Finding Bliss in Baguio

Sometimes things don’t work out initially. It is when they finally do that makes it all the more rewarding.

For a few years now, I have been corresponding on and off with one of the owners of Bliss Cafe in Baguio, Mr. Jim Ward. I knew him only by reputation as a kendoka based in Baguio. He was friendly enough in our correspondences, and he had a standing invitation for us to keiko if I made it to Baguio. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, our meeting up never happened. Either I would go to Baguio and Jim would be out of town, or my planned trip to Baguio wouldn’t push through.

Last month, I went up to Baguio on a hastily planned business trip. Because of the haste, and the fact that I was nursing an injury, I decided not to email ahead, just in case I wouldn’t have time to try and meet up with Jim. As luck would have it, I had some free time in the evening. So I hopped into a cab in Session Road, told the driver to take me to Hotel Elizabeth, and soon enough found myself making my way through the lobby of the hotel and into the Bliss Cafe.

I read up a bit about Bliss Cafe before of course, but seeing the place in person was something else. It was full of art objects and memorabilia collected by Jim and his partner Shanti over the years. You would think the cafe would have a cluttered feel about it (like some art cafes here in Manila), but that was not the case here. Everything fit into it’s own little corner and just seemed to contribute to a wholistic viewing experience. Though it isn’t very clear in the picture below, this was Jim’s Kendo/Budo corner in Bliss Cafe.

(Photo credits from Bliss Baguio FB Page)

Jim wasn’t in yet when I came in, so I settled in to order dinner. Now, Bliss Cafe is a strictly vegetarian place, which to be honest gave me something to think about before ordering, as I am not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination. So after some thought, I settled on the eggplant ball pasta. That was definitely a good choice. And the dessert I got, the house crepes, was something I will remember for a long time. My only regret was that I wasn’t able to try any of the fresh fruit smoothies, because the weather was really cold (I later found out it was around 11C that night!), but the hot gumamella tea I had was a good substitute. This is a restaurant I will definitely visit again when I go to Baguio.

Anyway, Jim walked in just as I was finishing my pasta course. I introduced myself to him, and he remembered our email correspondences. He took some time to settle some office matters and to talk to the other patrons (incidentally he introduced me to all of them, as it turns out they were all his friends – it is that kind of place), and then he sat down at my table and swapped kendo stories. He is as friendly as his emails implied he was, and it seemed like we were two long lost acquaintances meeting up. I could see how the cafe is an extension of his personality, warm, cozy, and full of nice memories and experiences.

So, if any of you plan on going to Baguio, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Bliss Cafe in Hotel Elizabeth along Gibraltar Road. You can find more information about them on their FB or Multiply page. And…if you feel up to it, Jim would like to invite any kendoka visiting to bring their shinai and bogu. He really misses practicing (no kendo in Baguio unfortunately), and would relish the opportunity to cross swords with people again.

Cheers and peace out!