Large chunk of my excitement going up to the summer capital of the Philippines is enjoying good, cool weather, eating fresh vegetables and strawberries, and a stay in Casa Vallejo right in the heart of Baguio City. But for many previous visits, I skipped this former detention center for German prisoners of war, then “dormitory” for Americans involved with public works. Each time, I felt a tug in my heart seeing this bastion of colonial charm in utter disrepair. You can just imagine then how excited I was to visit again, now that this heritage building has been transformed into a 24-room boutique hotel with a Miele Guide-cited restaurant called Hill Station.
Built in 1909 as “Dormitory 4”, leased in 1923 to Salvador Vallejo, this green and white structure is the oldest building in the area. The Spanish Vallejo married a Filipina and ran the hotel named after him. (Trivia: Heritage advocate Maribel Garcia Ongpin, widow of Jimmy Ongpin, is a granddaughter) I remember a time it was painted mocha when we spent a family weekend there. The same structure or configuration remained but for that area where the children’s playground was turned into a carpark. I remember using the swing there many times with Papa giving me a push.
The last time I stayed here was in the early 90’s. It looks so much better now since it was re-opened in 2010. Mitos Benitez Yñiguez of Mario’s fame very ably runs the Hill Station restaurant. Lovingly restored, any visitor would be pleased to see Casa Vallejo’s and Hill Station’s high ceilings, huge picture windows, original columns, breezy ambience, and overall classy vibe. Paintings and framed photographs add to the charm. Not surprising. After all, Mitos is married to one very accomplished cinematographer. Many have written about their dining expeditions here. I need not add more. That citation in the Miele Guide (2011-12) speaks for itself. But alright….. Don’t miss the Hill Station Salad served in a Lanelle Abueva-Fernando ceramic bowl. And hey, corkage is only P500 so go ahead and bring your fav vino!