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The Theoretical Cook

A FOODY IN THE THIRD WORLD

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Baguio - Oh My Gulay!




If you think youve had enough of Session Road with its dense cluster of 'traditional' culinary musts - Swiss Baker, Star Cafe, Cafe Luisa, 456 Restaurant - think again. You may have to crane your heads a little higher, way above the first floor establishments along Session Rd, and check out what's cooking in the upper reaches of the Session buildings. Vegetarianism has found a strong foodie foothold in one of the rooftops along Session, and even if you are a meatlover, youre bound to visit and revisit this foothold not only for the food, which is good (fresh vegetables in Baguio make this possible), but because its such a fantastic looking place. Its called Oh My Gulay!, and if I were a brief and concise person, my review should consist only of an "!".
Vegetarians, within my immediate constellation of friends and acquaintances, fall under the following categories: 1) Ideological vegetarians - usually environmentalists or animal rights activitists; 2) Health buffs - health freaks who see vegetarianism as The Way to true health; 3) Spiritual vegetarians - Buddhists, or Hare Khrishna followers, or those who for spiritual reasons avoid meat; 4) Artists. For some reason, many of the artists I know dont eat meat - and I have a feeling that artists should be a subset of the third group, the Spiritual Vegetarians.
The Oh My Gulay restaurant in Baguio, housed on the fifth floor (yes fifth, and no elevators too) of the La Azotea Building along Session Road in Baguio falls under Category 3.5 in my Vegetarianism Schematic diagram, somewhere between the Spiritual and the Artistic.
They serve a mean iced tea at the Oh My Gulay. Its the best thing to drink - ice cold, with that herby flavor laced with calamansi - after all that hiking (5 floors!). They also serve native coffee in thoughtful cups ( I say thoughtful because the handles are well thought of), although it wasnt strong enough to jolt me out of my cold weather stupor. And the food? The food is good. Fresh is always good. The serve mostly pasta with vegetables and salads. They also have pretty pun-ny names so simply choosing from the menu is a fun activity in itself.
Beyond food though, the place is a visual experience. Oh My Gulay! is owned by the Baguio-based De Guia Family (thats what I heard from the folks in the area) - um, the family headed by filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik (he of the Perfumed Nightmare fame and the tour Europe in a jeepney rep, if my memory serves me well). And the place is so put-together. Everytime I go there, its like they've done additional work on some section of the place, and the place looks much better than it did before. Its difficult to continue describing since I might not be able to do the place justice. Suffice it to say that the place looks like the people who worked on the 'interiors' had time to kill, and plenty of imagination, and didnt give a damn about what the rest of the world thought of the resulting whole.
I brought some kids with me to the place, I thought they wouldnt really enjoy since it was such an adult digs, but they did. They loved the place! They were trigger-happy with their digital cameras. And as the youngest of them said, as she went traipsing along the spaces of the restaurant-cum-art space, "Astiiig."

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