When we went to Baguio this December 2010, we were joined by my husband's extended family. It was great eating meals with different families. I was especially proud of our child because he liked his Tita’s cooking so much which made him eat more than the usual.
I first heard about the Balatoc Mines Tour from the relatives and I thought it would be a great experience for the family. So on our last full day at Baguio, my nuclear family, together with the family driver, went to Balotoc mines. Since it was our first time to visit Balatoc Mines, we basically got lost but it did not take us a long time to find the correct route.
The Balatoc Mines is found in Itogon Benguet which is about an hour travel from Green Valley, Baguio City. What caught us by surprise is the path going to Balatoc Mines. A word of caution, the driver has to be fully awake and very careful while traversing the road to Balatoc Mines. It is a combination of winding roads and bumpy rides at times. It would help a lot if you bring a car that can travel dirt roads if you are concerned with your car. Other than that the view itself going to Balatoc Mines is majestic. Wide and thick greenery covering the mountainside along the snaking road going to Balatoc Mines will entertain you (exluding the driver because he needs to focus).
Landmark going to Balatoc Mines, Itogon, Benguet
Finally we arrived at Balatoc Mines and proceeded to the area where the tours are arranged. We paid P250 for each adult guest and P150 for children. While waiting for our turn to enter the mines, there is a small museum where you can see stuff found inside Balatoc Mines.
Our tour guide gave us a short talk and told us a brief history and things to expect inside the Balatoc Mines. They also asked us about our expectation which was good because it showed that the tour guides were interested on our initial perception of the tour.
Finally the tour guides warned us about the Anaconda. I would like to share the story of the Anaconda but I would be spoiling the fun if I did. So I leave it up to the person reading this blog and considering Balatoc Mines as a destination to discover the story behind the Anaconda.
At the start of the tour it was fairly hot because we have to travel on foot going to the tunnel. A piece of unsolicited advice, leave unnecessary items in the car. It would be better if you’re not carrying anything except for a camera and a flashlight.
Mined Rocks Ready for Milling at Balatoc Mines, Itogon Benguet
Balatoc Mines Guided Tour
You don’t even have to bring food or drinks. I did that and I was so entertained by the tour and the different photo-ops that there was no time to take a sip. Bring a small bottle if you really want to if you’re the type of person who gets burnt out from short walks or if you get thirsty right away. Technically, there are no restrooms inside the Balatoc mines so better take a leak before starting the tour. Bring a hat if you have one and wear comfortable footwear because you’d be walking along a railway which can sometimes become slippery especially inside the tunnel.
On the other hand, it’s dark inside the tunnel so wear your glasses or contact lenses if you want to see where you’re going to. The tour guide will have be carrying a flashlight and another person at the behind the group will be provided one as well but if you want to bring yours you are free to do so.
The first part of the tour as I mentioned will be outside the tunnel and along the railway. We arrived at Balatoc Mines at lunch time so the sun is at its peak. It was a little humid but the heat was bearable. We saw different machinery used inside the mines. We saw a river where people can pan gold. We also saw the toilet car that’s why I said technically there is a restroom but I dare you if you have the guts to use it.
Stalactites inside Balatoc Mines, Itogon Benguet
It was the trip inside the tunnel that I enjoyed the most - First because of the eerie feeling that you’re inside a damp dark tunnel where the temperature goes down as one walks deeper inside the hole. One can hear water droplets falling from the stalactites and the path ahead is a little muddy.
The tour guide described the parts of the tunnel and demonstrated how a dynamite works. This was new information for me and I really appreciated it a lot. The anaconda was introduced to us in the most surprising way causing us to run to the nearest man-hole. We had a taste of holding a drill and seeing the dog hole where miners had to crawl day in and day out as they go deep into the mines. The climax of the tour is when a dynamite exploded which surely got everyone’s attention. You can actually feel the intensity of the blast. It was a great learning experience indeed.
Finally, our cart arrived and we traveled the same route as we entred but this time inside a cart. Everybody was tired from the heat and walk and so the cart was a perfect way to go back.
I definitely recommend this tour to families because it’s a great bonding experience. There were lots of things to learn about the plight of the miners here in the Philippines and as to why gold is a precious metal. I now have renewed respect for all the miners in the world and what they have to endure to be able to get the gold to make the ring wrapped around my finger right now.
We had a hearty lunch at home and prepared to go to Baguio Farm. The day before, we visited Baguio Farm to ask permission if we can take pictures while milking the cow. It is best to make an appointment first with the management before going to Baguio Stock Farm especially if you are a big group. The management accommodated our request with the condition that we visit during their milking hours which is 4:00 in the morning or 4:00 in the afternoon. Of course, we chose the afternoon slot.
Milking the batch of cows takes about an hour so you can visit within that window of time. The kuyas are easy to deal with and they even did not take the tip we were offering because they said they provide this service in connection with their goal to educate the public. Seeing the cows being milked makes you appreciate the milk you are enjoying everytime you drink it (which I am feeling right now while drinking my milk).
The pasteurized Pure Cow’s milk we bought was processed by Mountain High Livestock Multi-Purpose Cooperative found at Km. 5 Baguio Stock Farm Sto Tomas Road, Dontogan Baguio City. Their contact number is (074) 4261184. A 330 ml bottle of this delicious and extremely creamy pure cow’s milk will cost you P120. They also have in smaller packs for P50. The Baguio Stock Farm also offers yoghurt in three flavors: mango, strawberry and blueberry. Our favorite is the mango flavored yoghurt. Yoghurt in Baguio Stock Farm cost P40 a bottle. There are also other products such as kesong puti, candied youghurt and pastillas but they were out of stock when we inquired.
While waiting for our chance to meet and greet the milking cows we were entertained by a black carabao calf tied in front of the entrance of the milking station. The calf was orphaned already but was very friendly. He likes to rub himself against people and if I didn’t know better I think it was acting like a puppy. I’ve never met such a friendly carabao. I wonder if this carabao will stay friendly even until it grows up.
We bought our milk and yoghurts and wandered a little bit in the farm where we met another very friendly animal. The horse we saw was happily grazing just half a meter away from us. Then it walked towards us and somehow invited us to pat him. (I am assuming it was a “him”). It was a wonderful experience for our child and for us as well because we got to interact with these friendly domesticated creatures.
Overall, I can say that the animals inside Baguio Stock Farm are very well fed and very happy. I mean if you’re an herbivore and you are surrounded with plains of grass all over you wouldn’t you be very happy? It’s like a buffet meal everyday!
Sunset at Green Valley Baguio City
On our last night in Baguio, we decided to eat out. But the best thing I experienced that night is the night ukay-ukay on the street where premium items (if I can say) are sold at an incredibly low price of P50 per piece only!!! Boots were sold at P150 and there were shoes sold at P280 the most. The only downside is that first it was hard to try on stuff especially the boots. There are no mirrors AT ALL! And it was dark. There are no bright streetlamps for you to check for stains or damages. I bought beaded pants made from Vietnam for P50. The beading was impecabbly made but I only found out when I got home that there was a tear on the crotch. Good thing it can be mended but without the tear it would have been perfect. I also bought a very cute cardigan but it was two sizes smaller than my size. I found out also when I got home that it was for kids. At least I have something to give to my little sister when she comes home. Ir would have been nice if a girlfriend was with me shopping so we can be the talking mirror for each other. Oh well, this idea is something that can be planned for the next Baguio trip. For the rest of the items I bought like a snug gray big-buttoned jacket and a crocheted cardigan, a blouse with a beaded sarimanok or phoenix (whatever you want to call it) they were all in excellent condition. All in all I got 5 items and paid P220. It was supposed to be P250 but I haggled because I bought several items.
For this adventure I have no pictures as I did not expect to uncover another activity in Baguio. (lesson learned)
This Baguio week has been all about eating and sleeping. It’s a good thing I’m preparing for the Bull Run because I wouldn’t have been motivated to run every morning. I know feel there’s some weight to be shed after that two weeks of binging but there’s nothing like Metro Manila stress to burn that out. I’m not looking forward to it though.
(If you want to use my pictures in anyway you want it, that would be fine as long as you cite this blog as the original source preferably in APA format. If you can't do that then please do not use my pictures.)