Issue of September 20, 2020
Mt. Province

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Here comes the green enthusiasts
Stella Maria L. de Guia
With the world under lockdown and quarantine, people are turning green. Not in a naughty sense, but in a more robust environmental sense. Little nooks and gardens have become wonderlands, as planting and plant nurturing has become the new craze.

People are nudged like the proverbial bubble bulb to engage in this green revolution. Cacti or cactuses and indoor plants have suddenly become the “in” thing. In fact, giant plants are going indoor. The Baguio Orchidarium is probably experiencing a boom in business. Bakers, technologists, housewives, fathers, and mothers alike have been initiated into the green thumb revolution. Even the ukay-ukay business has turned into selling cacti and indoor plants. There are many selling plants in social media. Be careful thought of splinters or “saludsod” in Tagalog, cacti are famous for it.

Pete’s pot of green gold.


I feel like humming Dinah Washington’s song, “What a difference a day makes. Twenty-four little hours. Brought the sun and the flowers, where there used to be rain…” Planting is one of the positive outcomes of quarantine.

Lifestyle changes has been happening and is becoming. Take the case of balikbayan Pete Siapno. His lifestyle has taken many twists and turns: from being a disk jockey – artists, to a Loyola manager, to a chef, to being a member of several civic organizations, to the U.S. as health provider and back to the Philippines, to his plant hobby. He was invited to the Baguio Association of Restaurants (BAR) by Sizzling Plate owner Edna Anton.

Pete Siapno, the green enthusiast,  carefully arranges  his plant groupings.


“I basically got into the gardening hobby because of the limited movement of quarantine,” says Pete. Actually he already envisioned what he wanted to do with his little garden back in the States and quarantine has given him that opportunity. In fact, just a week after he got back to Baguio, he already started with his garden. ”Gardening gives one a source of fulfillment and enlightenment. I cannot explain the feeling when you see your plants thrive and the sheer beauty of it.”

Pete really loves plants. In fact, every nook and corner of his house is filled with plants. “When I wake up in the morning, I say good morning first to my plants, before I say good morning to my wife,” he lovingly jokes his lovely wife Emma. They have four children: Alyh, Lyza, Ricky and Kaye. Two are in the Philippines and two are in the U.S.

Cacti arrangement of Pete.


It’s amazing how he has transformed his little garden into a haven complete with plants, lights, fountains and greenery. It must be the artist and the drive for excellence in Pete that gives what he touches a new look or meaning. He has his own way of designing and arranging too. He spends a lot time and resources to achieve his goal including his backaches.

He started this hobby with a round plant dish and it grew from there. He is now a regular at the Baguio Orchidarium and has about seven “suki” or regular plant suppliers. They smile as soon as they see him. His love for plants and cooking was inherited from his inang Narsing and his amang Pedring. In fact, Pete puts a term to it, “From Dishes to Dish Garden.”

VIOLA -- Pete’s green haven-wonderland.


Pete used to own Pedro’s with wife Emma located at the La Azotea food court which was taken over by Eden and George and now called Krismer’s.As a young man and DJ, he was into pointillism art using pencil and ballpen.

Other plant or green enthusiasts or lovers has taken on this hobby too. My son Nashi and daughter-in-law Jacki’s brother Joel Molina, who is also a chef –baker, has also been enamored by the plant hobby. I think his house is now filled with plants more than bakery items. Jon Estolas has taken his plant hobby to a new level, inside the fish tank. I met Millie, a former student now housewife, who is into the cacti hobby and is willing to pay even if the cost is a little high.

Pete, the artist with his pointillism portrait of Elizabeth Taylor.


In my article last week about the 75th Anniversary of the End of WW II,” there was a typo error on Fulbright scholar. And in my article on ‘The Sirs and Dames of Old Tourism Days,” Rochel Mae “Kuku” Andaya, daughter of Ben Andaya was born on May 11, 1978 and Benjo on Aug. 10, as corrected by Mamang Precy Andaya. Cheers!

Siyam, Siyam at Pet’s Bulaluhan
Nonnette C. Bennett
Siyam is nine, the counting number, in Filipino. “Siyam, siyam” is a saying that means it is “taking too long” or a long delay. On the other hand, it could also mean, “in nines”. At this hole in the wall kind of eating joint called Pet’s Bulaluhan, the line seldom vanishes at any time of the day. This was the nth attempt to try the legendary food that people can’t get enough of.

Sungo (pork snout) is stir fried boiled pork cheek and snout served with a raw egg on a hot plate.

Foolish enough to search for Cordillera food fare in different parts of Baguio served in regular restaurants, it never occurred to me that the best place was right under my nose. It is not the cuisine that makes something Cordillera, it is the manner by which it is cooked that makes a dish from these mountains. Actually, it is either boiled or grilled and dipped in soy sauce withcrushed chili peppers. I recall how Minda’s Eatery owners in Slaughterhouse compound described the Cordilleran as carnivorous and hardly seeks vegetables. At Pet’s, wombok and onion leeks come in slivers just enough to give the food a little crunch and a brief palate cleaning while chewing on the meat.

Only two people can eat in a table for four but split by a plastic barrier that makes this timy joint of five tables good for nine persons in one sitting.


Our choices for the day were bulalo, pinapaitan, silet and liver, and sungo. As my eating partner, Michael, describes as “dangerous food” for arthritis and gout, we cheated on our “healthy” diets for lunch and just dug in.

Silet (pork intestine) and liver is a Cordillera favorite with onion leeks and slivers of Chinese cabbage but with the goodness of the burnt flavor.

The beef bone soup or bulalo will miss the bones but not the meat that clings to the bones. The best loved broth from bones boiled for hours in a large cauldron will not be missed. It’s warm comfort on these rainy days with just leeks to garnish and flavor, this popular soup doesn’t disappoint even on a laborers budget. The rice portion is enough to fill and there’s free extra soup if you want more. I failed to say, your arteries will not get clogged, promise.

Bulalo is served neatly in a Japanese clay pot piping hot but don’t look for the marrow, just the delicious broth and tender morsels of beef and vegetables.


We reserved tummy space for bile soup called pinapaitan, too. This is actually a gauge in my palate for authentic beef tripe and innards patiently stewed to tenderness with bile and a sour twist of calamansi or vinegar to subdue the musky odor of the meat to call this soup delicious and the restaurant worth the curious gastronomic stop. (Are you out of breath?) My compliments to the cook once more for this comfort food on a cold afternoon. I tip my hat off to the managers who put some class into the ordinary man’s table when they served their soups in black Japanese earthenware. In all practicality, it has a lid that doubles as a tray for the bowl of piping hot soup and doesn’t break as easily as the regular ceramic bowls. Thanks again to them, they didn’t treat me as cheap with plasticware.

Pinapaitan, the soup made bitter by the bile of grass eating mammals, is perfect for the urban taste buds with its tender mix of innards and leeks to mellow the scent.


Silet is a generic term for intestines. In the boondocks, it is pork intestines. Liver is seldom paired with silet except for here. My memories of Bontoc, Mountain Province come to life when I see the term because I tasted the best so far at a restaurant there. So, my standard is well cleaned tender fried intestines and the gritty bitter flavor and texture of liver stir fried together. Delighted with what I tasted and saw served in a sizzling plate, I know now where to satisfy my craving for werewolf diet – blood, intestines and liver. The salty bitter flavors with garlic, onions and some wombok sizzling as served, who could expect more!

The long queue lasts about 20 minutes at Pets Bulaluhan which is enough time to rush through a meal but the take out line is shorter and faster.


I wanted to sample all my rustic food favorites in one go and had to have sungo or pork snout. I imagined it to be served like a restaurant we used to call “Cambodia” in the market, boiled and served on a chopping board with chili peppers, soy sauce and calamansi on the side. Pet’s took their pork snout a step further -sliced it in narrow strips, stir fried it with wombok, onions, garlic, and leeks then served it on a hot plate with a raw egg topping. Yes, like sisig or finely chopped boiled pork cheek and ear sauteed with garlic and onions and topped with a raw egg on a hot plate. The only difference is the part of the pig used in sungo. What a ransom to finish the meal with a cold bottle of beer.

I felt like I ate my portion of earth’s bounty for five meals in less than one hour. But this was bliss and gluttony to remind me that life is delicious. How we wished we could have enjoyed the languor after a good meal but no. We pitied the next guys who hungrily stood it out in the line to fill the two seats we would vacate out of the nine. I will happily wait again for another time to sit in one of the nine benches here.

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