must say that all miners from Benguet Corporation hold Notre Dame dearly in their hearts but that’s another story.
My sister literally lived in that hospital during the last five years of her life. We've seen love stories between nurses and doctors happen. Now if you are from Baguio, you would know the love story of the late Dr. Calogne but I am not going to tell you about that here. Dra Calogne must have been the most well known and oldest OB Gyne in Baguio and I have come to know her because she was my mother's OB in my mother's childrearing days. We are 7 siblings in the family and she looked after all of us.
Of course the hospital hired beautiful nurses too although I heard they weren't paid well. Who would be in the Philippines anyway? What about the good looking doctors from Manila for internship?